Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to deal with negative coworkers

Every workplace has one, that “Negative Nancy” or “Ned” who never seems to have anything positive to talk about. Whenever you’re in a conversation with that person, it always seems to turn down a negative road no matter how hard you try to drive it back in a positive direction.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic button that will completely eliminate negativity in the office, but there are ways to deal with it. Dealing with negative people in the office takes a good mix of sensitivity, objectivity and defense tactics.

Use these tips to help you deal with negative people at work:

  • Smile. Don’t feed into someone else’s negativity with more negativity from your side. Smile and say something that will make the other person smile too, like a simple compliment. With the way our brains are wired, it’s difficult to smile and be negative at the same time.

  • Don’t take it personally. It seems like some people in our world were born angry, and some of those people have managed to find a way into your office. Whatever that negative person is angry about, you had nothing to do with it. Let their comments roll off your back and don’t let their attitude have an impact on your day.

  • Avoid negativity. If possible, do your best to avoid negative coworkers by taking a different route to the printer or leave for lunch a few minutes earlier than usual. Avoiding negative people all together will eliminate the risk of falling prey to their negative ways.

  • Let them vent. If you can’t avoid the person and smiling had no effect, try to just let the person vent their frustrations to you. Sometimes people keep repeating negative sentiments because they feel no one has truly heard them. Actively listen to their rant with an objective ear and ask questions to make sure they know you’re listening.

  • Lend a hand. Sometimes people have a legitimate reason for being angry. If you agree with the reason for their anger and think you could help (and want to help) in their situation, lend a helping hand or at least some advice on how they could resolve the issue.

  • Set limits. Whether you agree to listen to someone’s complaints or agree to help them out, set personal limits to the extent of your involvement. If you sit and listen to someone vent for hours and hours one day, expect that person to come searching for you the next time they need to let out their frustrations.


There will always be negative people at work. It’s your decision whether to let those people affect your own outlook. Learning how to deal with negativity is an ongoing process, but just remember to keep smiling.

What is the best way you’ve found to deal with negative coworkers?

2 comments:

Jason Seiden said...

Negative people also tend to exaggerate a bit in just how bad things are, so something else that can work is to get agreement at the extremes... "Do you think it's possible that *some* company *somewhere* may be worse?" or "Is she *always* manipulative? Have you *ever* seen her do something nice?" This can be an effective way of getting someone to realize how negative they're being without picking a fight (it's tough to argue an absolute—they're too easily refuted!)

Totally Consumed said...

Hey, I just noticed that if you changed "Lend a Hand" to just "A Hand" then took the first letter of each tip, you could spell SALADS if you rearranged the order.

"SALADS, the answer to dealing with negative coworkers"!


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