Dealing With Negative People at Work

June 30, 2016

n a continuously changing economy, the day-to-day dealings at work are stressful enough without negative people driving you nuts and, for the lack of a better word, negatively impacting the work day. Here are six ways to ensure that negative colleagues won’t ruin your day, or worse—career!  

Avoid them
Negative people seek out victims, whether they intend to or not. But if you don’t have to work with a negative person, try to avoid any sort of contact with them. If you don’t, you may become guilty by association.  For instance, a co-worker may be the one talking negatively about the company, but another co-worker could witness the interaction and mistakenly tell a supervisor, “They’re always talking about what’s wrong here” which could have a detrimental impact on you.  Likewise, if you find yourself spending too much time giving advice to a co-worker, you’re not getting your work done – and your supervisors will not give you the benefit of the doubt just because you’re a good person. Place your priorities in order. Your work comes first.

Listen to them
Some negative people weren’t always negative.  Perhaps they have been dealt a bad hand as of late and just need some help getting through it. If you’re friends with the negative person or have to work with them on a consistent basis, maybe being that one-time ear they can bend could make a difference. Maybe they just need to vent in order to get their problems off their chest, and in turn, deal with them. Venting is normal; just be careful of those who abuse this privilege. Set boundaries and make sure they know they cannot make these venting sessions a regular occurrence. 

Be positive
Counter their negativity with positivity. Don’t get sucked into the black hole.  Just like positivity can be infectious, so can a negative attitude.  If you are worried about job security and a co-worker starts spouting off about how poorly the company is performing, an immediate reaction is to think they may know something you do not and your job could be in jeopardy. Suddenly, like demonic possession, you have caught the negativity bug and start spreading it around. By staying positive, you might even inspire others to start thinking more positively, too.

Keep it professional
When dealing with a negative coworker, keep in mind that sometimes their negativity is accompanied by certain bullying qualities. There are negative people who are down and in a slump, and then there are those that want to rub off on others to make them feel the same. Be careful, because sometimes, they can react hostile to something innocuous such as you questioning their decisions. They might even get a rise out of people without leaving a paper trail, so when you react negatively, it could be noticed, especially by your superiors. Don’t ever let a co-worker get under your skin and always remain professional. Make sure that everything you say or do with the negative coworker is something you wouldn’t mind your boss hearing or seeing you do. Make sure every email you send is professional, too. By keeping things professional, the office bully loses their power to negatively affect your career and put your job in jeopardy.

Talk to HR or your supervisor
You may have to express your concerns with someone of authority if your dealings with a negative co-worker is impacting your work.  Remember, just because you are not to blame for someone else’s negativity, doesn’t mean your reactions can’t come back to haunt you.  It’s better to have a record of your concerns just in case any negative issues between you and a co-worker escalate.  Companies have different policies, so find out whether you should speak with your supervisor or Human Resources. They may be able to recommend a course of action, or, if you have to regularly interact with the negative co-worker, may intervene and mediate between the two of you to make sure any issues are addressed. For them, this isn’t their first rodeo. They have dealt with negative people in the past, so leave it to the professionals. 

Keep it at work
Sometimes, there is nothing you can do about a negative person. Maybe they know someone and that connection keeps them in a job. If you’re stuck with the negativity for whatever reason, don’t let it bring you down. And just like you shouldn’t bring your home problems to work, you shouldn’t bring your work problems home. Some people think it will get better if they can talk it out at home with their spouse, etc. (and you should bring it up, but don’t let it consume you), but if a negative person causes you to get snippy at home and have a generally bad attitude, you will begin to blame your problems outside of work on the negative person at work, thus creating a vicious cycle you can avoid.

To sum it all up, a little workplace negativity is expected at times, but if you can do your best to keep a positive attitude, you will enjoy a much more productive day at the office.

by Jon Minners 

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