How to Deal With People Who Complain on the Job All the Time

Every office seems to have at least one employee who never stops complaining. Whether he doesn’t like the brand of coffee in the break room or he thinks the boss is going to send the company into financial ruin, he’s not afraid to voice his opinions. It can be annoying to work with a complainer, but a few strategies can help you neutralize the negativity.

Listen Up

Your coworker might complain constantly because he feels that no one ever listens to his concerns. If you let him vent, he might not feel the need to complain as much. Ask him what concerns him about the situation and discuss ways he can improve it. For example, if he’s concerned that the employee parking lot is unsafe, suggest that he bring his concerns to the security department or human resources. If he can find a satisfactory solution to the issue, he might be much more pleasant to be around.

Don't Participate

Complainers thrive on attention. If you don’t give it to them, they might just take their complaining elsewhere. The next time the resident grump starts complaining about something, don’t try to change his mind or actively participate in the conversation. Instead, respond with an “oh” or “that’s interesting,” then change the subject. If you don’t ask questions or respond to the tirade with interest, the complainer might search for a better audience.

Take Control

When you see the complainer approaching, start a positive conversation. Compliment him on the work he did on a project or on his new car. Ask questions about the project or car. If he starts complaining, change the subject to a more positive one. This tactic works best if you can count on the cooperation of coworkers. If all of you focus on the positive and refuse to let the complainer turn the conversation into a gripe fest, you’ll be more likely to be successful.

Go Away

If none of the above strategies work, do your best to avoid your coworker. Eat at your desk or at a nearby park if he enjoys regaling the break room with his complaints at lunch time. When the complainer occupies the next desk or cubicle, put on a pair of headphones and enjoy some solitude with or without music. Work in an empty conference room or at a vacant work station if you can’t stand to listen to another tirade. Just make sure clients and your supervisor can reach you if you temporarily relocate.