Facilitation Antipattern: Negator

Posted by Doc
Sep 30 2009

Motto: That’s wrong.
Belief: It’s my responsibility to point out what’s wrong with other people’s ideas. I live in my black hat*.
: Points out the flaws and faults in everyone else’s approach. Does so without offering any balancing positives or alternatives.
Characteristics: Negative, sometimes superior, destructive, achieving satisfaction by negating others’ ideas.

The Negator sees their lot in life as poking holes in everyone else’s ideas and plans. While this is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, when exercised without the balance of alternatives or one’s own ideas it becomes a negative of its own.

The Negator may seem to be contributory and helpful at times, as their suggestions come across as helping you to see risks and dangers*. However, this behavior pattern, when exercised to the exclusion of balance, can become seen as the person’s identity, rather than one pattern of behavior among many.

* See Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats”

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9 Responses

  1. Twitter Comment

    do you know that guy in *your* team? “It’s my responsibility to point out what’s wrong with other people’s ideas” [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. Tobias Mayer says:

    I don’t understand what these facilitation Antipatterns have to do with facilitation. Have you actually met facilitators who behave in any of these ways? I sincerely hope not.

    These may be team-member behaviors, but even then are rarely found in isolation, and it would be the facilitators job to challenge them, to tease out deeper meanings, to help the person transform fear into courage. Not sure I see the purpose of this blog series: it lacks context (even given you are doing a presentation).

    • Doc says:

      You’re right that many of these patterns would seem to apply only to participants. The problem is that too many people who are serving as “facilitator” are not trained nor are they skilled. As a result, they do exhibit these behaviors, all the while believing that they are serving the group. And yes, I have seen these behaviors from so-called facilitators.

      You are right – it would be the facilitator’s job to challenge them, to tease out deeper meanings, and so on. This assumes that the facilitator is competent to do so, of course.

      The intent of identifying these patterns and antipatterns is to assist both participants and facilitators in recognizing behaviors and in being prepared to deal with them.

      I think that where I have fallen short in this blog, thus far, is in providing specific techniques and tools for dealing with the antipatterns.

      • Ilja Preuß says:

        I wholeheartedly agree with the last part of your comment. It looks to me like these patterns actually exhibit a strong “Negator” attitude! Pointing out how to constructively deal with these kinds of behavior would be much more helpful!

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  5. Sumeet Moghe says:

    Hey Doc,
    As I’d mentioned to you in person as well, I find it difficult to identify these as ‘facilitation’ patterns or antipatterns. What I do see these as are general behaviour patterns that can occur in just about any context — not just facilitation.

    Dealing with problem behaviours is a matter of starting from the motivation behind the behaviour. In a facilitation context, I would say the patterns or antipatterns are not the behaviours but the way a facilitator deals with them (or not).
    My 2p,

    • Doc says:

      I disagree about starting from the motivation. While the motivation may help to inform my actions, I believe that you cannot ever know the motivation. At best you can believe you know. The behavior is observable. My goal as a facilitator is not to change the person, but to deal with that person’s behavior as it affects the group. Each of these behaviors that I’ve described is not the person, but a set of behaviors that anyone can exhibit at any time. When I’m facilitating a meeting/event, then I don’t have the luxury or opportunity to dig into motivations. All I can do is deal with the behaviors.

      As to these behaviors occurring anywhere under any circumstances, I agree. My focus, at this time, is in understanding them as they affect group dynamics and behavior.

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