Workplace Whiners: Tips for Dealing with Negative Co-Workers

At some time or another we’ve all worked with that certain type of co-worker who’s just never happy. Maybe they hate the boss, or the job itself, or maybe the whole company is out to get them. No matter what their gripe-of-the day is, one thing is for sure: they’re going to complain about it to anyone who will listen. The following are a few things to consider when dealing with negative co-workers:

Let them vent, to a point.

Sometimes the whiner just needs to get it out of their system, and letting them vent might help them to let go. It’s possible that the sooner you give them an outlet, the sooner they’ll leave you alone. Every now and again they may even have a legitimate complaint, so keep an open mind and actively listen to what they’re saying so that you can see things from their point of view.

Be honest and direct.

Once you’ve listened to the grievance and given it a little thought, let the complainer know your honest opinion, even if you think they don’t want to hear it. In the case that the complaint is legitimate, offer advice on how to resolve the issue, and steer the conversation toward a positive conclusion. If the complaint is frivolous or unwarranted, be honest and respectfully disagree. Avoid placating the person in hopes they will leave you alone, because not only will that will establish you as their go-to person when they need a sympathetic ear, but your implied agreement may also validate and encourage their pessimistic ways.

Set a limit.

You can only spend so much energy on negative people before they start to impact your productivity, as well as pollute your own disposition. If they bring up the same issue over and over, you may have to just cut them off by saying something like: “I’m sorry but we’ve already talked about this and I really don’t have any more time to spend on the subject.” If you come across as rude then that’s unfortunate, but sometimes necessary.

Duck and run.

When all else fails, sometimes avoidance is the best tactic. If you are continually unavailable, the whiner will probably move on to someone else, or better yet, realize that they need to adjust their attitude. Again, you may be pushed to the point where you need to be abrupt with them, and if that makes them mad, so be it.

The harsh reality is, although you may want all your work relationships to be friendly, you’re not there to make friends. Try to be as kind as possible, but also be honest and tell the naysayers exactly why they bring you down. Use specific examples of their negative behavior and point out how they could have approached the situation more positively. They may not be open to the feedback, but at least you will have tried. Always remember that you can choose positivity as easily as they choose negativity, so focus on the good, and everything will turn out just fine.

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