How to Politely Avoid a Negative Coworker

Avoid a negative coworker

We all have them - the nagging, always complaining, never satisfied negative coworker. You try to avoid them, but they consistently come to you to express their dissatisfaction within the company and you're left emotionally drained and feeling less than inspired.  Now what? You can do one of two things: join the conversation, or ignore it. The latter seems the most logical, but the former is easier. The truth of the matter is you're going to deal with negative people at work, outside of work, at school, and in your family at some point. As a recruitment agency, we help our candidates navigate all kinds of experiences with negative coworkers and toxic work environments. With that in mind, we're sharing advice from our recruiters and leaders in our community, so the next time you face a negative coworker you know how to respond.

Don't engage the negative coworker

You don't have to completely ignore or avoid your negative coworker in order to not engage with them. If they start going off on one of their negative tangents, simply change the subject and focus on more positive things. Think about why negative people are so...negative. They subconsciously look for reasons to be miserable. But if you quickly redirect the conversation in a more positive direction it will almost be embarrassing for them to go back to the negative chatter they started with. When you say things that elicit a negative response, the negative person will keep on keepin' on. Even a simple "yeah", "I know", or "that's rough" is all they need to keep the negative fuel burning. You may not mean to come across like you agree with the person, but Negative Nancy takes your neutral response as an invitation to continue the rant, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle.

Be honest

Honesty is always the best policy. If the catty and petty gossip is getting to you, speak up. If you're working in a mature, professional, work environment, no one is going to fault you for not wanting to get involved in company politics. You simply tell the people you're with you don't feel comfortable talking about this or that. When you speak about how the conversation makes you feel versus expressing an opposing opinion, you will still have the respect of your coworker(s) and you'll be able to politely avoid the negativity. Gossip will inevitably find its way into the workplace, but the question is will you feed into it?

Avoiding negative coworkers virtually

Unfortunately negative coworkers can still find a way to get to you in a remote work environment. When working from home it's easy to feel isolated, but don't let your negative coworker bring you down while you're working from home. Whether it be on Zoom, via email or messenger, the same best practices apply for avoiding a negative coworker. If you're feeling stressed or anxious, we recommend reaching out to your more positive coworkers for support. Connect with colleagues regularly throughout the day, even if it’s just for a quick chat via instant message to keep your spirits up.

Be the happiest person you know

When all else fails, be so happy that people feel it when you walk in the room. Misery loves company so if you're not willing to be miserable, miserable people won't seek you out as an audience. Surround yourself with loving, caring, supportive people at work. They might turn out to be your best friends or mentors that help you reach your professional goals. Being happy makes you stand out in the crowd. People want to be around people who uplift them and inspire them to be the best versions of themselves. Don't let the negativity get the best of you. Be happy, be positive, be optimistic and your career will thrive... and you'll avoid a few negative coworkers along the way. 

If you're ready for a change of scene, check our our open jobs here. And for more resources to help you navigate the workplace click here. To learn how working with a recruitment agency can help you grow your career click here.