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How to deal with Whiners and Complainers

Negativity in the workplace

You’ll often just have to put up with difficult people. But it’s appropriate and imperative to deal with whiners, complainers, and blamers when their behavior is negatively affecting your work or the productivity of your team.

Your most important resources are the people you work with. So when the negative behavior of difficult coworkers impacts your productivity, you’ll have to take action. Difficult people don’t change their behavior overnight. They don’t change because you’ve confronted or shunned them, or just because you’ve told them to. What makes them change is your positive, consistent, and solution-oriented approach to building and nurturing your work relationships.

When you deal with difficult coworkers, it’s important to be a role model for how you want them to behave. Don’t buy in to their negativity, and don’t fall into the trap of competing with them. Also, don’t whine, complain, or blame.

Steps for dealing with negative people

The main purpose of developing a strategy for dealing with negative people is to change the dynamics of their relationships with you. By following this strategy, you can encourage your coworkers to self-regulate their behavior and make working with them easier. The strategy for dealing with negative people at work consists of three steps:

  1. listen to the person who’s being negative,
  2. demonstrate you understand the message, and 
  3. try to resolve the issue.

The three steps for dealing with negative people are the same when you’re dealing with whiners, blamers, and complainers. But how you implement the third step — trying to resolve the issue — is different when you’re dealing with blamers.

The first step for dealing with a negative person is to simply listen to what’s being said. Listening helps you determine what type of negative behavior is being displayed and also whether what this person is saying has any intrinsic value. Keep in mind it’s easier to get people on your side if you give them a little of what they’re seeking. 

Whiners are searching for attention; complainers want acknowledgement. When you listen, it’s important for you not to voice any judgment. At this point, it doesn’t matter if the issues are true, valid, or relevant. By just listening to your coworker, you’ll help create empathy and establish a base for your relationship.