Dealing With Negative Nancy at Work

Updated on November 7, 2018
Lindsay Burgess profile image

After spending many years behind a desk, through trial and error, I've noticed how well certain methods work in an office setting.

You come into work, pumped to start the day after you listened to motivational music, watched YouTube videos about the harmful effects of procrastination, or maybe you’ve even read a few inspirational quotes to keep you in a positive mood. You’ve had your coffee, created your to-do list, and you’re finally ready to get to work. Then, you run into the negative person in the office who you cannot seem to avoid…great. Mood officially ruined.

Negativity is such a buzz kill, and nine times out of ten, your Negative Nancy at the office doesn’t even realize how frustrating they are to be around. They’re naturally negative because of their environment, the people they spend time with, situational factors, a combination of these three, and many other reasons that are too lengthy to list.

Taking an antagonistic approach to life comes with many problems, as it heavily affects those around you. However, these people don’t have to kill your mood. Instead, allow these people to fuel you; allow their negative energy to motivate you toward the direction of what I like to call verbally positive reinforcement.

I used to work in an office with a few people from the Negative Nancy squad, but I quickly learned how to redirect the conversation by putting a positive spin on some of the words they spoke. I took their poisonous words and transformed them into inspiration, encouragement, and positivity.

One thing I’ve learned is that each negative person fits into a different category. Some are moderate and intermediate while others are severely negative. This may sound dramatic, but think about one person you know who can’t go five minutes without complaining. This would be an example of someone on the severe spectrum. See? Not so dramatic at all. These people exist, no matter where you go. So what do you do?

As silly as it sounds, make it a game. Challenge yourself not to fall into their trap. If you find a way to make their statement positive, you win. If you allow them to drain you, they win. If you want to be extra, create a tally sheet on a sticky note. Here are a few examples of combatting negativity:

Ex 1: Ugh…this whether is so gross.

Option 1: Well, we do need the rain.

Option 2: I’ve seen worse. A little water won’t stop me from staying motivated today.

Option 3: Well, I refuse to let anything rain on my parade today. It’s still a good day!

Which response would you use?

Ex 2: There is soooooo much to do today. There’s no way we can get everything done.

Option 1: We have a lot to do, but we can handle it. That’s why we were hired.

Option 2: We are capable of doing way more than we can imagine. Just stay positive.

Option 3: Challenge accepted. (Gets busy)

Which response would you use?

I could go on and on with more examples, but I think you get the point. Find ways to block out negativity. It will keep you productive, make you a valuable asset, and you may even motivate that person. Don’t avoid them; make it your business to spread your light everywhere you go.

If you know your coworker on a personal level, ask them what’s wrong. They might even open up and share a few concerns, insecurities, fears, etc. Having a dialogue for them to vent for a few minutes might even make them feel like they have a shoulder to lean on or help them become more aware of their own emotions.

Many times, negativity is a cry for help, and being there for your coworker could help you function like a team. Remember, no matter who you work with, you are all a team, so find a way to bring unity. Find common ground, and always be willing to help them come up with ideas/solutions if they feel stuck. By taking a problem solver’s approach or simply lending an ear, you build trust. After all, you never know what someone is going through outside of work.

Don’t allow other people to get you down. Everyone has off days, but if someone consistently spreads their negativity, make an effort to do damage control by extinguishing their flames. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to managing negativity, but the more you do it, the better you become at it, so get started.

How do you stay positive at work?

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Lindsay Burgess


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      • profile image

        Ms. Felix 

        17 months ago

        When a person is negative I try to remind myself it has noting to do with me, it's a refection of themselves, and not to take it personal.

        You have many good points! Putting each negative person I come across into a different category gives me better perspective and awareness.The making a positive into a negative game is a great idea! I believe it will make it easier for me to stay positive when others aren't.

      • profile image


        17 months ago

        I think about ways to be understanding based on what they're saying and then encourage them or end on a positive note.


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