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Readers Respond: Tips for Coping With Negative Coworkers

Responses: 56

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If you’ve ever worked, you’ve probably had negative coworkers. You know the kind. Negative coworkers sap your time and attention with their negative comments about the boss, the workplace, the company, and their work. Their lives are usually a negative mess, too – or they think they are. These coworkers exude negativity and you are forced into coping with their negativity daily. Have a thick skin that keeps negativity from affecting you? Do you have tips for coping with negative coworkers? Absolutely. Won’t you take a moment and share your favorite tips for coping with negative coworkers?

See also Coworkers From Hell. Find more Reader Responses to various questions.

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Tired of the Balogna

I have very negative coworkers and a boss who is a jerk with no people skills. I've been putting up with this for a year since our team transitioned to a new team with a new boss, who delegates everything to a sub-boss who isn't really a boss. Last week, I interviewed for a job in another dept. just to get away from it all. It is not worth it putting up with negative people for so long.
—Guest Tired

Negative colleagues

I have a colleague who constantly grinds me down. In 2001 she was told that by 2013 she would need to have a degree for her management job by 2013. She has done nothing to get it so I was appointed as her "boss" but not allowed to supervise. That did not work too well so she was given a different job. She makes comments all the time in meetings in front of junior staff about how much better she was at the job and implies my performance is not up to scratch - (She is careful to never do this in front of other managers.) I have talked to her supervisor but am not getting anywhere. I am ready to quit. She has sabotaged a couple of things in the past - one being a computer program we rely on - I was able to fix it since it was spotted early on but only with a lot of extra work. I feel sorry for her that she lost the job shje loved BUT she chose not to study!
—Guest chrissy

Feels like high school all over again

I'm tired of hearing myself complain anymore. I work with a guy for the last 2 years & it's a silent battle. He flipped at me over something I didn't say, and I went to the boss instead of confronting him. I don't do confrontations. I think he was told not to talk to me. My bosses rely on me to be a middleman between the owner & our workers, but this guy actually said I don't know anything and I'm only good for ordering office supplies & sending emails. If he was mature enough, he would have gotten to know me & found out what I actually do for the company. I know more about what goes on than he realizes. He may have more seniority, just by time, but the boss calls him the "great saboteur", unfortunately, he's family to the owners, so no such luck on getting rid of him. The bosses know how this guy feels about me and how he has treated me in the past. A few coworkers let me know what he says behind my back. One even said, it's like we're in high school. Ya know, he's right.
—Guest Lily

Dealing with a Bully

The 1st occurrence of bullying must be addressed. An example of what to say to the person with a witness (preferable 2 levels above your supervisor) is the following: "Calling someone a liar or stupid is never acceptable in a workplace. It is unprofessional. It is fine to disagree respectfully, but I will not allow you to impugn my character or verbally abuse me. These are my boundaries. If your behavior recurs, then I will file a formal complaint with HR." Make sure everything is documented in writing (keep a log, email to yourself, etc). Be consistent with your documentation. Do not ever engage in any non-work discussions in the future with this person. Be civil and collegial. Be aware that they will probably be doing everything that they can to sabotage you which means you must walk away* from any encounter with this person that may escalate and be misinterpreted (either intentionally or not). When I say walk away*, make sure to say, "I need to think about this before any further discussion."
—ladyf

Workplace bully including verbal abuse

Never rationalize or excuse the actions of a workplace bully. The longer one ignores, placates or tries to rationally discuss, or, express the emotional impact it has on them, the more the abuse will continue and will in fact, increase in frequency and intensity. Workplace bullies' verbal abuse, negativity must be stopped the 1st time it occurs for two important reasons: 1) it can be used against you in the future and lessen your credibility when you lodge a complaint, "why didn't you bring this up sooner, why now?" and 2) unabated, you will be seen as a target by the abuser because unchecked, they see you as prey.
—ladyf

Horrid coworkers

I returned to work after cancer to a new boss who told me he didn't think I should of returned 2 days a week and that I might never be fit to work full time again + I cost the department money and the job I was doing was going for redeployment all in the one breath after 6 months of fighting cancer. Also, his side kick, the redeployee, told me she was more ill than I was. Horrible 63 year old woman that no one wants to work with. I have now moved departments to get away from this pair of, don't know what to call them. This is how xxx managers treat their staff. Sad, sad people.
—Guest Fed up

Negative Coworker

Need tips to cope with a negative coworker that is just asking for a punch in the face. She turns down late appointment patients and makes them reschedule to the latest dates and times. I hate her attitude at work and wish she would just quit but not gonna happen so please help me to understand and deal with this daily nightmare of a coworker! (Have you spoken with the boss about her behavior? Surely, if you describe the impact on the patients, that will get attention.)
—Guest chelo

Sheesh

I worked as a public school teacher. No matter what, I had to accept who walked into my classroom - baggage and all - and try to teach them. I had students throw soda against the wall. scream at each other, show up late. For the repeat offenders, no number of write-ups made a bit of difference. Administration told me that they behaved that way because of my classroom management abilities. I quit teaching over a year ago and work for myself now, tutoring privately, and do interpretation/translation. Negativity has been practically erased from my life. I sleep soundly every night. I eat healthily. I hardly drink alcohol. I do not smoke. My life is great. I have benefits and make about as much as I made as a teacher. If you have negative co-workers, stand up to them. Don't let their failure of character make your life miserable. Yes, it is time to take the workplace back from the a$$holes. They don't deserve any airtime and are blocking productive people from doing their jobs well.
—Guest Justin

outcast

My coworkers are all over me for information, lunch time I am the outcast. Meetings, none will sit next to me even though there are empty chairs and room. Minute return to office, in my face. No matter what race, they act the same towards me. Meet on street, go in other direction. This is hurtful!
—Guest anonymous

Negative coworkers

Great suggestions but it is difficult to do much if the negative coworkers are supported. Take it day by day, hour by hour and avoid them when you can but stand up to them. Even a little.
—Guest wildkat

Are they really negative?

First off, I want to admit, there are plenty of negative people out there that are just that. Negative for the sake of being negative. But I have met many a co-worker that I originally thought was just a negative person, but turns out they were using their complaints about work or life as a way to make a connection with me. Think about it, more than likely there is something you don't like about your job, and if you have a chance to complain about it with someone who feels the same way, it's sort of a bonding experience. My advice would be, if you think this may be the case, to steer them away from complaining and instead try to introduce something else you have in common. Most of the "negative" people I have met are just lonely and looking for a friend at work.
—Guest Kiterina

Sometimes these folks can do real damage

We have a woman who sits in her cubicle all day spewing hate and nasty gossip with glee and cackling. People come to her and revel in others misery. She has contributed greatly to many reputations being ruined and people being demoted. For some reason management doesn't see the problem, and they seem to trust her, although her work is of inferior quality and she spends most of her time making personal phone calls and getting into fights on the phone. She's fun to talk to, if she doesn't have it in for you. Well now she has it in for me. I made the mistake of being honest with her about how the constant gossip made me feel, as we shared an office. She called me crazy then told my boss. Guess it's time to look for another job. I can already see people questioning everything that I do, and I'm beginning to feel persecuted. I blame the "corporate culture" more than I blame the person in question for allowing this to continue. It's a very unhealthy atmosphere.
—Guest Dorkus

Why are they negative?

Try not to belittle your co worker by branding them negative and making a joke out of what to them might be genuine concerns or miseries. Isolating them or laughing at them with other co workers will only make them more negative and likely depressed and some of their reasons may be genuine, i.e bosses often have favorites and whereas you might be one, they may not be, and might see things in a different light to you. In most cases it won't hurt to listen a bit, maybe even offer a bit of friendly advice. However, if their negative behavior is directed at you (i.e bullying) or trying to influence your opinions unfairly (i.e. just because they are jealous of another co worker who has blatantly done nothing but look wrong that day) then it might be an idea to distance yourself from them a little, or even be honest and disagree. You can disagree without being nasty. If they turn against you because of it you might do well to then turn to management. However, in harmless negativity cases just smile.
—Guest Anon

It all has got to do with ego

Unfortunately, these so-called negativity mongers are oblivious to the fact that their pessimistic behavior not only affects a certain individual but also the entire organisation. I think it all has got to do with being naive, jealous, angry, miserable in life and feeding their egoes at the expense of the company. These people should be identified and dealt with once and for all for the sake of the economy and peace in this world.
—Guest Inocent

Negativers

I have a very simple solution: find a job or own your business. Many negative co-workers/bosses are very miserable, are jealous, are depressed, are "vampires", and do not care about others. Backstabbers enjoy making themselves better. It is not worth to be around with them even you do a great job or not. Please avoid all the costs. The great news is that I got a job offer within one week after quitting my job!
—Guest FedUp

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Tips for Coping With Negative Coworkers

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