Ways to Deal with Negative People at Work

In a continuously changing economy, the day-to-day dealings at work are stressful enough without negative people driving you nuts.

And just like nuts, negative people come in different varieties:

  • There is the workplace bully who take great pride in ruining other people’s days, either because they are not happy with their own situation or just enjoy the misfortune of others.
  • There is the unhappy worker who vents, to anyone that will listen, about why they are not happy at work, why the company is losing business, or why the boss doesn’t care about the staff.
  • And then there is the worker dealing with personal problems that brings their home life into the professional realm. They take the dark cloud hanging over their heads and let the rain leave a trail of despair around them.

Regardless of the type of negative person you are dealing with, they are, for the lack of a better word, negatively impacting the work day and need to be dealt with.

But they don’t have to ruin your day.

Here are six ways to deal with negative people at work:

6 Ways to Deal with Negative People at Work

Avoid them

Negative people seek out victims, whether they intend to or not.

But if you don’t have to work with a negative person, try to avoid making contact with them at all.

You don’t want to get wrapped up in their negativity and sometimes you become guilty by association.

For instance, a co-worker may be the one talking negatively about the company, but another co-worker could witness the interaction and mistakenly tell a supervisor, “THEY’RE always talking about what’s wrong here” and that could have a detrimental impact on your standing in the company.

Or, if you find yourself spending too much time giving advice to a co-worker with struggles at home you’re not getting your work done – and your supervisors will not give you the benefit of the doubt just because you’re a good person.

In addition, when dealing with an office bully, the tendency to standup for yourself could land you in trouble, too.

It’s easier to just avoid negative people altogether.

Listen to them

Some negative people weren’t always negative.

Perhaps they have been dealt a bad hand as of late and just need some help getting through it.

If you’re friends with the negative person or have to work with them on a consistent basis, maybe being that one-time ear they can bend could make a difference.

Maybe they just need to vent before they get back to their more positive selves.

Venting is normal.

Just be careful of those who abuse this privilege.

Set boundaries and make sure they know they cannot make these venting sessions a regular occurrence.

When venting gets out of hand, it doesn’t just impact the work day, it impacts work relationships in a way that could make your future day-to-day dealings unnecessarily awkward.

Be positive

Counter their negativity with positivity.

Don’t get sucked into the black hole.

Just like positivity can be infectious, so can a negative attitude.

And you don’t want to let someone else’s negativity get you down, especially when it involves the worker who hates the job.

Other people’s negativity can play into our own fears.

If we are worried about job security and a co-worker starts spouting off about how poorly the company is performing, our immediate reaction is to think they may know something and your job is in jeopardy.

Suddenly, like demon possession, you have caught the negativity bug and start spreading it around.

By staying positive, you can keep yourself in a good mood…and maybe, if your own positivity is infectious, maybe you can bring a smile to that negative person’s face.

Keep it professional

Negative people like to create problems at work.

They like to get a rise out of people and create drama where there doesn’t have to be any.

They react disturbingly hostile to something innocuous, such as you questioning their decisions.

But workplace bullies tend to be smart.

You will not receive a nasty email from a workplace bully.

Instead, you may get a phone call where your co-worker chews you out without giving you any chance to respond before hanging up on you.

They may ignore your request for an email response to an important work-related matter.

They try to get a rise out of people without leaving a paper trail, so when you react negatively, they act innocent and you’re the one left looking like the troublemaker.

Don’t ever let a co-worker get under your skin.

Always remain professional.

Make sure everyone sees you interacting professionally with this co-worker.

Always say hello in the hallway.

Make sure every email you send is professional, too.

By keeping things professional, the negative office bully loses all their power.

Talk to HR or your supervisor

You may have to express your concerns with someone of authority if your dealings with a negative co-worker is impacting your work.

Remember, just because you are not to blame for someone else’s negativity, it doesn’t mean your reactions can’t come back to haunt you.

It’s better to have a record of your concerns just in case any negative issues between you and a co-worker escalate.

Some companies have different policies, so you would either speak with HR or your supervisor first.

They may be able to recommend a course of action, or, if you have to regularly interact with the negative co-worker, may intervene and mediate between the two of you to make sure any issues are addressed.

For them, this isn’t their first rodeo.

They have dealt with negative people in the past, so, rather than try to handle the matter on your own, leave it to the professionals.

Keep it at work

Sometimes, there is nothing you can do about a negative person.

Maybe they know someone and that connection keeps them in a job, allowing them to make lives miserable for those they interact with on a daily basis.

Whatever the reason may be, if you’re stuck with the negativity, don’t let it bring you down and don’t let it stay with you after you leave the office.

Work may have been hard, but it doesn’t have to seep into your personal life.

Once you walk out those office doors, leave your troubles behind you and enjoy your day.

If you bring it home with you, the impact of the negative person will continue to get worse.

Some people think it will get better if they can talk it out at home with their wife, etc.

(and you should bring it up, but don’t let it consume you), but if a negative person causes you to get snippy at home and have a generally bad attitude, you will begin to blame your problems outside of work on the negative person at work, thus creating a vicious cycle you want to avoid.

We spend a majority of each day at work and when so much of our lives are tied to the office, it is vital that we make the most of it.

A little negativity is expected, but if you can do your best to keep a positive attitude, you will enjoy a much more productive day at the office.

Jon Minners is Senior Marketing Manager and career expert at Vault (www.Vault.com), a company that provides in-depth intelligence on what it's really like to work in an industry, company or profession—and how to position yourself to land that job. This is Jon’s second go-around with Vault, serving as the company’s Communications Manager from 2009-2011. Since re-joining Vault in 2016, Jon concentrates on the company’s social media channels, its Internship and Education portals and writes blogs based off his own observations in the workplace. A New Yorker for life, Jon earned his BA in Journalism from Baruch College and served as the Managing Editor for the Bronx Times Reporter before working in different public relations and marketing capacities for The New York Public Library, Montefiore Medical Center and the NYC Department for the Aging.