Working with a Colleague Who Feels That the World Is Against Them

Career Advice
21 Oct 2022

“This chair is so squeaky!”; “Why is the AC so cold?”; “Two days, are they crazy? What are we? Robots?”; “Why can’t he eat silently”; “Can’t you breath quietly?” 

It’s annoying to listen to such complaints over and over again, isn’t it? Having a colleague who feels like the whole world is trying to conspire against him/her can be really hard to bear with. ‘Chronic Complainer’ is the term you would use for such a person who can complain about almost anything.

Challenges that come with it

If you hear a complaint once or twice, then you can filter it out and remain your positive self. Although, if there is negativity around you for too long, it gets difficult. The regular rants might interfere with your perspective towards the work. You might also imitate your colleagues and begin to crib. This might affect your productivity and mental health at work.

How to deal with this?

No matter how difficult such situations get for you, there is always a way to keep the stress at bay. Here are a few methods of dealing with a colleague who can’t stop complaining:

Be Compassionate

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius 

You need to understand that your colleague looks at the world differently. There could be reasons you do not know of that makes him/her act like a victim every day.  

You also need to know that nothing he/she says has anything to do with you. Don’t take it personally. Try to neutralize your thoughts and be empathetic. Be compassionate and keep your judgments away. This will protect you from the arguments that might take place if you share your thoughts or display your anger against the situation.

Reinforce Positivity

If he/says the food is not great, then you may highlight the fact that at least you are getting free food at the company! You don’t always have to disagree with the complainer. Just subtly add you're a positive insight into the situation. This will not only make you feel good but might also help the colleague get a good perspective. 

Although, handling such negative situations can get tiring. You can decompress and feel light by meditating, taking a walk, listening to your favorite music, talking to a positive and healthy colleague, etc.

Try to find the ‘why’

There always is a reason for someone behaving a certain way. Try and figure out the reason. You can do that by simply listening to them, or asking them politely if everything is okay with them. When they tell you what’s wrong, it gets easier for you to devise a solution. 

You should try not to impose the solution on them, but to make them understand how it could be helpful. Else you could become their favorite topic of complaining from the next day.

Acknowledge them

Some people play the victim because they want to be seen or heard. A little appreciation or validation does not hurt. Compliment them and give them your ear. Validating their presence and appreciating their efforts might help in reducing the number of complaints.

Talk to them

Tell them about how their complaining bothers you, but don’t be crude. Use respectful and polite ways of doing so. You shouldn’t say — “You complain all the time. It is so annoying. Can’t you see anything positive in the world at all?”

Instead, you should say something similar to — “Hey Charles! You are the project coordinator. I understand it can be really stressful to work in such stringent deadlines, but your perspective is bringing down the spirit of the team. Everyone looks up to you for motivation. Could you bring a little positive insight into the group?”

Tell your boss

This should be your last resort. Once you had tried everything, and still things aren’t getting any better, you should take things in hand and step up to the boss. Let him/her know that the behaviour of the colleague is bringing down the productivity of you and the people around. Take multiple people in confidence and build a case. It might seem a little harsh, but you don’t have a choice if this is affecting your work on a regular basis. 

Bringing a change in such a setting might get difficult, but you can use the above methods to try make your experience at work simpler and stress-free.

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