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It’s about 11am ET on Monday and the office whiner is already at it. Am I right?
Many offices have that person who is simply never happy. There’s always something to complain about. Unfortunately, that whining can have a negative effect on you and your other happier co-workers. The Wall Street Journal cites studies showing that productivity drops and absenteeism rises when complaining in the office runs rampant. The story also includes anecdotes from people who say their efforts to combat the complaining backfired, making them the subject of even more colleague complaints.
Of course, “the workplace whiner” isn’t the only person you have to deal with in an office, a virtual petri dish of personality types. The Atlantic provides a helpful list, like “The Mopey Coworker” who’s always worried; “The Person Who’s Never Had a Bad Day In His Life”; “The Fortress” who never speaks; and “The Sneak” who you sense is looking over your shoulder to dig up dirt. It’s actually an LOL kind of list with lots of truth in it . There’s also a “Coffee Buddy,” “The Cubicle Decorator” and “The Cubicle Lothario” who’s dating everyone and, by extension, adding a little naughty drama to the day. We’d like to add:
‘The Weeper” — This person can be found every now and again crying in the ladies room. (I can only speak for the ladies on this one since I don’t spend any time in the men’s room.) You can hear her quiet sobs in the stall, unless she decides to let it all hang out and just cry over the sink. You asked if everything was all right the first time it happened. A break up or a sick pet may have prompted that initial breakdown. But now, it’s just awkward. You will go to the bathroom on another floor if you hear her before you open the door.
“The Stinky Lunch Eater” — You always know when it’s lunchtime because this person has got a dish full of onions, a steaming plate of fish or a Tupperware full of something that has an unrecognizable look and smell. And it always needs to spend a minute or two in the microwave to reach maximum odoriferous effect.
“The Person Who Thinks This is Their Momma’s House and Leaves Crumbs All Over the Kitchen For Someone Else To Clean Up” — Put up as many signs as you want begging people to wipe down the counter. This person isn’t cleaning jack.
To deal with the aforementioned whiner, the WSJ suggests asking the person what they want to do about that thing they’re whining about. Some people might take offense; after all, you’re basically telling them that you don’t want to hear they’re annoying complaints anymore. But in other cases, you can come up with solutions that benefit the worker and the company. Some people complain because they’re bad communicators. Extracting the real issue — the work-related thing that you can actually do something about — is the ideal situation. When people see that their needs are being met, their attitude changes and everyone benefits. Even if you’re not the boss, working with colleagues to come up with something that you can present to a manager is a positive way to resolve the situation. And you develop a reputation around the office for being able to work with, and even lead, staffers.
In other instances, you just try your best to manage the different personalities and befriend the people who offer a good laugh and a little camaraderie.
Do you have any other suggestions for dealing with a difficult coworker? Any other personality types you’d like to add to these exhaustive lists?
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a very nice person. That causes some people to believe that I’m an easy target for malicious behavior and crazy talkings-to. However, they always learn the error of their ways, because I’ve been taught to always speak up for and defend myself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that keeping things in can cause people to snap, say things that they regret, or act out in anger. All that can lead to burning bridges with people. However, as I’ve learned to speak up, I still have problems communicating during the times I feel like I need to the most.
I love my family and friends, so when they do something to hurt me, I tend to not say anything. Hoping that the pain will fade, and that I’ll be able to forget what just happened, I sometimes find myself suffering in silence. I’ll remind myself that I’m not perfect, and I’ve hurt others, or that I should pick and choose my battles to protect the important relationships in my life. So I would stuff my feelings down, and try to ignore them to keep the peace. I realized that I did that to protect their feelings; however, I wasn’t caring about my own. I love my family, but their solution to unpleasant incidents in life is to “just let it go.” Now, I’m all for “letting things go,” but you shouldn’t ignore your feelings. If you’re feeling hurt, feel that. If you’re feeling sad, it’s okay to feel sad. Don’t ignore your feelings, but don’t stew in them.
Telling people to “just get over it,” can sometimes come off as extremely passive, dismissive, and honestly selfish. It comes off as I don’t want to deal with you or your feelings, so just get over it. Especially when people are able to unload their grievances on you, about you, but won’t allow you a chance to say how you feel (“Just let it go!”)
Just “letting go” of the situation, and not addressing it when you feel that it is hurting you can cause you to lash out verbally to make that perpetrator of hurt, feel the same pain you’ve been feeling, or more. You find that when you finally do address a problem, you’re not exploding about the issue that just happened, but you’re exploding from all of the past incidences that you’ve ignored, feelings of pain that you’ve shrouded in denial, and anger that has been stewing internally.
It reminds me of a story that an aunt once told me: A father took his little boy, who had a history of saying hurtful things to people, to the backyard. He handed his son a piece of wood and some nails. He instructed his son that for the next week that whenever he was angry and wanted to say something hurtful, to go outside, grab his nails and a hammer and hammer a new nail into his chunk of wood. A week passed and the boy and his father went to examine the wood. After they both removed all the nails the father showed his son all of the holes. ”You see how that even after you remove the nails how the holes are still there? That’s how it is when you say hurtful things to people. You hammer a new nail in, and even after you apologize by pulling it out, you’re still leaving a hole there.”
I’m saying all of this to tell you that before you get to the point of wanting to “hammer a nail into some wood,” don’t suffer in silence. Express your feelings before they get out of hand and you’re blowing up. Now, I’m not saying that every little issue needs to be dissected and discussed, but if it’s something that’s causing you inner turmoil, try to address it in a non-confrontational way. If the person that you want to address is closed off to communication, do something that will help you express yourself. Whether you have to write a letter to them and not send it, just write it down to get it all out, do a kick boxing course to get that aggression out, or do something creative, the important thing is to embrace how you feel. Don’t be ashamed or let anyone make you ashamed for having feelings. You have feelings for a reason, just don’t hide from them.
Now, if you’re a person who is, like the wood, full of holes because of the hurtful things that people have said or done to you, know that there is healing for those wounds. If the balm is addressing each wound, then do it. If the balm is counseling, seek it. Remember that you are important, especially the feelings that you feel. By just ignoring them you are keeping yourself captive to the tumultuous things in your past. So please, don’t suffer in silence, and let it blow! Once you do that, then you can finally be able to “just let it go!”
Kendra Koger has been removing nails and trying to avoid nailing them in the first place. Follow her on twitter @kkoger.