NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Workplace: Being Around Negative Coworkers Can Have a Negative Impact on Your Mood

Spending time around coworkers who are habitually negative can have a negative impact on your mood and you might not even realize it.  It's very easy to start resonating with the negative mood of the people around you.  

Workplace: Negative Coworkers Can Have a Negative Impact on Your Mood

The opposite is also true:  When you're around coworkers who tend to be positive, it can be uplifting.

Being around negative people at work can be draining.  This is a common problem in the workplace and in life in general.

Recognize the Difference Between Someone Who is a Chronic Complainer and Someone Who Needs Support in Particular Situations
I want to emphasize that there will be times when your coworkers (or you) will need emotional support for work-related issues. So, it's important to be able to distinguish between a coworker who habitually complains and is negative and someone who needs support in a particular situation.  When you first meet a coworker, you might not be able to tell the difference at first.

If you work full time, you probably spend a lot of time around your coworkers, and you don't want to be aloof or standoffish.  After all, maintaining good working relationships is important on any job and can make your work life a lot smoother.

Showing empathy and compassion for someone who is going through a rough patch can help you to form bonds with your coworkers.

Negative Coworkers Tend to Be Negative Most of the Time
When I refer to negative coworkers, I'm not referring to people who happen to be going through a difficult time.  I'm referring to people who tend to be negative most of the time because this is how they are, regardless of the circumstances at work or in their personal lives.

While it's important to be empathetic and compassionate, if you find that being supportive of people who are habitually negative has no effect--in other words, no matter what you do or suggest, they remain negative, you need to take care of yourself.

You might not be able to completely avoid negative coworkers, but if you've tried to be supportive, but your coworker has a habit of complaining without taking constructive action to change things, you can try to some of the tips I've outlined below.

Tips for Dealing With Habitually Negative Coworkers
The following suggestions are general tips for dealing with negative coworkers.  Every situation will be different, so you'll have to use your own judgment as to whether these suggestions will work for you in your particular situation:

Try to Change the Subject
Rather than engaging in the negativity, if you've tried to be supportive and your coworker continues to be habitually negative, try changing the subject.

Stay Away From Certain Topics
People who tend to be negative are often triggered by certain topics, like a difficult boss or a new company policy that's unpopular among employees.  So, try to stay away from these topics and talk about neutral topics, like hobbies, the movies and other forms of light conversation that are neutral.

Set Limits and Limit Contact With Your Coworker Who Is Negative
You don't have to spend endless time talking to a coworker who is negative and sapping your energy.  You can find ways, like "remembering" that you have an important phone call to make or an assignment that you need to complete, to end a conversation with a negative coworker.  If possible, try to limit your contact with this coworker.

Don't Add "Fuel to the Fire"
It can be very tempting to jump right in and engage in your own complaints.  But, even if you have legitimate complaints, it's best not to add more "fuel to the fire" with someone who is a habitual complainer.

For one thing, you might find your complaint to be the focus of office gossip as this person uses your problem to continue to expound his or her own negativity in the office.  If this happens, it could get back to your boss and will put you in a negative light, at best, or get you fired, at worst.

If you're stuck in a situation where you can't get away, for whatever reason, it's better to respond with neutral comments if you feel compelled to respond.

Don't Take Your Coworker's Comments Personally
People who are habitually negative often don't realize that they're being insensitive or tactless.  At some point, you might find yourself on the receiving end of your negative coworker's comments.  The important thing is not to take it personally.  Recognize that this person might have poor interpersonal skills, and let it go at that.

Use the "Bubble Technique"
There will be times when you won't be able to avoid negative coworkers.  It's also possible that you work in an environment that, overall, tends to be negative with many dissatisfied and complaining coworkers.

If you can't find a way to take constructive action to change the things that you and coworkers might not like, until you can make a change, rather than resonating with a negative environment, you can use your imagination to practice the "bubble technique" where you picture yourself surrounded by a protective see-through bubble.

Many of my therapy clients have found this to be effective, especially if they don't have offices where they can close the door to take some time for themselves or if they work in a cubicle.

To use the "bubble technique," you use your imagination to feel as if there's a clear bubble around you that doesn't allow the negativity that's floating around the office to get to you.

Although this might sound a little "woo-woo" at first, after people get good at imagining this bubble, they feel a sense of relief to be able to delineate a space between themselves and others in the negative environment.

The Importance of Self Care 
It's important to be able to take care of yourself around coworkers who are habitually negative so you don't become physically and emotionally depleted by them.

Aside from the "bubble technique" that I mentioned above, many therapy clients, who tell me that they have negative coworkers at their workplace, have found other creative and effective ways of taking care of themselves.

Some of them, who work in places where it's permissible, wear headphones at times to listen to relaxing music and to make themselves less available when they know that a particularly negative coworker is around.

Finding your own way of coping with negative coworkers will allow you to focus on your work and your own personal and professional development.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.  

I have helped many clients to overcome personal and professional obstacles so they can lead fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.