How to deal with negative co-workers

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As if you weren’t already under enough pressure at work with multiple deadlines, training for certifications and projects piling up. Dealing with a negative coworker can add even more work to your plate. Take a step back, cool off and take heed of these tips before your next encounter with the dreaded counterpart.

Dilemma: Your co-worker is demanding your help

Does it seem like your co-worker has become a chronic complainer because they have no idea how to ask for help? You can use this as an opportunity to reach out. Assuming it’s a work-related, non-personal situation – and you actually have the time to assist in handling the issue – you can simply ask if there’s anything you can do. Solution: Offer assistance without becoming a crutch for your negative co-worker. Rather than fixing the problem for this person, try pointing them in the right direction or offering helpful suggestions.

Dilemma: Your personal limits are being pushed

It’s great to be helpful when you’re faced with a situation that isn’t going to stomp your productivity or sour your mood, but you also need to be mindful of your own limits. Let’s say you’re dealing with a co-worker who’s all but screaming for your input on a sticky situation. After actively listening to the issue at hand, you’ll probably have a solid understanding of how it should and shouldn’t be handled. Still, you should proceed with caution before offering any serious advice. Solution: If you feel like it’s not your place to provide input, you can simply point your distraught co-worker in the right direction. Maybe this means suggesting that they talk to human resources or perhaps it’s as simple as recommending an insightful and relevant book you’ve found helpful.

Dilemma: You’re about to snap

When we’re forced to deal with negative people on a regular basis, biting our tongues can be a real challenge. Sometimes, all you want to do is throw your hands up and tell the offending party what you really think – of course, that’s never a smart idea, especially when it can cost you your job. Reacting, rather than responding to a negative situation may inspire you to say or do something that can be hard to recover from. Solution: Stop and breathe. If it helps to walk away from the situation, do it. Some folks have an uncanny ability to stay calm in the midst of chaos, but if this isn’t you, allow yourself however long it takes to respond appropriately. When you need to exit an uncomfortable situation for fear of losing your cool, simply say something like, “I need some time to process this, I’ll get back to you after I’ve given it my full attention.”

Dilemma: You can’t find a single positive quality about your co-worker

It’s easy to label someone a negative person when you rarely see them smile or the only news they ever have to share is the bad kind. But the truth of the matter is we don’t really know what’s going on in that person’s life. Sure, there are folks who are just downright pessimists, but often times there’s something behind that behavior. Because of this, it’s important to listen to everything that’s being said, and instead of offering advice, try empathizing. Solution: Take a few deep breaths and try to put your frustrations aside while you actively listen to your co-worker. Let them know that you’ve heard them by responding with a few thoughtful words, and don’t be afraid to be direct in telling them that you need to get back to work.

Dilemma: Your co-worker’s negative behavior is bringing you down

There are days when being positive feels more challenging than training for a marathon, but it’s essential to your mental and emotional health that you make an effort to see the sunnier side of things. This can be especially challenging when you’re around a coworker who loves being the bearer of bad news. When you find yourself consistently dealing with a chronic complainer, it can really drag you down. Not only that, but once you’ve had to deal with a negative interaction, it can take a toll on your productivity for the rest of the day. Solution: If possible, reduce contact with this person. There will be times when you’ll have to share the same space (meetings, projects and the like), but if you have the opportunity to work in your own area, take advantage of it. If your co-worker is constantly approaching you, kindly let them know that you’re busy at the moment and offer a time when you can get back to them.

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Stacy Warden

Stacy Warden is a contributing editor of the Pluralsight blog and has worked in publishing since the dawn of the iPhone. Currently, Stacy deals in tech and education--a combination that she finds absolutely fascinating. You can find her on Twitter @sterrsi.