16 Ways To Deal With Negative Coworkers Who Make Work Hell

Trying to make it through a day at work is hard enough without negative co-workers irritating you throughout the day. Once upon a time, I worked in the corporate offices for a retail store in the HR department. I feel your struggle. You may have some great co-workers but I bet there are one or two who make you want to tear your hair right out.

But you can’t just tell them off. That would get you in trouble and possibly stunt your career because who the hell wants to work with the ~office bitch~, right? That being said, you still need to learn how to deal with crappy co-workers. You’ll encounter them throughout your entire life (unless you work from home) and if you allow them to taint you with their negativity, you’ll end up just like them, which will make work in general hell.

The only issue is that it’s not easy when you have to see that person every single day. A two day weekend is simply not long enough to purge the negativity they douse you with throughout the week. Luckily, I learned a few things from my time in the office and I’m here to help you survive the workweek with grace.

1. Distance Yourself From Them

And I mean this literally. Just stay away from them. A negative co-worker is like the plague. They’ll infect you with their bad attitude and it’ll make your entire day worse. If you can, just avoid them in general. Don’t go where they do for break and if they’re at the copier, wait until they leave. Trust me, you’ll be happier because of it.

2. Stay and Look Busy

If you always have your nose in your computer or are working hard, all of your co-workers will be less likely to bother you. Nobody wants to be the asshole that interrupts someone else who’s busting their butt to get work done. So long as you focus on your work and stay concentrated, the negative Nancy in the office won’t be asking you for things.

3. Be Positive

Believe it or not, we have the power to stay positive even if something negative is happening around us. Our brains are amazing that way. They can be tricked into being positive and if we are like this enough, those negative co-workers won’t seem to both us anymore. The next time you find yourself daydreaming of punching them in the face, stop yourself and look at the bright side.

4. Plug in Your Headphones

I know some establishments don’t allow their employees to have headphones but if you are allowed, plug those babies in and turn up the volume. Put on a playlist of feel-good and happy songs you know put you in a great mood. Most people don’t annoy those who have headphones in and even if your negative co-worker tries to bother you, that music will cheer you right up.

5. Avoid Letting Them Vent to You

Never let yourself be the office “vent.” By that, I mean you can’t let people go to you with their complaints and problems. Unless you’re actually good friends with someone and want to help, you should never be the one people go to because once they get feedback from you once, they’ll always go to you. If one of your negative co-workers tries to do this, simply tell them you’ve got a lot of work to do. This is a polite way of saying, “Get the hell away from me with your problems.”

6. Figure Out What’s Really Bothering You

Dig a little deeper now and try to understand why this particular co-worker bothers you so much. Are they just annoying because they complain all the time or do you actually just not like them? Learning why you dislike that person so much can help you figure out how to respond and it can also help you fix the issue. Once you realize what the real problem is, you can adjust your behavior to solve it.

7. Don’t Get Too Friendly

There are a lot of things you can talk about in the office but one mistake a lot of people make (and end up regretting) is being to personal with a co-worker they don’t know very well. Once you open up and share some details about your life, it’s like a free ticket for them to start coming to you with their personal life. Therefore, if you start sensing a specific person has a negative disposition, keep your conversations work-related and professional.

8. Try Chatting Only During Break Times

If you do want to get a little closer with certain co-workers but don’t want to open the floodgates during working hours, only talk to them during breaks. If you initiate the conversations during break and meal times only, they realize that those times are OK to chat. By setting a time you feel like conversing, you’ll only have to deal with co-workers a couple times a day.

9. Turn Their Complaints into Something Positive

If you really can’t stand your negative co-workers and they’re effecting your work life too much, try being a force is positivity for them to look up to. As I mentioned before, our brains can be rewired to think positively as a default instead. Perhaps your co-workers just need guidance on that front. The next time they start complaining about something, point out some positives of the situation. Not only does that help you feel better but your co-worker will start to see the bright side too and they’ll become less negative.

10. Ignore Their Toxic Outbursts

Sometimes you just have to ignore negative co-workers who are just looking for attention. Believe it or not, this happens a lot. It’s like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. If you give them attention all the time, they’ll do it way more. However, if you completely ignore them they’ll realize seeking attention in that way just doesn’t work and they’ll stop.

11. Praise Their Positive Behavior

Positive reinforcement isn’t just for dogs, you know. Praising a negative co-worker when they’re being really happy and uplifting will make them want to do it more, especially if you ignore their toxicity. Even saying something along the lines of, “Wow! You’re so happy today. It’s good to see you like this,” can go a long way in correcting their annoying behavior.

12. Sympathize With Them

If there’s a specific co-worker that isn’t usually very negative but has suddenly started becoming a problem, sympathize with them. Find out what’s wrong. Sometimes your co-workers go through tough times and all they need is someone who will talk to them and understand. But do this during break or meal times only so they don’t think it’s okay to chat with you about their problems all the time.

13. Help Them Solve the Problem

Do you have a co-worker who’s always complaining about the same thing over and over again? Maybe it’s about the damn spreadsheet they can’t get right or it could even be their workload in general. Instead of being irritated by it, help them. Ask them if they need assistance or ask them what the problem really is. Showing them that there’s a solution to the issue can help them figure their own stuff out in the future. And that means they’ll complain about it much less.

14. Don’t Gossip About Them

You know what’s worse than a negative co-worker? Being the negative co-worker. Gossiping about others and complaining in general is toxic behavior for the workplace. Not only can it get back to the person and hurt their feelings, but also dwelling on the issue keeps you in a negative headspace a lot longer than if you brushed them off or helped them.

15. Be an Example to Them and Everyone Else

If you really want to solve the issue of having negative co-workers, be an example. Walk around with a good attitude and show people how much better of a work environment it could be if everyone left their baggage at the door. You can even start a workplace initiative that rewards those who show an uplifting attitude. This will help make work a lot easier for you and it can also improve everyone’s productivity.

16. Talk to Your Boss

If all else fails, have a conversation with your boss. When there’s someone in the workplace who’s spreading negativity and toxic energy, it needs to be taken care of. It’s not good for anyone and your boss will certainly agree. They might be able to address the person and bring it to their attention without involving you.

Knowing how to deal with negative co-workers is something all people should learn. You’ll run into those types of people in all aspects of your life and if you don’t know how to deal, they can drag you down to their level and make your life even harder. Don’t let that happen.

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