Dear GovLoop: How Do I Deal With a Negative Coworker?

Welcome to Dear GovLoop, an occasional column where members of the GovLoop staff take your burning questions and give you advice on how to figure out answers to thorny questions and situations. We’ll be doling out advice on everything from how to advance in your government career to how to ease into telework to how to get along with a difficult coworker. Got a question you want us to answer? Shoot a note to [email protected] with your name, question, and any relevant information. All questions will be kept anonymous!

In today’s column, we’re answering this question: How do I deal with a negative coworker?

Dear GovLoop: I love my job. It’s seriously the best. My boss is great, the culture is wonderful, and my coworkers are all lovely people. Well, most of them. One of my coworkers who sits unfortunately close to me is a bit of a Negative Nancy. She whines and whines about just about everything, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile. Her negativity is starting to really drain my life force, and I don’t know how to cope with it. What can I do? — Signed, Done With The Negativity

Dear Done With The Negativity,

While the concept is nice, it’s impossible for us to control everything in our lives. We have no say in the weather, what comes on the evening news, and unfortunately, we can’t exactly control our coworkers.

It can be rough to be surrounded by negative energy and have to deal with gossip, constant complaints, and a bad attitude. But it’s important to not let these things get to you too much. Because while you may not be able to wave a wand and magically put a smile on your coworkers face, there are some techniques you can try out to bolster some positivity.

Don’t jump on the negative bandwagon. This is crucial to keep the negativity to a minimum. Once your coworker starts going on about their own problems with your boss, or how the dishes are never clean, it’s easy to jump right in with your own complaints. However, doing so will only spur on their negativity.

Instead, try to ignore the temptation of joining in on the negativity. Your silence won’t go unnoticed, and soon your coworker will get bored of complaining to no audience.

Change the conversation. When your peer is in the midst of a rant, try and steer the conversation somewhere else. Maybe bring up how the coffee has been really fresh lately, or how nice it is outside. Ignore the negativity, and bring up positive topics to attempt to refocus the Negative Nancy’s attention.

By not falling into the pessimistic trap, and further directing talking points to be lighter and more positive, you can show your coworker that not everything sucks, despite what they apparently seem to think.

Offer solutions. This can be tricky. Sometimes, people don’t really want to be told what to do about what they’re complaining about, they just want to vent. And while that’s totally valid, if their gloomy talk is becoming draining, it may be time to offer advice and possible solutions to whatever it is that’s annoying them.

If they’re having issues with their boss, hear them out. You may be able to provide practical insight. Maybe they’re starting to get sick with the change in weather, and you have a tried and true cold remedy, give it to them. Offering a hand when they need it might just be the show of compassion they need to stop complaining and see things in a new light.

Try and understand. Usually, at the root of all negativity, there’s an underlying cause. It could be an illness, a personal problem at home, or maybe work issue that they can’t relax about. While negative coworkers can be frustrating to deal with, they may just need a friend. Lashing out isn’t exactly a mature response to problems, but sometimes it’s all someone knows to do.

So, be a friend. Try and read the situation and see if there’s something deeper going on with your coworker. Their negativity could be a side effect of a bigger issue, and ignoring it could lead to even bigger problems.

If that doesn’t work, don’t feel bad about setting your own boundaries and not indulging a coworker or listening to them when they go into negative rant mode. A noncommittal “mmm-hmm,” silence, or a change of topic are all perfectly appropriate responses to somebody who won’t try to do anything but bring others into their negativity. Do what is emotionally healthy for you to keep your mood up.

For the most part, having a negative coworker is something that you can manage. It may seem difficult, or not worth it, but by making an attempt to be positive, setting your own boundaries, offering solutions, and being their friend, you might just discover that there’s more to the person in the desk next to you than a loud voice and a bad attitude.

Interested in having Dear GovLoop answer your workplace or government question? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

no bully articles, they are stupid

I’ve seen people abandon friends who are going through divorce because they weren’t happy enough. If people are so superficial they can’t try a little empathy…maybe Miss Positive is a moron or fake.
Because none of us knows what life will hand us or flip us upside down, perhaps a little humor will go along way. Also, if you get back what you give, maybe Miss Sunshine’s will get empathy/sympathy on a cloudy day in her future.

no bully articles, they are stupid

First, a story on the internet…

I’ll like to tell you a story about a friend of mine who had a serious psychic attack directed at her intentionally. Two years prior she had experienced many difficulties including the death of her partner, financial problems, and difficulties at work. At about the same time her health began to deteriorate very quickly. Her physician sent her to at least 20 different specialists and nobody could tell her what was wrong with her. Her physician finally told her to go home and rest since there was nothing else he could do. She sat and stared out of a window for six to seven hours each day for a year, seriously depressed, never having suffered depression before. She knew her mind was working, even though her thinking process had slowed down substantially, but somehow she could not complete her sentences or even say what she wanted to say. Her fatigue was huge and she had become quite listless and inactive. If she went to the store one day she had to rest in bed the next day. The smallest activity fatigued her substantially.

She visited a mystic who informed her that she had been invaded by very dark energies, that someone had intentionally cast spells on her, and that her aura had been broken into in a number of places leaving large holes. There were many holes in her aura and many negative and dark energies, entities and spirits in her body, aura and home. For two weeks she cleansed her home daily with white sage and obsidian spray. She cleansed her aura daily. She held a very large piece of black tourmaline gem in her right hand to help release these energies. She was quite terrified of the energies that had invaded her and created havoc with her health. For the following 5 days she held the black tourmaline in her left hand drawing in the healing energies and protection she required within. She held this piece even during her sleep. She had been experiencing very strange headaches and pains around her heart which lasted for days. As soon as one of these headaches started she held the black tourmaline harder and the headache left her immediately. Some of the dark energies must have lodged in her brain and the black tourmaline released and eliminated these harmful energies.

This lady has a deep faith and belief in family and friends who have passed over and believed that they were present with her and giving her strength and comfort throughout her clearing and healing. She worked very hard to maintain her connection with the spirit world and received much courage and strength from them.

I repeatedly cleansed her doing distance energy work with her aura and body to help release the energies she had absorbed as well as the markings and other connections. Once many of these energies were released I sealed her aura with special protections so these negative energies could no longer find her or invade her. Her chakras had become distorted from these energies and these were cleansed and rebalanced.

Within two weeks the majority of her depression was gone. Her energy began to return immediately. She now had the opportunity to deal with her life issues. For the past year she had not been able to sleep normally and she began to sleep relatively normally again once the clearing process was underway.

Without this releasing and cleansing her sickness would have become deeper and deeper. The symptoms of psychic attack are not always cut and dried. This lady had experienced many serious difficulties in her life, and at the same time had had serious psychic attacks directed at her.

Subsequent to the clearings she remembered that the last people who had lived in the home she was living in had been in the drug business. Please be aware that drug use and excessive alcohol consumption leave your energetic body totally unprotected so that dark energies, entities and spirits can enter and stay there very easily. Places where drugs are sold and consumed, where addicts are present, are filled with dark and negative energies. Her home had been full of negative energies from the time she moved in. In addition, others had attacked her energy field to control and manipulate her.

It was very important that the lady became a full participant in her clearing and healing process and did not expect the Energy Worker to “do it for her”. The energy worker provided the tools and guidance but the lady did the work herself. As a result she learned a great deal about looking after her energetic bodies and was instrumental in clearing her negative energies and entities. She has other physical and emotional issues to deal with but they are much clearer now that the negative and dark energies are gone.

Another story about children,
Too many times, people place the blame for bullying on the shoulders of the target. They falsely believe that if the victim of bullying were somehow different, then bullying wouldn’t happen.

And while it is true that some things can help deter bullying like developing social skills and building self-esteem, the truth is that anyone can become a victim of bullying. There are a number of reasons why bullies target others, but none of those reasons are the victim’s fault.

Second, gossip/bullying can enter in if you spread negative information about people. You could unknowingly contribute to someone already being bullied.
Bullying by spreading office gossip:
The responsibility for bullying always belongs to the bully not to negative nancy…

Yet many people still engage in victim blaming and assert that the victim brought about the bullying in some way. To keep from blaming the victim for a bullying incident, familiarize yourself with the top six ways that people blame victims for bullying.

“He deserves it.” (She’s too negative?) Many times, when people hear that someone has been bullied, they have trouble empathizing with what the victim experienced, especially if the victim has negative or annoying personality traits. Despite whether victims are conceited, rude, inconsiderate or selfish, no one deserves to be bullied. This mindset only condones bullying behaviors.

“He should change.” Many times people will point out what is wrong with the victim rather than realizing that the real problem lies with the bully and his choices. People often find it easier to tell a victim how he should change in order to avoid being bullied.
While there are certain life skills that are important for victims of bullying to learn like resilience, perseverance and assertiveness, lacking these skills are not a reason to excuse the bullying. Instead, focus on teaching bullies how to take responsibility for their actions.

“He caused it or brought it on himself.” Many people believe it is good for a bully to get a “taste of his own medicine.” But this type of attitude only keeps the cycle of bullying going.

For example, bully-victims are caught in a vicious cycle. They are consistently bullied and rather than dealing with the situation in a healthy way, they lash out by bullying others. They need to learn to handle the bullying they experience in a healthy way. They also need to be held responsible for any choices they make to bully others. And most importantly, they need help healing from the consequences of bullying they have experienced. But the fact that they have been bullied should never excuse their choices to bully others.

“He should have known better.” This mindset is equivalent to the thinking that “if he hadn’t gone for a walk alone none of this would have happened.” But the fact is that people should have the freedom to move about in the world without fear of being attacked or bullied. Blaming a victim for being bullied while alone in a locker room, bathroom or deserted hallway, does not address the bigger issue of bullying.

“He didn’t fight back.” Many people will blame a victim of physical bullying for the pain and suffering they endure because they did nothing to defend themselves.

This type of thinking again excuses the bully’s behavior. Likewise, people will also blame the victim if he defends himself, reducing the bullying incident to a fight instead of seeing it for what it really is – a bully attacking another person and that person defending himself.

“He is too sensitive.” This statement is a classic victim-blaming statement. When people make comments like this, they are excusing the bully’s taunts and teases by indicating that there is defect in the victim. What’s more, this statement implies that the victim’s reaction is not normal or natural. This is probably the worst possible thing that someone could say about a victim of bullying because it minimizes what he experienced.


The same thing is going on with me. My mother died in December, My husband had a stroke, the negative energy is killing me. I have a tourmaline bracelet I’m going to put on, and I’m going to sage this house right now. As of Tuesday I was forced to resign my GS12 position I’d worked 13 years to achieve. I will lose everything because I am the main breadwinner in this house. The payment is going up, and I’m terrified, depressed, and your article helped me tremendously.


I think the hardest thing to do is keep an optimistic attitude when your life is crumbling all around you. Keep faith and hope and don’t forget to pray. I’ll pray for you too.