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How to cope with workplace negativity

Updated on May 3, 2010
If you think your job is bad, remember there are always others with worse jobs than you.
If you think your job is bad, remember there are always others with worse jobs than you.

Never be afraid to say NO

How does Negativity affect children?

Working with a negative coworker

 Wherever you go there’s always one.  Uncle Job, the Job’s Comforter, sharing their misery with all around them.  They seem to think it’s their one goal in life to put a dampener on everyone’s day, piss on your battery, rain on your parade, and pass their misery onto you.  In fact, they are quite shocked when you are not grateful for the little turd they’ve deposited on your desk first thing in the morning.  Sometimes your coworkers have a legitimate reason for their negativity, often it’s a flash in the pan kind of thing and they’re just having a bad day which they feel compelled to pass on.  They are excused and forgiven.  But, it’s the coworkers who continually whinge, whine, complain, moan who get on my nerves.  In short, they are wearying and tiresome and must be exterminated or undergo serious behaviour or personality changes.

Work is an unfortunate necessity, something the vast majority of us have to do if we want to provide food and shelter for our families.  Unless you win the lottery, you have to work.  Of course if you have a great uncle Reginald who dies and leaves you pots of money…But that is just a dream.  Nobody in my family would call their child Reginald.  So, most of us are left with having to work for a living.  And we are the lucky ones.  There are hundreds and thousands of unemployed people the world over, who ardently wish they could have a job, any job.  And then you get the self-opinionated complaining pricks who have a job, get a salary every month, and still complain about their lot in life.  Wake up wankers!  This is a working world!  It’s not a perfect world, there is no work utopia, that’s a fallacy.

So these negative coworkers strut around their workplace, faces grim, no hint of a smile, exuding negativity.  It emanates from their every pore, stains their clothes and leaves a bad smell wherever they go.  They hate the company they work for, think that their bosses are stupid jerks who have it in for them, always believe that they are treated unfairly, whinge about their heavy workload, complain constantly about the lack of communication at work, believes the company is so bad they’ll be bankrupt before the year is out, and yet…quite happily take their paycheck and benefits every month.  Talk about trying to bite off the hand that feeds you, geez!  How can you cope with such negative people surrounding you?  What can you do to avoid being dragged down into their pit of misery?  Because make no mistake, negativity is like a cancer, it spreads.


Strategies for coping with negative coworkers

Become Lucy the Listener

This is difficult, as you can’t just tune out.  You have to listen and ask questions.  The whinger has to feel that they have been heard, so you need to ask questions from time to time, so that they know you have heard them.  Otherwise, they’ll just keep on repeating the same negative sentiments over and over again like a stuck record.  To be a Lucy or Leonard the Listener, you have to have patience.  If you are not a very patient person, then I advise you against opting for this strategy.  Do set limits though, as you might end up listening to them whinge for hours, and don’t let them make a habit of it.  If it becomes a habit, give them the boot.  Only use this strategy on someone who is just having a bad day, never use this on a serial complainer.

Become Andrew the Adviser

When the whinger complains about something, you might feel that you are in a position to advise them what to do.  Especially if you agree with their complaint or feel that it is a legitimate one.  However, if they follow your advice and it backfires, be prepared for verbal abuse, verbal assault and just general flack.  You have to be very sure of what you are saying to offer friendly advice.  You don’t want to end up being tarred with the same brush.  Advising whingers is moving into dangerous territory, so be very careful.  Don’t advise serial complainers though, because they will turn around and say, “But Cindy said…”

Become Captain Courageous

If you think the whinger is unreasonable and does not have a legitimate complaint, and is just whingeing because they happen to be a self-opinionated pompous prick who is in love with the sound of their own whiney voice, then you can tell them what you think.  Tell them you disagree with them, aren’t really that interested, don’t want to get involved, etc.  But do put in a nice way and try not to sound patronising.  Tell them you appreciate their concerns, you realise they are unhappy at work, and maybe should consider looking for another job where they might feel happier.  The problem is of course, that these people are never happy wherever they go.  They are just unhappy miserable people.  They’d probably even start complaining about something on a beautiful tropical island with warm clear water lapping the pristine beaches and half-naked muscular men in tiny loin clothes fanning them with palm fronds and bringing them cool cocktails with little umbrellas in them.  Okay, I got distracted.

Become Brian the Back-pedaler

If your negative coworker tries to stalk you and corner you at inopportune moments, then perfect the art of backing out conversations gracefully.  Don’t show sympathy, whatever you do, otherwise you’ll be stuck there with them for hours while your work piles up.  If you encourage them to share their negativity with you, you might be setting yourself up to be the general negativity magnet for all employees with negative feelings.  You’ll never be able to enjoy a coffee break in peace, you’ll always be hearing, “Do you have a minute?”  And of course what you have to watch out for, is spending too much time with Negative Nora might make your other coworkers isolate you as well because they think you agree with Negative Nora.  When you see them coming, back away, make an excuse why you can’t talk now.  They’ll move away and find some other poor mug to complain to.

Become Agnes the Avoider

Negativity in the workplace can bring a whole company down.  It is destructive energy, you don’t need it.  Avoid hanging out with negative coworkers, don’t socialise with them or engage them in conversation.  Their problems and complaints are not your concern, you have your own problems, let them deal with theirs by themselves.  Everybody has a story, don’t let them make it your story.  Tell them you are busy or simply not interested.  Better still, tell them you prefer to look at the positive aspects about your workplace, and not focus on the negatives.  Or say that there’s no point just complaining all the time, tell them to think of solutions that can turn their problems around and make them positive.  But avoid engaging in negative conversations with these people, even if you are forced to work with them.

Become Sam the Snitch

Should your negative coworker not take your subtle hints to leave you alone, and persist in whingeing in your ear like a malaria-infested mosquito, then don’t be afraid of being a snitch.  Report them to your supervisor, human resources manager, or whoever it is you answer to.  You do not have to put up with a negative ninny.  Put your foot down and be strong.  Report them.  You are positive, you sort of enjoy your job, don’t let their negative energy wear you down.  You seriously don’t have to put up with them. 


However, if their negativity spreads throughout your workplace, maybe you should consider a happier working environment.  Change jobs, start afresh.  One thing you know, is you have to work until you are at least 60 years of age, so why do so in a miserable environment surrounded by whiner babies who complain for the sake of complaining.  Self-righteous pricks who believe in conspiracies and try to drag everybody down with them.  Stand up for yourself.  Tell them, sorry, I’m Positive Pete, I have no time for your complaining cancer.





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    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks, Storytellersrus, was a bit irate when I wrote this hub as was giving a lift every morning to a very negative coworker, but lucklily they have retuned to the States now.

    • Storytellersrus profile image


      8 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Well evidently I will be one of the ones in your life. Happy Trails!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Fluffy!

    • Fluffymetal profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      Great advice!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      I agree Rose. I quite fancy the idea of getting the salary without having to go into work.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 

      8 years ago

      Good advice, Cindy. I vote for not working at all, unfortunately I have 6 years to go. Can't wait for that last day! Then it's goodbye negativity, hello happier life!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Aussieteacher, you know what it's like as a teacher, you always have a complainer or two on the staff.

    • Aussieteacher profile image


      8 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

      The photo did it for me. I remember a long time ago going to a circus and being so thrilled that I got tickets in the front row. I was less than thrilled when the happy elephant relived itself in front of me and I nearly fainted from the smell. Good hub though. Luckily I'm a positive soul, though the negative nellies can be a challenge.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Embee, I am also a bit too positive, ut my blood group is B. positive, so what chance do I have?

    • embee77 profile image


      8 years ago

      This is wonderful. Don't we all get dragged down by coworkers who are negative? I love your self-defense moves and plan on using them! I, on the other hand, am probably over the top with positivity, which can also drive coworkers crazy. I don't think any of us can help it. We just have to take care of ourselves, try to control ourselves, and be tolerant. I have a hub on the tolerance thing, in case you're interested. Thanks again for the great ideas.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      JJ, yeah sometimes a day at work is bad and we need to be reminded some people's are wors.

      Shinkicker, moaning about work is normal, but whining endlessly and complaining about every petty little thing is just annoying

    • Shinkicker profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland

      Great Hub, good advice. Though I think moaning about work is sometimes part of an age-old tradition :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This was a perfect hub for me today...and I certainly loved your elephant crap photo...You always have great advice!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Sheila, then you'll get employees who'll complain about the no complaining rule lol

      Paradise, sometimes I think I want to live on a desert island without any coworkers.

      Hello, Hello, am happy you enjoyed it. Do you have negative people who get on your nerves?

      Stars, thanks and God bless you to.

    • stars439 profile image


      8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Great hub. Very educational. God Bless You.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      You really have the gift of writing. This is so wonderfully put toether. Thank you for enjoyable read.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      There were days during this last tax season when I might have preferred to be behind the elephant with the pooper scooper! And I work for myself. It's my clients that drive me crazy.

      Great hub!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      I used to tell my employees there's one rule - no complaining. If they started, I reminded them. It worked.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      FP, I find that dealing with negative people makes me depressed.

      Wanderlust, but we can't keep changing our job every time we encounter negativity.

      Billy, wish I could kill that barking dog across te road, two hours solid barking now.

      Travelespresson, there is always one, isn't there?

      Samoiam, there is always a worse job than yours.

      Pam, it's all about communication isn't it?

      Drbj, I'll have to read some of your hubs.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Cindyvine - That photo in the beginning of your hub of the pachyderm-patty collector says it all. Someone else always has a "stinkier" job than you.

      And your advice is spot on. In business you often have to become first the listener, then the advisor and finally, if necessary, the courageous captain or leader of your team.

      Thanks for an insightful hub. I know because I also wrote about whiners and complainers in my series of Dealing with Difficult People hubs.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Cindy, I love your categories and you are right on about working with the negative whiners. People like that drive me nuts as I am almost always on the positive side. I figure if you have a problem, fix it, plus I know nothing in life stays the same forever. One thing we can count on is change. Great hub!

    • samboiam profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      After seeing the elephant picture I have a new appreciation for my job. lol.

    • travelespresso profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

      Great hub Cindy. It's difficult to put up with and there always seems to be "one" in the workplace.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      Great advice Cindy - some times no matter how much you try there are just negatives that kill the workplace.

    • Wanderlust profile image


      8 years ago from New York City

      The best advice is change the job. But if for some reason you cannot then follow advices above!

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      8 years ago

      Clever Cindy! Always full of good advice! :)

      Life is full of the kind of people you mention - whether at work or play - it's hard work to put up with them with any amount of equanimity. Sigh.


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