How To Deal With That Negative Coworker

A negative coworker can bring everyone down.

Their negativity can lower morale, reduce productivity, or just take up your time with complaining.


If the number of advice articles on the subject is any indication, this is a common problem that many of us have experienced.

Unfortunately there’s also a lot of bad advice out there.


For example, there are a number of articles suggesting ways that you can ignore or avoid a negative coworker. But the actual research evidence shows that ignoring or avoiding a coworker only makes things worse.

Fortunately new research suggests a much more productive solution.


The problem-solving process

There is a basic process to solving any problem.

Whether you are fixing something obvious, finding a creative solution, or innovating something entirely new, there are 2 necessary steps.

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Implement a solution


This seems pretty obvious.

What’s less obvious is that these 2 steps are closely tied to different types of emotions.


Step 1 tends to involve negative emotions.

This is often how we know that an issue needs attention in the first place.

Some problems should make you angry or frustrated!


Step 2 tends to involve positive emotions.

Approaching the problem in a positive way makes it more likely that it will actually get fixed. (And it can feel great to solve a problem.)


It’s probably best not to respond to a negative coworker with more negativity.

Don’t be angry, frustrated, or annoyed that they are angry, frustrated, or annoyed.


Respond with positivity instead.

Who can address this problem? How can they make things better?


You might even want to encourage negativity

That negative coworker might be telling you exactly what you need to hear.

The evidence shows that discouraging negativity in the workplace often leaves serious problems unaddressed.

Trying to avoid negativity, and just be positive all the time, actually tends to hurt the overall performance of managers and teams.

This image is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. Attribution is not necessary. The original book is available at the Internet Archive

No matter what your job role is, you can respond to a negative coworker as someone coming to you for help and advice.

You might be able to fix a serious problem together, and that could be great.

And if you can’t do anything to help, just say so. Perhaps suggest talking to someone else who can help. It’s a great way to end the conversation and get back to work.



Images: toffehoff, Public Domain

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