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5 Tips for Coping With an Unhappy Co-worker


Everyone has a bad day once in a while, and offering support to co-workers is the kind approach in these instances. However, sometimes a colleague is chronically unhappy, spreading gloom day after day. Maybe they complain a lot — about work, their personal life, or both. Perhaps it’s just the way they sulk around the office, or it’s the miserable countenance they wear every time you’re in a meeting together. No matter how the condition manifests itself, working with someone who is persistently unhappy can be a real drag, to say the least.


(Photo Credit: Glen_Wright/Flickr)

Here are a few tips for dealing with your unhappy co-worker.

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1. Distance yourself.

Let’s be honest, no one likes to be around someone who is miserable. You can bet that your boss tops the list of people who are tired of the negative attitude this person is spreading around on a daily basis. Because of this, you should consider distancing yourself from this individual. If the two of you are viewed as a duo, as close friends, or if you’re often seen together around the office, people might begin to associate you with the bad behavior. Keep your distance. It’s better for your own sanity as well, and it is necessary for preserving your reputation as a positive force in your workplace.

2. Know there isn’t much you can do to help.

You’ve had bad days too, right? You’ve had mornings where you practically had to scrape yourself up off the floor in order to get yourself into work, and when you arrived, you still managed to put your best foot forward and shrug off your negativity during working hours — at least as far as everyone else could tell. So, this person has a problem. They default to negativity. Maybe it’s their way of getting sympathy or attention. Maybe they don’t realize the potential repercussions of their actions. No matter the cause, this is their way, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

Generally, if someone has a bad day or is going through a particularly rough time, we can offer support that encourages and brightens things a little. Not true with the chronically miserable. They will continue to affect this attitude no matter what. So if the gloom and doom seems to be an enduring feature of this individual’s personality, know that it is just that, and there isn’t much you can do to help. Spending hours, or even days, trying to coax them into a different attitude is just going to be a waste of your time. Keep conversations with this individual short, and try not to feel bad about walking away from the pity party. There isn’t much you can do to help.

3. Set a good example.

Something you can do to help is to be a good example of positivity, emotional health, and professionalism. Laugh with your colleagues; find reasons and excuses to be joyful. Demonstrate through your example that being happy is so much easier than being miserable — for everyone. Take issues and problems in stride, and talk about how and why you’re not letting them get to you. Your co-worker might just notice that your attitude wins more positive attention, and greater rewards all around, than the strategy they’ve been employing.

4. Never commiserate with the chronically unhappy.

Most people have a negative thing or two they could say about their boss if pressed. Likewise, we could find things to complain about regarding co-workers, the industry, the work itself, if we so desired. Trying to relate to someone who is feeling unhappy is natural, but in this case, it should be avoided. You wouldn’t want the things you say to get back to your boss, or anyone else. So, no matter what you do, do not get into complaining with them. It is very likely that this co-worker will enjoy passing on the information that you’re unhappy, too.

5. Make a conscious effort to practice the habits of happiness.

It’s difficult to not let someone else’s negative attitude impact you. You’re going to have to engage consciously with some practices that will help you stay on track. Spend time outdoors for a few minutes a day, if you can. Surround yourself with happy people. Exercise regularly. Support and encourage people who you can help, and enjoy the positive benefits of brightening their day. Put time and care into cultivating your own happiness during this time. The truth is, this co-worker probably won’t be around for very much longer.

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