How to deal with a Negative Co-Worker ?

All of us have come across negative, pessimistic people in our workplace at some stage of our career – people, who always see the glass as half empty, constantly whine about almost everything, and take pleasure in slander and gossip.

Dealing with such people can be challenging and, at times, a frustrating experience. You can find yourself constantly blocked in your initiative by such people. Soon, frustration sets in and you lose interest in your job. The constant stream of negative thoughts and criticism can dampen initiative and enthusiasm and rob you of job satisfaction.

Dealing with such coworkers requires skills involving tact, diplomacy and assertiveness. Negative coworkers can be classified into two kinds. Those are occasionally negative and those who are always negative.

The former are, generally, those who are negative due to certain stressful situations they may be going through. The employees of this nature are relatively easier to handle and many require genuine help.

Some of the ways of handling such employees are:- 

1. Listening to the employee: Listen to the employee and hear their problem. Talk to them and try to get to know the background of the problem instead of just learning about the complaints. 

2. Evaluate the complaints: Evaluate each complaint to find out if the complaint is genuine. If the person is caught up in a real situation, help him with ideas and solutions. It is imperative that you do not try to play the role of a therapist or counselor. This may tax your own energy and positive attitude. Assist the colleague in finding a good counselor or some good books which may help him/her. 

3. Be a friendly listener: Many times, all that a frustrated colleague needs is a friendly ear which can listen. Listen to the concerns and anxieties of the people around you. They may be under pressure from an insensitive and demanding boss or may be facing problems in the personal front. You can help or guide them in a friendly way as long as the exercise does not affect you. 

4. Confront illegitimate grievances: - If you conclude after listening to the colleague that his/her grievances are not rational and reasonable, convey that to them in a polite manner and encourage them to reassess the situation.

The second category of negative coworkers contains people who have negativity ingrained in their very nature. The reasons for this can be many, ranging from family background and attitude to their general worldview.

Unlike the former category of negative people, there are very limited choices when it comes to dealing with the people of this category. Some of them are:- 

1. Suggest the colleague professional help from the human resources department or from a counselor. 

2. When forced to work with a negative coworker on an important assignment, politely tell the coworker to stop bothering you with his negative talk. Do not provide a situation where they may be able to derive sympathy from you. 

3. Surround yourselves with other employees who are more positive and friendly. 

4. If the negative person turns against you and hinders you from your duty or if you feel that the individual is affecting your performance, inform your superior about it. Your superior may determine the appropriate method of handling the problematic employee. This may, sometimes, involve disciplinary action. 

5. If you feel that the negative atmosphere in your immediate work environment will not get resolved in the near future, you may contemplate a job change. This is essential as a negative environment in the workplace can affect your personal life and your health as well.