Dealing With Complainers At Work

By: Marlene Cosain

You know those glass half empty type of people? Unfortunately, we are surrounded by many of them at work and as much as we don’t want them to, Debbie Downers can have a huge negative impact on our mood. It’s truly draining to always hear their complaining, their constant problems with everything, their negative opinions and so on. They go through extraordinary measures to vocalize how upset they are with everyone and anything around them. You know how yawning is contagious? Yeah, so are chronic complainers, and it’s sometimes difficult to not get wrapped in their unhappiness. Here are a couple of ways to let their negativity slide right off like butter!

Agreeing with them can backfire

Often, complainers are seeking approval or acceptance. By vocalizing their problems, they are quietly looking for the person who will agree with their problems. That is why when you try to ignore them, it backfires. They want attention in some way, shape or form. In workplace environments, I tend to see many people agree with the complainers to get them to be quiet, and I have to say this is one of the riskiest actions you can take especially when it comes to gossip. Engaging in their negativity and agreeing with them doesn’t solve anything and might make matters worse. Let’s say for instance you are simply agreeing with their complaint. That then gives them someone in their corner, so when they decide to vocalize their complaint, they might drag you under the bus with them as someone who agrees with their argument. Using vague words and phrases like, “That’s interesting” or “Oh, wow!” can satisfy their need for acknowledgement without you agreeing with them necessarily.


Empathy goes a long way in many cases, this one not being an exception. Belittling their problem and telling them to build a bridge and get over it is not the most effective way to get them to stop complaining. Most complainers just put more effort into proving to you that their problem is a problem. Plus, what’s a huge problem to them might not be a big problem in your eyes, but there’s no deciding factor on who’s right. Empathizing with their feelings is most likely the best solution because you are acknowledging their problem and feeding their need for attention without agreeing or disagreeing with them.

Written by

Marlene Cosain

Marlene Cosain

Marlene started with Abby Connect 7 years ago as a receptionist and was won over by the culture and care the company has for its employees. The minute she took her first phone call, she fell in love with helping people. Since then, Marlene has been a pivotal piece of growing Abby Connect – having been a long-time leader in hiring, training, developing, and managing the receptionist floor. Outside of work, Marlene and her husband also run an online retail business. Marlene’s personal mission as a certified Life Coach and as an Abby Way Co-Director is to inspire, empower and educate others in the Abby Way.

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