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Nixing Negativity at Work

Nixing Negativity at Work

That friend who just can’t stop complaining. That co-worker who always has to one-up you with her breakup stories or that traumatic encounter at the bank. That client who takes out her perpetual bad mood on you. None of these people are contributing to your sanity or self-esteem. Though it’s not always possible to cut these people out of your life, there are a few things you can do to negate their negativity. Here’s how.

Minimize your interaction. Life’s too short to spend it surrounded by grumpy people. If you find that dinners with a certain friend lead to diatribes about her bitchy boss, her loudmouthed neighbor, or her cheating ex-boyfriend, then it may be time to stop accepting (and extending) dinner invitations. Put on headphones or shut the door to discourage that co-worker from stopping by to share her latest dating drama. Send an e-mail to your client so you won’t have to deal with her Cruella De Vil act on the phone (or better yet, ask to be assigned to a different account). That will keep you at a safe distance, and they’ll eventually get the hint.

Redirect the conversation. By now you’ve probably figured out what topics bring out the worst in your clients, co-workers, or friends. Stick to lighter subjects so you won’t set them off. Instead of making a humorous comment about your delayed flight or your wardrobe disaster (which will only encourage them to share their own frustrations), offer a compliment or share some good news. There are people who just like to be contrary (like when you rave about a new sushi place, they’ll complain of food poisoning). You can acknowledge their frustration with a sympathetic “It sounds terrible” or “That must have been hard,” but whatever you do, do not join in the bitch session. It will only leave you feeling miserable, too. Politely excuse yourself when you can.

Pick upbeat people whenever possible. You can’t always choose whom you work with, but spending time with positive people during your off hours can help you deflect a Debbie Downer. Soak up their optimistic outlook and see how they deal with pessimistic people. You can keep that positive energy flowing by posting favorite photos or inspirational quotes in your cube or playing music you love. The next time that client calls to vent or your co-worker starts to complain, focus on those inspirational words or pull out that photo of your favorite place. Stay upbeat and you’ll set a positive example for those around you. Who knows? Maybe they’ll want to join in, too. -Susan Johnston

For more career advice, visit NicoleWilliams.com.

Posted: 12/24/08

People should not drag their negative life experiences into the workplace....bottom line! I worked with a lady who desperately needed to discuss her and describe her daughter's life to us everyday and it was terrible. She constantly invaded our peace and tranquility with her negative and sometimes viscious accounts of how she treated her daughter and made terrible comments about her other children as well. People should not bring that stuff to work. Positive things are ok as long as its not shared every hour of the day, but to bring stories of what you and your husband or children experience in a negative setting at home is not fair to the people who really does not want to hear it. I did not ever want to know what was going on in anyone's household....get counseling and leave your coworkers out of it.


I agree that I can be quick to jump in a negative rant. It seems so easy to complain these days, but this is a good reminder of how we can seek out the more positive people and things in life.


Interesting timing on this post. I've been feeling so exhausted lately and upon reflection it's because I've been super negative about everything. I'm naturally a negative person, so I have to work towards being more positive; however, stick me in a group of negative people and I join right in. It truly does drain me when I go through these bouts of major negativity and the holidays seem to be the hardest. So, I've decided to look at replacing some of the more negative people in my life and I'm already starting to notice a difference. This is a great post!


This is so true. It's been proven that happiness is contagious, and it looks like negativity can be, too. I guess it all depends on who you choose to hang around.

  • By alegria
  • on 12/24/08 12:48 PM EST