Negative Sheila

A while ago I was brought in to work with a team that was having difficulties.  One of the big issues was one person – let’s call her Sheila.  When I spoke to each team member individually I was told that Sheila is good at the technical parts of her job, but does not work well with others.  She won’t help out (“too busy”) and shuts down any new ideas (“we’ve tried it before, it won’t work…”) and always seems negative.  People told me they’d tried ignoring Sheila (she demanded to be noticed), being extra nice to her (it didn’t change her behavior) and even asking her what her problem is (“I don’t have one.”)

It turns out that Sheila, like the rest of us, does things she thinks are beneficial.  When’s the last time someone told you they were being intentionally disruptive, wanted to destroy the team, or didn’t want to get the work done well?  Most people are doing the best they can, and are doing what they believe is the best thing.

Do you remember when you were little and your mom told you to put yourself in your friend’s shoes when the two of you had a fight?  That applies to adults, too. To understand Sheila, we need to put ourselves in her shoes.  What’s important to her?  What does she want? What are her values?  What does she like? Once we have tentative answers to these questions we can then give her a reason, in line with what’s important to her, to work positively with the team.  Is control important to her? Ask her to be in charge of something.  Is information the key? Ask her to do some research that will further the team’s work.  I suggested her colleagues answer this question: What’s in it for Sheila to be more positive and cooperative? When they did, and acted accordingly, Sheila became a more positive, cooperative team member. 

Have you worked effectively with someone like Sheila?  Tell us how you did it!  ~ DS

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