12 Tips to Help You Deal With Negative Coworkers

Updated December 20, 2022

When working in an office, it's important to remain professional and positive when completing projects and tasks. This can be challenging, especially if you have to deal with employees who display negative attitudes. Since you have to work with them every day, it's best to handle your negative coworkers professionally and maturely. In this article, we share tips about how to deal with negative coworkers and explain the importance of interacting professionally with them.

Related: Interview Question: "How Do You Handle Conflict in the Workplace?"

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Why is it important to deal professionally with negative coworkers?

Some workplaces may have employees who spread negative opinions and attitudes throughout the office. It's important to learn how to handle this negativity so you can remain positive and motivated to complete your work. If you successfully interact with negative coworkers, you may help the entire office to feel more positive and productive.

You can also use your professionalism to help the negative coworker discover resources to help them find solutions to their problems. This can create a more positive atmosphere for both you and the other employee. By dealing with a negative coworker appropriately, you also showcase your leadership and conflict resolution skills. Your manager may see how maturely you handle negativity and reward you with more responsibility or a leadership role.

Related: 8 Strategies for Dealing With a Difficult Boss

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How to deal with negative coworkers

When interacting with negative coworkers, you should approach them with patience and a positive attitude. Use these tips to help you effectively handle negative employees in the workplace:

  • Make the employee feel heard.

  • Identify the positives within their negative comments.

  • Refer them to helpful resources.

  • Reach out to human resources or your manager if needed.

  • Excuse yourself from the conversation politely.

  • Distance yourself from negative situations.

  • Try to compromise on group projects.

  • Surround yourself with positive coworkers.

  • Cultivate a positive mindset.

  • Set clear boundaries.

  • Focus your time and energy on yourself.

  • Remain professional.

Make the employee feel heard

When an employee feels negative about a workplace situation, you should take a moment to listen to their concerns. They may feel discouraged because they aren't feeling understood. Taking the time to give them your attention and trying to understand what they're going through may help them feel better about their current situation. This can help reduce their negativity overall.

Identify the positives within their negative comments

If an employee is regularly making negative comments, find the positives in the points they mention. When they express negativity about work, try to spin it into a positive situation. This can benefit not only your own mental health, but it may help them see the positive side of their circumstances.

Refer them to helpful resources

When an employee faces a challenging situation and makes negative comments, suggest they speak with a resource who is professionally qualified to help them with their issue. Depending on the situation, you can recommend they talk to a close friend, their manager or human resources.

Reach out to human resources or your manager if needed

If the employee continues exhibiting a negative attitude, you may need to speak with a human resources professional or your manager, if they're in the same department as you. They may be able to move you to an area away from the employee or speak with the employee to provide them with assistance or a warning.

Before reaching out to human resources or your manager, it's best to politely speak with the employee to inform them that you're finding it challenging to handle their negativity. If you can ignore the negative tone they're setting, try this as an option before speaking with anyone to avoid unnecessary workplace conflict. If the negativity makes it challenging to focus, speak with the human resource department or your manager to find a solution.

Related: Human Resources: Definition and How it Works

Excuse yourself from the conversation politely

If a coworker engages in casual conversation with you and it becomes negative, tell them you'd like to get back to work. This helps you exit the negative environment and keeps you from engaging in any uncomfortable situations. Make sure you're being polite when excusing yourself, so the employee understands your need to return to your work.

Related: How to Handle Passive-Aggressive Behavior in the Workplace

Distance yourself from negative situations

If you're regularly around the employee, try to distance yourself from instances when you know they're likely to be negative. If they work near you, get permission from your supervisor to listen to music while you work to keep them from distracting you. You can also use your breaks to remove yourself from the situation and take a walk outside. Take deep breaths of the fresh air, and try to calm yourself and relax before returning inside.

Try to compromise on group projects

When you and the negative employee must collaborate on projects and tasks, try to compromise with them to maintain productivity. If they are unhappy with the tasks they have to complete on a project, offer to help them with theirs or trade tasks. Try to remain positive throughout the entire collaboration, and express how important it is to work together as a team. This can make it easier to work alongside them and help improve your team-building and problem-solving skills.

Related: 10 Tips for Getting Along With Coworkers

Surround yourself with positive coworkers

The negativity put out by your coworker can be easier to deal with if you have others to help you. Find employees in your office who are genuinely positive people. Spend time with them after working with the negative employee to expose yourself to a positive atmosphere again. Being around positivity helps encourage you to see the brighter side of various situations and allows you to feel motivated in the workplace.

Cultivate a positive mindset

After spending time with a negative coworker, try to think positive thoughts to keep yourself feeling happy and encouraged. Take a break, talk with a friendly coworker or watch a funny video. Removing yourself from a negative environment helps you feel happier and more enthusiastic about completing your work. You can also meditate and take deep breaths to help clear your mind and remove any negativity from your work life.

Set clear boundaries

When a coworker consistently showcases their negative attitude, you may need to set your limits with them to ensure you remain productive, focused and positive. Professionally and clearly explain that you want to work in a positive environment and would prefer to only discuss work matters with them. This helps establish your intentions to focus only on work and explains that you would like to be a part of a positive atmosphere.

Focus your time and energy on yourself

If a coworker is acting negatively, try to put more effort into your work instead of responding to negativity so you can remain productive and passionate about your work. If a coworker tries to deliver a negative comment, direct your attention to your own work, and pay it no mind.

Remain professional

You should remain professional at all times and politely decline from engaging in conversations involving negative topics, like office gossip. This can help you look professional, focused and positive to your manager and other employees.

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