What to say to a complaining coworker who is always negative

Every day in the office we have to deal with the typical workplace personalities like negative Nelly. If you have to work closely with a negative colleague who complains constantly, it can drain your energy.

Some staff love to focus on the negative and the office drama, you’ll see the person talking in hushed tones with the door closed, ranting about some workplace issue. Everyone knows that Negative Nelly has cornered yet another victim and is spewing out her list of complaints.

Shut down the complaining coworker

The sooner you can shut down the complainer the better, they will try to waste a lot of your valuable time with their negative observations. The more you listen, the more it takes away from your own projects and you are just encouraging more complaints with your sympathetic ear.


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When negative Nelly realizes that you aren’t particularly interested in listening to her and you offer up solutions to fix the problem, she will stop whining to you. Negative people aren’t interested in problem-solving, they just want to rant on to an attentive audience.

Next time someone corners you and wants to complain at work, use one of our professional responses to let them know you’re not interested. Whatever you say to someone at work, you need to make sure you feel comfortable with someone repeating it someone else.

10 best replies for a complaining coworker

1. I’d love to know if you have any ideas on how we could improve the situation?

2. Interesting, I see it very differently.

3. Sorry, I can’t talk, I’ve got work to do.

4. I’m tired of talking about work. Let’s chat about something else.

5. I totally understand your frustration. Is there anything specific I can do to help?

6. Have you considered discussing this with our manager? They may not be aware of all of the issues.

7. What about this situation can you control right now?

8. I hear what you are saying. Let’s see if we can find a solution together.

9. Let’s brainstorm a list of solutions together.

10. Wow, I can see why you’re frustrated. Let reevaluate this and figure out if we can find a way to solve this together.

How to deal with a negative coworker

Dealing with a negative coworker can be a challenge, but there are a few strategies that can help manage the situation. Try to remain a positive and professional, as negativity can be contagious and sweep around a department.

Setting clear boundaries and not allowing their negativity to affect your own mindset is vital. Try to offer up support and empathy as an approach to shift their negative mindset. Engaging in open and honest communication with the coworker to understand the root of their negativity and offering to help find solutions can also be beneficial.

Remain focused on constructive dialogue and don’t get dragged into their negative spiral of complaints. If the situation continues and begins to negatively affect work dynamics, it may be necessary to involve a manager or HR professional to address the issue and explore potential solutions.

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Ash was tired of a person complaining but not working

Ash found himself increasingly frustrated with a coworker who seemed to spend more time complaining than actually working. Despite the team’s efforts to collaborate and stay focused, this individual consistently voiced dissatisfaction without contributing to solutions or progress.

The constant negativity began to affect the team’s morale and productivity, leaving Ash feeling drained and demotivated.

Determined to address the situation, Ash decided to have a candid conversation with the coworker. Expressing empathy for the challenges the individual might be facing, Ash communicated the impact of the constant complaining on the team’s dynamics and productivity.

Together, they explored ways to channel the coworker’s concerns into constructive dialogue and actionable steps to improve the work environment. Through open communication and a shared commitment to finding solutions, the coworker began to shift their approach, contributing positively to the team and fostering a more collaborative and supportive work environment.

The Role of counselling and self care

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When you are dealing with a fake friend can be stressful, consider getting support from a professional. Talking to a counsellor is a great way to work through a challenging situation, and help you find some strategies to work through the person’s behaviour.

Better Help is a great resource where you can talk to a counselor from the comfort of your own home. 

Taking care of your own needs isn’t selfish, and you will feel better in the long run.

Got any comments, questions or tips for dealing with an complaining co-worker.  Share them in the comments below.

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