Four strategies to overcome your team’s Negative Nancy.

How to deal with Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer is one of those topics that come up time and time again, especially when talking with Nursery Managers. Apologies in advance if your name is Nancy or Debbie, Claire, or Susan; this blog is by no means about you, and the names used are just for alliteration purposes.

When I refer to Negative Nancy or Debbie Downers, I merely describe that person in your setting that is difficult, negative, and generally sucks the life out of you and the team. Negative Nancy will affect your inspection; I will guarantee it. The Inspector will be able to spot them, pick them out, zoom in on them and ask them questions. The mere thought of the Inspector talking to negative Nancy has filled you with dread, and you sigh and swallow that hard lump in your throat just by thinking about it!

Negative Nancy doesn’t just have an impact on you. They affect the rest of the team as well. If you leave the situation unaddressed, Nancy’s negativity will in time rub off on the other team members.

How to spot a Negative Nancy on your team? They have a negative outlook on life and sometimes have an extreme viewpoint. They offer you problems, not solutions and when being questioned, start the answer with phrases like ‘yeah, I know but…’

They will have you gritting your teeth, stressing you out and they seem to know how to push your buttons. Their negativity will monopolise your thoughts and head-space and take out too much of your precious time. Negative Nancys are quick to load the gun and let someone else fire it. It is essential to put these four strategies in place now and handle the situation to avoid it affecting your inspection. First, don’t think you are alone. It is rare to find a setting that does not negatively affect the team. Here are three tried and tested methods for turning Negative Nancy into Positive Pauline.

1. Stop!

It starts with you. It would help massively if you could stop allowing Negative Nancy to monopolise your thoughts negatively instead, it would be best if you reutilised the time you are thinking about them negatively into space to strategise how you will deal with the situation and what you can put in place to help. Take back control over your head-space. Don’t let Negative Nancy suffocate that feeling of positivity.

2. Address the situation

You need to have a conversation with them and be able to show a situation whereby their negativity affects you or the team. Make sure that you give a specific example and don’t generalise. Tell Negative Nancy what effect the comments are having on you and the team. They might not see what they are doing or what impact it is having. Tell them you value their opinion and are happy to hear their suggestions. Still, it would be more beneficial to offer a solution rather than a problem in the future. They may have no clue that they are coming across in this manner.

3. Praise

You will know this one; it’s what we do with the children in our care. Focus your conversations around the good they are doing, no matter how small. Praising gives you back control over the situation and helps adjust your mindset and thoughts around Negative Nancy.

4. Find your cheerleaders

There will be people within your team who will be your rays of sunshine, and I refer to these as Cheerful Claire’s or Sunny Susan’s. They are those people who share the vision, believe in you, and have a naturally positive outlook on life in general. When you must share something that will be a challenge, they find the silver lining. When you share a new process, they are the first to jump on board and adopt its practice. These people are invaluable to the team. Their positivity and vibes are as infectious as Negative Nancy’s and Debbie’s Downer. Not every day will be a good day, and sometimes you will have to deliver messages that the team won’t like. Use these people to be your support network and add that ray of sunshine to the day.
The Day Nursery Owners mastermind is a place where you can celebrate your successes and discuss your dilemmas, a place that is safe and you can network with people in the same boat as you. If you would like more information on joining the next cohort please contact the team at or visit