4 Ways to Deal with Negativity, Pessimism and Chronic Complaining

We all know them, those people within our lives and organizations who are negative… who seem to only see the worst in every situation and who would rather complain than seek a solution. Their constant negativity is a like a disease that infects everyone else around them, slowly robbing themselves and others of joy, happiness, success and opportunity.

Consider this…

  • The Gallup Organization has published reports that negativity costs US companies more than $300 Billion in lost productivity each year. And that doesn’t even take into account the ripple effect of negativity and it’s multiplied costs beyond the workplace (health, happiness, etc).
  • TrueJobs.com cited that in surveys the #1 cause of office stress was coworkers and their complaining.
  • And then there are the common sense aspects of negativity and the impact that a negative team member can have on your customers, relationships and bottom line.

The list goes on and on…

But how do you deal with this negativity, pessimism and chronic complaining?

Simple. You hire a hit man to take them out.

I’m kidding. If it were only that easy, right?

Recognizing it is the easy part, dealing with it is something else.

Here are 4 ways to begin:

1. Confront the Problem – The sad part is that many of these negative people don’t even realize that they are. The first step is to confront them, in a nurturing and kind way. Schedule some one on one time with them and be honest but be prepared for their push back as well. Give them tangible examples of what optimism vs. pessimism looks like in your setting, explain why solutions matter. Overcoming negativity, when you are negative, is not easy and if it’s someone who has promise then you’ll need to work with them to help them rise above.

2. Issue a No Complaining Rule – Get your team (home, work or school) together and let them know that from this day forward a “No Complaining Rule” is in effect. You are going to be Solution Seekers instead of Complainers. Let them know that complaints in and of themselves are okay, IF they lead to a solution, but mindless chronic complaining on its own is a waste and just breeds negativity. Consider setting up a Solution Box where people can write ideas and suggestions on ways to improve things instead of just complaining about them. Read what people submit, implement the good ideas and reward or recognize people for their contributions. Doing so will begin to foster an environment of ideas and positive mindsets.

3. Develop Possibility Thinkers – You’ve probably heard the saying “A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships.” Well, the same is true here. If you take the time to invest in, hire and build up Possibility Thinkers (those people who look for solutions and opportunities) then their optimism and drive will spread and become contagious to others.

4. Be Willing to Weed Them Out – Despite our best efforts, sometimes people won’t change and if they don’t, you have to remove them so they don’t continue to contaminate everyone else. It’s often a tough decision but you can’t let one person drag everyone else down. Now, this works in a business or organization but not when we’re dealing with negative people in our families and lives. We’ll save addressing that for another day. : )

What about you? What are some ways that you deal with the negativity around you?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Saw you on our blog (www.stickyJesus.com) so I wanted to see what YOUR passionate about. What a great site. I abolutely love this article on complainers. I'm going to email it to our team (leadership). Almost makes dealing with those kinds of people a fun challenge. Guess that's what the "right" information is supposed to do. Thanks, Daniel!

    • Thanks Toni!

    • Thanks for stopping by Toni. Love what you and Tami are doing with StickyJesus.com – Good stuff!

  • Pingback: Does Your Office Need a "No Complaining Rule"? | Daniel Decker()

  • Dr Feel Good

    You do realise that neuroticism has largely been accepted as one of the few dimensions of personality that is tied to genetics and biology, right?

  • Mrd Rd

    I don’t know what to say about this post. Wouldn’t the single solution “care about and honestly help the negative person and actually understand that everybody wins if you try and love the person and help them” be better? I hope that not everybody thinks like you do. Otherwise, your workplace is a very sad place.

    • Perhaps you didn’t read point #1 that clearly says “The first step is to confront them, in a nurturing and kind way.” Last I checked, nurturing and kind is to care and love.

      • Mrd Rd

        I read all 4 points. Check again – no, “nurting and kind WAY” is all and only about the “packaging”. Besides, point 1 comes along with 3 other points, which are even harsher – if the negative person ever responds to your method, it will be for fear of losing their job – FEAR. There is something else too: Rarely in my 10-year career did I see people who complain with no reason (I worked as an Engineer in 4 countries). A very common reason is dissatisfaction with their job description or fear of losing their job. People may choose to express that feeling by complaining about everything. How about be pragmatic I ask them what is going on, why he is unhappy with the company (this is not point 1. Point 1 is waaaay too broad).etc. Another point – Your chronic complainer may be suffering from clinical depression – and that’s treatable. Ever thought about that? Also, Your methods – ex issuing a non complaint rule – my cause extreme dissatisfaction within the team/company. I rest my case.

  • Sometimes a person is negative toward and about a particular person. Stress and childhood anxiety should also be considered.

  • Counselling may be needed to address childhood roots of negativity and anger.