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How To Deal With Negative Colleagues

Joanna Clare

Most of us have to work with others for the majority of our working lives so it's of paramount importance that the environment is welcoming, friendly and supportive.

Unfortunately this is not always the case and very often, this has to do with the people that we work alongside and I have simplified these into four main categories which are as follows…

Colleagues that are negative about the company, colleagues that are negative about other colleagues, colleagues that are negative about themselves and colleagues that are negative about you.

Anyone can be affected by workplace negativity and unfortunately polls show that it was on the rise prior to the pandemic when every worker in the country had their work pattern altered and anyone who could work from home was encouraged to do so.

Negativity can manifest itself not only working face to face with others, but also from behind a screen or remote working.

Colleagues that are negative about the company that employs them should be encouraged to take up any grievances with someone of authority. If they are telling you how much they dislike the company, it is extremely important not to become involved or ever agree with them as then it will appear that you are also complaining, which will not go in your favour if the situation escalates. Encourage them to speak to a manager. Maybe they feel resentful or unfulfilled in some way but this is something you can not resolve for them. Perhaps it's time they looked for a new job or a different role where they will not feel so pessimistic.

Colleagues that are negative about other colleagues have the potential to create a most unpleasant atmosphere and turn people against each other. Again, do not get involved with any less than pleasant behavior and always aim to be kind towards all of your colleagues and be a good friend whilst maintaining professionalism. Speak to the person directly and/or seek managerial advice. You can use phrases such as “That is not a kind thing to say about X.” or “I do not agree with what you just said about X.” Keep an eye on colleagues who can not defend themselves and encourage them to speak to a manager. Situations can often escalate if not dealt with as soon as possible.

Colleagues that are negative about themselves on a regular basis may be suffering from low self esteem, job satisfaction issues, personal issues and/or depression. Encourage them to talk. I'm reminded  of the expression “A problem shared is a problem halved,” but no matter how much you may want to try to “fix” them, offer friendship and a non judgemental, listening ear  but encourage them to seek the correct professional help.

Colleagues that are negative about you can have an extremely serious impact on your mental health, whether it's directly towards you or indirectly. Keep a diary of incidents and keep all emails as you may need these as evidence at a later date. A survey conducted last year concluded that a quarter of the UK’s workforce had suffered from bullying or felt they had been intentionally excluded. ACAS (advisory, conciliation and arbitration service) receive on average 20,000 calls per annum and they continually strive to improve workplace relationships.

If you are made to feel uncomfortable for whatever reason within your work setting then you are probably the victim of bullying or harassment. Both are different but overlap somewhat so within law, this can be a bit of a grey area which is why it is important to seek professional advice and support. However it should not be tolerated at all. Your employer has a legal duty of care to protect you at work.

Talk to the person/people involved if you can but if this is not possible then you can approach your manager, HR department or GP, otherwise you can contact ACAS, Citizens Advice or the Equality and the Human Rights Commission.

Although it is not an easy task, try not to take it personally. Bullies always operate from a place of deep rooted insecurity or jealousy so their behaviour speaks volumes about themselves but definitely not about you.

With a huge emphasis currently on kindness, let's hope this extends to the workplace.

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