How to Deal With a Negative Co-worker
If your co-worker complains one more time, you’re going to lose it. You used to enjoy his little “hellos” to your work space, but now you’ve come to dread it when he stops by. You used to respect him, but now you just want to avoid him.
All he does is complain.
And that brings you to this article—figuring out how to get it to stop.
1. Ask if They Want to Vent or if They Want Advice.
This is a simple step that so many people skip when they’re on the receiving end of drama. And because of that, miscommunications happen. Think: “Dan keeps coming to me for advice on dealing with his boss, but never does what I say” or “My sister won’t stop complaining about her boyfriend’s cleaning habits and didn’t seem to appreciate that article I sent her on the topic.”
If They Want to Vent
Truth: Sometimes people just want or need to vent. That’s OK and if you know that, you have two options: to listen or to say, “I hear you, however, you’ve been venting a lot lately and I always leave our conversations feeling a little down. I think I need a vent-free week, is that OK?”
Of course, this is hard to say, especially to someone you truly like. But if you were the person being a drain on your friend, you’d want to know, right?
If They Want Advice
Offer it if you have it. If not, refer them to resources, such as an article, your HR department, or a career coach. If you feel it’s deep-seated or they’re not wanting to work on a solution, mention the help that a trained professional can provide. It’s also fine to say, “That’s a really complicated situation you’re in and I don’t know what I’d do. Whenever I’m in a tricky spot, I reach out to my mentor. If you’d like, I can see if he’d be able to chat.”
2. Help Them Frame the Issue
Workplaces are made up of people, and we know that there’s nothing predictable about human beings interacting with each other. Your co-worker may benefit from a different perspective.
Summarizing it for them—“I see your situation like this, and if I had to resolve it, I’d probably work it through this way [your sage advice here]. What do you think of this approach?”—helps to push the conversation forward. Which leads me to…
3. Strongly Encourage Them to Create Actionable Next Steps
If you keep hearing about the same issue over and over again, try asking this simple question: “What steps are you taking to address this?”
If They Have an Answer
Offer encouragement! Tell them they’re doing the right thing and that you respect them for taking the mature (or professional or proactive) approach.
If They Say, “Nothing”
Assuming they answered, “advice please” to the question above, give it. (Or recommend where they can get it.)
Following these three steps should help this co-worker realize the toll their complaining’s taking on you and either stop using you for vents or be more proactive.
But if it doesn’t, disengage as much as possible. Reclaim your time and your self worth by recognizing the damage this is doing to you and find ways to avoid these interactions. That can range from being busy with your work when the person’s in the vicinity, to asking your manager for advice, to avoiding situations in which you know he’ll be present.
You owe it to yourself to create a positive workspace in which you can thrive.