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5 Tips for Dealing With Negative People at Work


They say “attitude is everything.” And, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us realize there’s some wisdom to that. We learn that the day goes more smoothly if we approach it with a positive outlook. However, even the sunniest, most pleasant disposition can be downright squashed by a negative person. And, when the raincloud is someone you work closely with, it can feel nearly impossible to avoid being dragged into the muck. But, there is hope. Here are some tips for dealing with negative people at work.

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(Photo Credit: jonny2love/Flickr)

1. Don’t give it back to them.

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When someone’s down, it can be a natural response to empathize with them and to verbalize that understanding. We try to relate to their complaints and show them they’re not alone. And, after all, when we said, “Oh gosh, yes, me too,” after they went off about how tired they were, we weren’t lying … but, here’s the thing. Responding to negativity with more of the same is a bad idea. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling your own bad attitude start to creep in to match your co-worker’s.

2. Be positive and loving instead.

Instead of relating to your work-pal-raincloud, try building them up instead. Stay positive in the face of negativity. But, it can’t be an underhanded, secretly-cut-you-down positivity. To go back to our, “I’m so tired today,” example, it wouldn’t be helpful to respond, “Really? I slept great last night!” Instead, do be positive, but also try to be loving. How about something like, “…you’ll be able to rally, you always do!” Wait and see how quickly they start to stand a little taller. You may even catch them smiling.

3. Keep your distance.

The less time you spend with your negative co-worker, the less severe your response will be to their attitude. You can be helpful when you have to be, but that doesn’t mean you have to choose the chair next to theirs at the lunch table. Keep your distance and try to minimize the time you spend with them as much as possible, especially when they’re in a particularly negative mood.

4. Don’t spend too much time thinking about it, or talking about it with others.

There is something about negativity (and negative people) that can really get under your skin. But, rather than focusing on it, try to avoid over-analyzing the situation and minimize the amount of time you spend talking about it with others. The less time you spend thinking about the negativity, the better off you’ll be.

5. Never reward the behavior with attention.

Sometimes, people turn up the dial on their negativity to try and get attention. Do not give it to them. It will only encourage the behavior. Actually, this is most likely how they got to be so negative in the first place! Instead, give the person a little extra attention when they are being positive. Send them an email after a pleasant conversation saying that you really enjoyed your time together, linger a little longer in the parking lot together if they are in a pleasant mood. Reward the behaviors you want to encourage and never give extra attention to a person who’s behaving in a way you want to discourage.

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