We are humans. We have our flaws, we complain, and we always want more. Relatively rich people are paradoxically the most unhappy people in the world, and you likely spend time with them in your office. Because people who have a job, a bank account, and perhaps even a car belong to the richest ten percent on our planet. Unlucky them.

The problem is that negativity is like a flu. One negative employee can easily infect the entire team or even the entire department, and spoil the experience for everyone in the workplace. How to deal with such people? What options do you have as a business owner? And what can you do as their colleague? Let’s have a look at the options, one by one.

man shouts on the phone

The simple way: Get rid of them

If you can afford it, you should get rid of these people. Fire them, send them home, if you have the power to do so. Adults do not change easily, and it can take months if not years to see any profound transformation in them.

The longer you keep them in your business, the more will they infest it with their negativity. Some employees may resist for weeks, or even months, but eventually most of them will fall for the trap, and start complaining and arguing just like the negative person does.

You may not be in a position to dismiss a colleague who brims with negativity, however. Perhaps they belong to the same team, or you even respond to them. In such a case you should ask for relocation within the company. If you do a good job, most executives will approve your request for internal relocation. And if many people ask for relocation and mention bad chemistry in the workplace as a reason for their demand, the executives will eventually consider dismissing the culprit.


The clever way: Bring positive people onboard

Negativity is an energy. So is positivity. It has been proven countless times that negativity spread much faster, but also that a negative person can’t resist too long if surrounded by positive people.

They will eventually change, at least somehow, depending on how deeply the reasons of their negativity are rooted in their heart and mind.

On the top of that, positive people (especially if in majority) have also an impact on the atmosphere in the workplace, and they won’t allow a single person to ruin the entire department or team.

good mood in the office

The intuitive way: Isolate yourself from their impact

Touching something hot with our hand we will intuitively withdraw it from the object. We do not want to get hurt. So why not do the same thing with the negative employees?

Try to minimize the direct contact you have with them. There are many ways to do so. You can change verbal communication for email communication. You can avoid going for a coffee or for a lunch at the time they go for a lunch. You can try to change the scope of your work, or their work, so the two of you do not have to meet very often.

And if you share the same office, you can put on headphones and listen to music while working (of course if allowed in the company). One way or another, try to minimize the time you spend with the negative colleagues. Do not let them to spoil your time in work.


The tough way: Try to change them

It’s difficult to change an adult, but it’s not impossible to do so. Most people are negative becasue of their childhood experiences. Perhaps they did not experience love, they had bad role models in their life, or their parents keep complaining about something all the time, and the children simply imitated their behavior.

Well, you can do several things to help them change. One of them is recognition. Show them that you value them and their work, that they are important for you and for the company.

Praise them anytime they deserve praise. Give them honest compliments. Try to be nice to them, and talk nicely about the company and the work. Little by little, step by step, you may unlock the prison cells they carry within them, and they will start to change.


Experiencing the misery

Seeing extreme poverty and misery can have a huge impact on a person and the way they perceive our luxury Western world and corporate jobs. Experiencing such misery for certain time will certainly change them, which has been proven countless times.

Unluckily for them, most people do not travel to poor countries. And if they do, they lock themselves in a small ghetto of a five star hotel resort, not seeing anything from the daily reality of the country and regular inhabitants.

More than 1 billion people live in an inadequate shelter. More than 150,000,000 are homeless. Many people starve, spend all their days begging for a crust of bread in a street corner.

Who sees this reality and live in it for certain time (even as an outsider), will invariably change. They will stop complaining, they will see how much they have, how lucky they are. At least they will do so for some time. I’ve seen this phenomenon many times, and honestly people who travel a lot in poorer parts of the world are rarely negative. They can appreciate things most of us take for granted, such as regular income, drinking water, fresh air…

people in India, suffering material poverty


An employee is not an isolated unit. We interact with others, and it is nearly impossible to entirely avoid negative people at work. But we can do a lot of things to deal with them, or with their negativity.

Try to minimize the time you spend with them, and bring some positive energy onboard. Surround yourself with good colleagues. Certainly some positive people work in your company, and if they do not, you should consider changing your job immediately.

Last but not least, remember that everyone can change. Motivate the negative people to travel to poor countries, or to read about them. Help them to realize that the bare fact that they have a job and a roof above their head means that they are quite lucky, compared to other people on this planet.

You can also take a shorter road and simply get rid of negative people. Fire them (if you have the capacity to do so), or ask for internal relocation, or change your job. You should enjoy your time in work. Do not let anyone to make it a nightmare…

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  • Interviewing techniques for employers – Four basic techniques to interview job candidates. Pick the one that suits your situation and recruitment needs.
Matthew Chulaw
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