How to Deal with a Negative Person at Work

July 23, 2018

Three strategies for dealing with a negative person at work.

Negative people at work aren't much fun.

Yes, everyone has tough times. But when people constantly linger in that negative energy and complain all the time and you have to be around them all day, it can drive you crazy. Worst of all, if you aren't careful, they can start turning you into a negative person as well.

What should you do? Well, if you are a peer of theirs, your job isn’t to fix them, but instead to deal with them.

And, in her LinkedIn Learning course Being Positive at Work, Instructor Brenda Bailey-Hughes gives three strategies for doing exactly that.

LinkedIn Learning Instructor Brenda Bailey-Hughes explains how to deal with negative people at work.

3 strategies for dealing with a negative person at work

In her course, Bailey-Hughes listed out three strategies for dealing with a negative colleague. They are in descending order, meaning you should try the first one first, the second one if that doesn’t work and the third if the first two don’t work.

    1. Practice empathy.

Most people who complain don’t want you to fix their problems, they want to be heard. By hearing them and being empathetic, they'll appreciate it – and it'll potentially brighten their mood.

 “Empathy doesn’t solve, it connects,” Bailey-Hughes said.

    2. Practice distance.

Say you are empathetic and the person remains negative. What should you do?

Give yourself distance from the person. Work in a conference room, instead of at your desk if they sit next to you. Wear headphones. If they do talk with you, smile, nod and say nothing.

“We deserve to be happy and when others attempt to steal that joy from us, a little distance is not out of order,” Bailey-Hughes said.

    3. Lastly, redirect.

If empathy doesn’t stop the negativity and you can’t get away from them for whatever reason, it’s time to try redirect their negativity.

So, if they complain about how they lost a deal, redirect them by asking how they plan on getting another. Or, ask them to name three good things that happened to them that day.

Don’t call them out for being negative if you are their peer – that’ll likely make it worse. Instead, do your best to redirect the conversation to something positive.

Looking to become a better communicator at work? Watch the LinkedIn Learning course, Communication Tips Weekly.

Videos in the course include: