Dealing With Debbie Downer

Have you identified the “Debbie Downer” in your office? If you are fan of “Saturday Night Live,” like I am, you will know exactly what I’m talking about when I mention Debbie Downer. She is the character who has a negative comment about everything. You know her type: someone celebrates a birthday, and she says they are another year closer to dying. Someone gets a job promotion, and she says they are going to have to start working twice as hard. It’s time to identify and deal with your office’s Debbie Downer!

Just about every office has their version of the Debbie Downer. The problem with having a Debbie Downer in the office is, well, they bring everyone down. Having a good office morale and mood is important to productivity, service, and the overall team mentality. If you have someone who keeps bringing everyone down, it is going to impact your company’s attitude, and ultimately your bottom line.

Here is how you deal with the Debbie Downer in your office, keeping in mind that the key is that you must confront the person, because ignoring them makes it even worse:

• The nitty gritty. If you have ever paid much attention, most Debbie Downers talk in broad strokes. The goal here is to get them to address the details. Once you do that, their negative argument will lose its credibility.

• The consequence. Explain to Debbie Downer the problem that her/his (yes, your downer may be a male) negativity is having on others. Just an awareness of the problem they are causing in the office may be enough to fix the problem.

• The intervention. This is where you have a meeting between Debbie Downer, yourself, and the two or three people who are most affected by that glum attitude. This could be a real eye-opener for Debbie Downer, and may do the trick to put the brakes on the negativity.

• The redirection. Sometimes the Debbie Downer is a mild nuisance. In this case, training your team on how to handle them (or any nuisance) is adequate. Encourage them to redirect to other subjects when things start getting negative. For example, if Debbie Downer starts talking about how bad things are, the response is “Hey, what’s the lunch special today?” We parents know it works with kids, and there is a good chance it will work with Debbie Downer, as well.

• The termination. In some circumstances, the negative effects on your company will force you to terminate Debbie Downer. When you see that team performance is dropping because of the negativity, and you haven’t been successful with the other options, it is time to quickly move on to terminating the person (or moving them to a different, less interactive part of the business). Believe me, your team will thank you for this.

We may not be able to pick out the Debbie Downer before giving them a job, but they are usually pretty easy to identify once they are working for you. If your office has one, and most do, it is important to deal with it as quickly as possible. A successful business needs a team of motivated and positive people, and there needs to be good company morale. Having a Debbie Downer in the office can throw a wrench into all that.

Find out who it is in your office, and use some of the tips above to address the situation before it impacts your company’s productivity. Unless you are the Debbie Downer in the office — and let’s hope that’s not the case – you should be able to address that negativity in no time!


2 thoughts on “Dealing With Debbie Downer”

  1. How about we change this to a guys name ? Dave Downer ? Dean Downer ? I cringe everytime I hear someone using this phrase cuz well my name is Debbie !! And most of us are very positive gals. One of us was found to be a very successful judge in Israel’s history. Time for all of the Debbie’s to unite !!!

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