How to Outsmart the Complainers at Your Job

September 22, 2010  |  

In every facet of our lives, we have to interface with complainers. These are the folks who always have something negative to say, even when things are going well. Although many of us deal with complaining parents, siblings, neighbors, spouses and friends, I think most individuals would agree that our coworkers are typically the biggest complainers that we deal with on a daily basis.

Of course, just like any form of negative communication, complaining can become a toxin that adversely affects your emotional health. Sooner or later, if you don’t speak courageously against the complainer, the toxin that emanates from their mouth will invade your mind and you will start to whine just like them. In the long run, this will negatively affect your career in terms of advancement and promotion.

The following represents at least five ways in which you can outsmart the complainers at your job.

1. Speak against the complaining. One of the primary ways to outsmart complainers is to quickly speak against his or her complaining. In most cases, this tactic quickly shuts up the complainer. For example, your coworker may state, “I do not like Kim. She thinks that she is more than everybody; I can’t stand her.” You can quickly rebut this by stating that “Kim is a really nice young lady. I have not had any problems with her, and we get along really well.”
2. Establish boundaries. It is important to establish boundaries and to articulate them so that the complainer knows. For example, your coworker may mention that he or she does not like President Obama and his policies and that he is a socialist and a Communist. It is imperative to let your coworker know that you do not like discussing politics at work. Immediately, this will cut the conversation short and will likely force to them to leave.
3. Issue the complainer an action item. Complainers are typically very good at underscoring shortcomings and issues that may exist at places of employment. Interestingly, there are not many complainers who are willing to do anything about these purported problems. So, when your coworker begins to complain about something at work, you should immediately recommend action items such as going to management to discuss the issue or bringing the problem to everyone’s attention at the next staff meeting. Typically, the conversation will end with the complainer stating, “What’s the point? No one is going to listen.”

4. Immediately change to another topic of discussion.
Another way to outsmart complainers is to immediately change subjects. For example, if your coworker begins to gripe about work or another colleague, you can ignore their grumbling and ask them, “Do you plan to do some shopping this weekend?” or “What new things do you plan to add to your fall wardrobe this year?”
5. Walk away. In some cases, you may have to simply walk away from the complainer. In the job setting, it is imperative that you exhibit professionalism and kindness, so it is best to walk away in a subtle manner, such as stating that you have to use the restroom or mentioning that you have to leave to go to a meeting or to participate in a teleconference.

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