Handling Negative Co-workers Professionally

  | 5 min read
Negative co-workers

Dealing with Negativity at work

Every workspace has its own challenges. From bad bosses, toxic environment, to impossible targets and deadlines. Of course, if it is toxic, then you need to find a way of dealing with the toxicity. However, most workplaces are generally enjoyable and have something good to offer. It could be awesome colleagues, a great working experience, or even a really good boss with great leadership qualities. But, there are those colleagues who never see the good in anything. They are constantly complaining about work, the people, the environment, and even the systems. To them, nothing is ever good enough. Negative co-workers can really sap the energy out of you. No workplace is perfect, but such colleagues are just insatiable, they never see any good.

In a world where teamwork is the most important factor in achieving goals, negative co-workers can be hard to avoid. If you try to tell them to see the positive in anything, they might take it that you are critical of them, giving them another reason to complain. Their focus is always on the problem and they offer no solution. So, dealing with such co-workers can be tough.

Here is how to handle them:

  1. Avoid the office politics

Dealing with office politics

Most negative co-workers are into gossip. This gives them a chance to complain about everything and everyone. To stay sane, stay away from the gossipers and those who are into office politics. If you find yourself in their midst, avoid being part of the conversation. Voicing out negative opinions has a way of affecting your worldview and how you perceive everything around you. So, avoid the negativity by being a passive participant. If you stay detached, the person will hardly bring up negative vibe around you.

      2. Keep your distance

Keeping your distance

A good way to stay away from the negative vibe is to keep off. Do not spend time with them and make your contact strictly professional. Avoid getting drawn into negative stories. Stay with the positive crowd. Every workplace has its challenges but over analysing things and constantly drumming up the negatives will only lower your morale. You will not get the negative vibe is you keep your distance so, avoid hanging out with the negative person. If you sit close to each other, you can avoid conversations with them or move to a new spot. If you must work with them, let your conversations revolve around the tasks at hand. Offer solutions always and do not let the conversations steer away from what the job entails. If you do not spend time with the negative person, you will not feed off negative energy and your performance will not be affected. Once they learn that you prefer to keep off and only focus on your work, they will learn to only discuss business with you and you will have successfully deflected the negative energy.

  1. Stay focused on yourself and your job

Focus on your job

Granted, there are a few things that you also don’t like about your working environment. However, a negative co-worker dislikes everything and worse still, maybe it is their job that they dislike. On the other hand, you probably enjoy your job and you give it your best. To handle a negative co-worker, stay focused on your job because the truth is, you love it. Remind yourself why you are here and what makes your job great.

      4. Try and find out the cause of their negativity

Negative colleagues

Sometimes, negative co-workers have genuine concerns. It could be a problem with the workplace, which affects everyone but no one else points out. You can try and find out what the problem is and either help the co-worker deal with it or raise it with the management so that a solution can be found. Sometimes, the genuine concern could actually be affecting other people in the office and general productivity. If that is the case, then there is need to look for a solution rather than just ignoring the co-worker. In some cases, such people could also be dealing with some pressure in their personal lives. If this is the case, you can help them find help and be more positive. Personal pressures have a way of slipping into one’s work life and this can manifest in the form of poor performance or even constant complaints.

      5.  Steer your conversations towards a positive direction

Stay focussed

A negative person goes on and on about all the negative things because they have a listening ear to listen to what they have to say. To avoid being the listening ear, always try to keep the conversation positive. If they come to you complaining about something, help them come up with solutions. If they initiate a conversation with you, point out the positive things around you. For example, if they ask you how you are, you can say, “I am great. This project is turning out well, right? I can’t wait to see the outcome.” With that response, you make it clear that your focus is on what is working out and not what might not be turning out fine.

     6. Realise that you can’t control them

Staying in control

At the end of the day, you can never control a person’s actions. You only have control over your actions. Do not get emotionally invested in the negativity. Instead, do not get emotionally involved. Handle the person as they are by simply not getting attached to the conversation.

A negative co-worker can affect your productivity or dampen your mood. They never see the good in anything and would rather complain than find a solution to a problem. While you cannot entirely avoid them in some instances, you can stay positive by keeping your distance, being positive, helping them find solutions, or even avoiding the office politics. Whatever the case, always ensure that the negative energy does not drag you down.


Njeri Karanja
Njeri is a reading and creative writing enthusiast who is neck-deep in research writing. She is well versed in researching and writing on various topics.


    • Thanks Nelly,
      implement the tips you have learned here and you will know how to cope with everyone.


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