Stop with the whinging: Top five negative colleagues

by Tammy Buckley10 Jan 2014
With the first week back at work nearly over, you’re bound to have encountered some office whinging. And while a little bit of banter over the unfairness of being back work while others remain on holiday, enjoying the sun, doesn’t hurt, consistent grizzling can harm the workplace and productivity.

To help nip negativity in the bud early this year The Daily Muse has put together a list of the top five negative workplace personalities and how to deal with them.

1. The Bad News Bears
These are the ones who revel in the negative and can't wait to share all that bad news whether it is a simple mistake or that someone’s head will role. They thrive on sharing this negativity, but for those around its draining.

Deal with the real issue at hand – if in fact there is one – and then walk away. To exit the conversation politely but quickly by using quick getaway phrases, such as "I have a phone call I need to make," or “I need to prep for a meeting this afternoon”.

2. The Gossip Mongers
Rumours can abound in many workplaces from someone claiming to have heard there's going to be a layoff to a new manager was hired, or the company is in financial strife. Whether substantiated or not, these rumours get repeated over and over, and usually by the same people, who just love stirring up the worst-case scenario of what's going on.

Upon hearing something outrageous or questionable push for real answers. By saying, "Oh, wow, that sounds pretty extreme. Is that a fact? Or did you hear that from someone?" you'll quickly set the expectation that you won't engage in frivolous chatter that's not based in fact.

Another strategy is to express helplessness. When a co-worker starts their gossip spiel, shrug and say "I can't help you with that one. Sorry." 

3. The Drama Queens (or Kings)
An insatiable desire for attention means this is one of the most easily identifiable negative workplace personalities. This is the person whose workload is bigger than anyone else’s, they always get the worst deal and there is not point arguing with them because they will always have a story to one up you. And while they may crave attention their antics can be a drain on co-workers time and energy.

One of the best ways to shut down a drama king or queen is simply refuse to rise to the occasion. The more you respond to the drama the more you feed it. Ignoring the conversation and going about your business will eventually send the message you’re not interested. Sometimes, however, it may be best to dish out some honest feedback – such as if their workload really is that bad maybe they should discuss it with a manager not colleagues.

4. The Chicken Littles
For these people it doesn’t matter what good news you have to share they will undoubtedly respond with a pessimistic reaction. For example “We got the client on board” to which they would say “I’ve heard they are very difficult to work with”.

Sometimes these people are unaware they are coming off so negative and how it is impacting on those around them. By gently pointing it out it can help diffuse the situation.

5. The Victims
Victims blame others for their circumstances. Whatever goes wrong for them they have someone else to blame. They complain about all that is bad in their life and don’t take any ownership or control of the situation.

Pointing out someone is a negative Nellie can be hard so it may be easier to tell them what you need is more positive engagement. Try, "I've noticed that whenever we chat, the conversation tends to focus on the negative. I don't know about you, but I work better when I'm surrounded by positivity. Why don't you tell me about something that's going well for you?"

Try to engage them in a conversation on what can be done differently next time to avoid the situation instead of dwelling on the negative.