Dealing with a Negative Coworker
September 4th, 2015 Matt McCue

When dealing with a coworker who is negative, these 6 steps will help to insulate you and your career from the negativity that they’re projecting.

A negative coworker in the workplace always has something to complain about. Their job sucks, the boss doesn’t know anything, the clients are morons, and they always have more tasks to do than their colleagues. If you have a coworker who acts like that, it’s good practice to stay at arm’s length from them to avoid getting sucked into their vortex of negativity.

A negative coworker’s complaints may be valid to a point, however, voicing their opinions can be disruptive to office morale. When working with someone who is always negative and complaining to anyone who will listen, their attitude can become contagious to others in the workplace, creating a toxic office environment where little is accomplished. 

When dealing with a coworker who is negative, these 6 steps will help to insulate you and your career from the negativity that they’re projecting. 


Avoid them as much as possible

Office environments can often be a close-knit environment where employees are sharing the same space, and it may be difficult to physically remove yourself from the negative employee’s area, but it’s possible to avoid spending time with them or getting into a negative conversation with them. If they come up to your desk to complain or gossip, let them know that you’re in the middle of something important and can’t really chat at that moment. 


Point out the positive

If you get into a conversation with the negative coworker, you can always counter their complaints with positive aspects of the company or their job. Try to help them see that their position has meaning within the organization, and that they’re beneficial to the clients and/or other coworkers. It’s possible that they haven’t seen how they positively impact the business with the work that they do, and objective reassurance that they’re needed is what they need. 


Don’t gossip

Office gossip is never a good practice to engage in, and it can be damaging to everyone involved (especially the target of the gossip). While it can be inocuous to discuss coworkers and their personal lives, office gossip can very easily turn into a venomous habit. Gossip can turn amicable coworkers into spiteful people working under animosity. 


Try listening 

Sometimes someone needs to vent their frustrations and fears, which may be all your coworker needs to do. Listen to what they have to say, and offer constructive advice that they can use to quell their complaints. If you feel that their opinions are legitimate, offer them your assistance and advice in solving their problems. If you’re able to help them without investing too much time in their cause, try to provide some form of support. 


Set boundaries

Setting boundaries between yourself and the negative coworker is essential to your career, as their negativity may affect your attitude. Keeping a distance from them is always a good idea, but may not be practical in a confined workspace. If you work in close proximity to them, it may not be possible to avoid them. When they start to complain, let them know that you’re too busy to socialize or chat, and keep your interactions brief. 


Approach management

It may be in your best interest to discuss the negative coworker with management, and voice your concerns about their negative attitude. Management may have a solution that could be mutually beneficial to the company and the coworker such as a transfer to a department more suited to the employee’s skill set. They may decide to meet privately with the employee and point out that their negative attitude isn’t beneficial to the company, and that an attitude adjustment is necessary to remaining as a member of the team. If the employee doesn’t change their attitude after their talks with management, they may be let go.



Distancing yourself from the negative employee and their toxic attitude will prevent your opinions of the company from being corrupted and tainted by their complaints. It will also help to keep your career on track and flowing smoothly, free of the distractions of office gossip and complaining. 

If you find yourself working with a negative employee, remaining positive throughout the workday will counter their bad attitude. 

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