In the last few years, I’ve encountered situations where people complain about work. Negativity on the job can be harmful and affect the way you work daily. Regarding how to deal with negative coworkers, it’s not the most comfortable topic to discuss. The ways you handle them can help, but you can do it the right way. That is what I’ll discuss in this post.
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How I’m dealing with coworkers with bad attitudes
Most recently, I’ve witnessed some negativity going in my current contract assignment. A few people don’t have the right attitude and continuously complain about the work environment. It’s not the attitude I like to see, but that’s the real situation at hand.
As much as I want to explain the whole situation, I won’t discuss in detail the entire scenario. But it has bothered me sometimes, and I’ve made some changes to how I handle the situation myself.
Of course, I’ve distanced myself from getting involved. At the moment, it’s probably the best course of action to take right now.
How to deal with negativity at work
Based on what I’ve gone through, I wanted to share some things to keep in mind when dealing with negative coworkers. Whether they’re merely upset or hostile in some cases, these tips can help you stay afloat in uncomfortable situations. They include the following:
- Remaining professional
- Identifying the positives with their negative comments
- Distancing yourself from negative situations
- Discussing concerns with your supervisor/manager
- Letting your manager take care of it
- Surrounding yourself with positive coworkers
- Having a positive mindset
- Focusing energy on yourself
Eight suggestions based on my experience
No matter how you feel about a situation, it’s critical to act professionally. When you’re in a work environment, acting like a professional should always be your number one trait. If not, some people tend to be rude and act disrespectful to others around them. You still want to practice good work etiquette and be respectful to others at all times.
For me, I’ve gotten better at acting appropriately at work. In one previous job I had a few years ago, I acted unprofessional somedays for various reasons. I won’t get into the details, but I was upset and felt that things weren’t going my way. Maybe I was doing the right thing by speaking up, but it didn’t work out in the end.
So keep in mind to remain professional at all times. It’ll help on your worse days at work.
Identify the positives with their negative comments
When you hear coworkers talk negatively, always keep in mind how there could be a silver lining. What I mean by this term is turning a negative thought into a positive one. One negative idea is bad enough, so why not think of it in a positive approach? Thinking into positive thoughts can help smooth a bad situation from becoming much worse.
In my current contract assignment (2021), I often hear complaints about the downsides of being a contractor. For instance, one person might say, “Why can’t we get the same benefits as regular employees of the company? Or why can’t we work from home like the rest of the staff is doing?”
What I would say is, “Yes, I agree with you. But we don’t get the same privileges that the rest of the staff does. There are things the company cannot do with contractors.”
However, being a contractor means you still can dip your feet into the work you’re doing. Who knows, maybe it’s not for everyone, so being in a contract role might be better in the short-term.
I think most of the contractors I interact with will likely not stay on after their contracts are up. Based on their personalities and attitudes, most of them don’t have long-term horizons. No disrespect for them, but that’s what I honestly believe. It’s certainly not one of the best groups I’ve enjoyed being around, but that’s the reality of the situation.
Distance yourself from negative situations
If there are times when conditions get worse, it’s best to walk away from them. Especially when you’re at work, you could end up getting in a heated argument with a coworker. If there’s something you vehemently disagree with someone else, why turn the situation into something worse?
There have been times I wanted to resolve a conflict with coworkers. If I wanted to speak up, I might have ended up in a shouting match with someone else. Maybe not, but something along the line where that might happen.
But in any situation, the best thing to do is walk away and not make matters worse. Especially when a manager is not present, it’s good to take a step back and look the other way around.
If appropriate, discuss concerns with your supervisor/manager
If things don’t get better, or you need to speak up, don’t hesitate to talk to your supervisor. Some things need to be addressed at the management level, and where managers have to resolve those issues. Especially if there’s a pattern of problems, you need to speak up about it.
That’s what I did when I saw an ongoing pattern of complaining going on. I was willing to talk to my supervisor about my coworkers being very hostile when he wasn’t around. I won’t even mention some bad things they said about him or how things occur at work.
If possible, let your manager take care of it.
When I had a private conversation with my supervisor, the best thing he said was, “Eric, don’t worry about it. You’re not the problem. I’ll take care of it properly. But I greatly appreciate what you told me, and I’ll work on becoming a better manager.”
I was relieved when he responded that way. I wasn’t sure how he would’ve approached me, explaining the situation to him. But it ended up not being as bad as I thought. To this day, that’s the approach I’ve stuck by when things bother me sometimes.
One proverb he told me to remember when he’s not around is the following:
When someone in charge is not around, the people will do whatever they want. That’s precisely what’s happened several times at work.
Surround yourself with positive coworkers
It’s not easy being around people you don’t like. But if possible, do your best to be around people who think positively. You’re going to run across coworkers who enjoy their work and have similar thoughts as you do.
Not all of your coworkers will be negative, so look for those who strive to do the best they can. Luckily, there are some coworkers I interact with who have the right attitude.
There is one individual I talk to nearly every day at work, and we get along very well. We sit across from each other, and we have small chats as the night goes by. Both of us are probably the “best of the best” in the group, and we have similar goals to the efforts we put in.
Have a positive mindset
This approach is not straightforward for a lot of people. It’s certainly not easy when you go to a job you hate. But when push comes to shove, it’s good to have a positive mindset.
Even on bad days, there’s always room to think positive thoughts. Not having a positive attitude will make it challenging to by a day on the job.
Whenever I go to work, I remain optimistic in one way or the other. It may not be that way during my first hour, but I’ll feel better as the day goes by. Sometimes, I’ll write little reminders such as:
- “Today’s a day to have a great day.”
- “Your situation is temporary. You will end up in a better place down the road.”
- “Keep your head up. You can’t feel sad forever. One day, you’ll feel better and look back on the rough times you encountered.”
These quotes may sound cheesy, but writing them down can make a difference. Even when you’re around negative people, there’s always room to stay positive when times get tough.
Focus energy on yourself
When surrounded by distractions and negativity, the best thing you can do is tune out and focus on yourself. There are things that you cannot control (externally) but things that you can handle.
The internal things are what matters most, such as your actions and thoughts. If you can learn how to do that, the better equipped you are to handle outside distractions.
If you like the work you do, use the time to learn new things and improve yourself as an individual. Whether that’s getting a promotion or a pay raise someday, remembering to do those things now can pay off in the long run.
Use the time to make yourself a more valuable individual. Investing that time in your human capital is well worth no matter what the circumstances are.
Wrap-Up: How will you handle negativity at work?
These approaches can be helpful when dealing with negative coworkers. Especially with ones who may not be easy to be around, it can help keep simple things in mind.
Whatever your situation might be, there are things you can do to make conditions better. Maybe not externally, but something that you can control is what matters the most.
What are some of your thoughts on this issue? Have you dealt with negative coworkers on the job? Did you ignore them or spoke up about it?
Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
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