3 Ways to Deal with Negative Co-Workers (Without Compromising Your Success)

By: TSP Blog | @TSProckstars


Negativity – we all know and feel it when we experience it. It’s formally defined as a tendency to be downbeat, disagreeable or skeptical. We can probably all think of that one coworker (or maybe a few) who are pessimistic, always expecting the worst.

Negativity in the workforce can take on many forms such as lying, slander, deceit or selfishness. It creates feelings of mistrust or a lack of confidence in management. Negativity stifles creativity, effective communication, teamwork and motivation. Let’s face it – negativity in the workplace will occur at various points throughout your career (and look who is being the pessimistic one now – oops! Promise we have positive intentions in mind). 

Whether you are a veteran employee or a new addition to the team, negativity can affect multiple individuals and even an entire business model. In order to combat pessimistic feelings or actions, below are three ways to deal with any Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer in the workplace (without compromising your success):

Personal power (also known as referent power) is a core leadership competency and one of the most valuable types of power in a workplace. Personal power is held by people with charisma, integrity and positive qualities, which can then help individuals achieve any career-related dream.

With that said, you do have complete control over how you react to negativity and should not take it personally. A person holding referent power can help set the tone for positive behavior, because other people will also seek to share this influence. Confused? Simply put, positive people attract other positive people. While some of us struggle with maintaining personal power at all hours of the workday, always remember that you cannot command or control a coworker’s behavior.

It is up to everyone in the workspace to maintain encouraging interpersonal relationship skills, so all employees can consider themselves trustworthy and respectful. Essentially, represent the best, most positive version of yourself and don’t let yourself get too dragged down by others’ moods.   

With that in mind, remember that negativity is toxic and can be contagious within an organization. Even if you try to keep a safe distance to avoid being sucked into the toxicity, a negative coworker will at some point complain about a person or issue that resonates with you. However, don’t feel the pressure to join in or empathize. 

By bonding with a coworker on a negative issue, your colleague will feel as though they found a partner in their distress and will begin to look for you each time they feel downbeat, disagreeable or skeptical. To avoid any aspect of negative bonding, remove your emotion from the equation as much as possible so it doesn’t drag you down or leave you obsessing over the situation. It’s okay to simply say you’d rather not talk about a subject and simply move on.

Kill ‘em with kindness is our motto! We encourage you to stress the value of working together and not against each other, which can help eliminate any feelings of hostility or unhealthy competiveness. If a coworker is not willing to meet you halfway, it’s time to block out the negative chatter and focus on yourself and how you can do the best at your job. 

For those who need an oldie (but goodie) saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Don’t get us wrong – no one is perfect and many individuals occasionally gossip, whine or complain. Regardless of acting on these human tendencies, doing any of these too often could cost an individual his or her job.

Hopefully, these three tips can help you deal with negativity both inside and outside the office. By maintaining personal power and positivity as often as possible, you can add value to an organization and be a role model for fellow coworkers. If all else fails and a fellow colleague continues to perpetuate negativity, remember to disengage, and consider suggesting said person seek assistance from the company’s HR department or their immediate supervisor.