Dealing with a negative nancy in the office

about 1 year ago by Sophie Stones

Dealing with a negative nancy in the office


We all have bad days and can devolve into a bit of a Moaning Myrtle on a Monday morning (click here to see why the occasional moan isn’t necessarily a bad thing), however what should we do when a colleague’s good days are few and far between?

A study conducted by Fierce Inc. recently ranked negativity as more harmful than laziness, gossiping and even passive aggressive behavior. Jon Gordan, Business Consultant and Author of The No Complaining Rule, terms constantly negative people as “energy vampires” and suggests that they can “suck the life right out of you.” In fact, negative colleagues have been associated with lowered productivity, decreased morale, wasted time and higher employee turnover.

If the vampire in your office isn’t scared off by garlic, follow these three key steps to take when dealing with a Negative Nigel:


It’s important that we first differentiate between long-term and short-term negativity. If the persons attitude has changed overnight, could there be a problem at home or with their workload? This is where a good support team can come in, helping to ease the strain with support systems, mental health advice and even time off if needed. Research shows that people will often repeat themselves if they don’t feel heard, giving them an ear or shoulder to lean on, repeating their worries back to them, and following through on any concerns, could mean that you can step forward.

However, when it comes to long-term negativity, this is where experts suggest you should leave it to HR. Tony Chatman, Corporate Relationship Expert, states that “if you bond with someone on a negative issue, they will feel they have found a partner in their distress, and they will look for you every time they feel something negative.” Negativity can spread like wildfire, don’t allow it to get too close to burn you.

Kill them with kindness

Whilst negativity can spread, so can positivity. Eleanor Roosevelt said that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” the same goes for pessimism. Attempt to maintain an optimistic attitude by surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Push your company to invest in positivity, to increase recognition of good work, and promote physical and mental wellbeing. Jon Gordan also suggests that we should “strive for a ratio of three positive interactions for every negative one,” meaning if you’ve had a particularly grumpy exchange, seek out your most enthusiastic friend for some happiness tonic.

Cut ties altogether

The Negative Nigel in the office might be producing good work, however the facts suggest that it’s likely they’re dragging the quality of the whole office down. Having similar and even worse effects than a workplace bully, experts suggest that if they can’t correct their behavior, questions regarding their tenure should be raised. Jeanne Yocum, Founder of Succeeding in Small Business, suggests that this is even more important when already attempting to improve your workplace, writing, “[negativity] is particularly damaging in a workplace where you’re trying to bring about organizational change or to pursue innovation in terms of your products or services.” If they’ve been at the company longer than two years, you will have to set a clear performance review before a permanent decision can be made, however if they have survived that long without their negativity being a problem before, this once again raises the question of whether this is a short-term or long-term problem, and you should revisit the differentiate section.

Whilst tricky, screening for attitude problems within the recruitment process is crucial. For as Chuck Fried, President and Chief Executive of TxMQ Inc. states “you can correct skills but you can’t correct personality traits and attitudes.” For help getting the right employee give us a call...