Dealing with a Grumpy Coworker

Grumpy Coworker

A grumpy coworker doesn’t just have the potential to put a damper on your day, but on your entire work life.  When you work directly with such a person, it’s difficult not to let their negativity influence your attitude.

However, there are ways to deal with people like this without spending too much emotional energy on them.

Story and Perspective

Everyone has a bad day occasionally.  But when you’ve labeled someone as a grumpy coworker, odds are their bad days are perpetual.  

Empathy and compassion help smooth over the emotions you may feel when you receive a rude retort, clipped answer to a question, or a curt email response.  While there is no excuse for repeated behavior like this in a professional setting, understanding there may be a reason for it can help you relate.

During the course of everyday work conversation, you might try getting your coworker to talk about their attitude or the goings on in their life.

  • “Patti, I always enjoy hearing about everyone’s hobbies and interests.  What is your favorite activity outside of work?”
  • “Ernesto, what do you like best about working here?”
  • “Annie, did you do anything fun over the weekend?”

Everyone has a story, some more pleasant than others.  While it may not be appropriate to delve too deeply into your coworkers’ personal issues or circumstances, knowing these things influence someone’s perspective and, therefore, general attitude can be helpful when you are about to take an insensitive remark personally.

Control Yourself

While you can’t control other people, you do have control over yourself.  Know your own mind and how you feel about your work and the establishment in which you do your work.  

If you enjoy what you do, don’t let one bad seed ruin it for you.  Granted, this is easier said than done.  Especially if you work in a small business and have limited other people to associate with besides your grumpy coworker.

  • Avoid gossip, negative talk, passive aggressive comments, and retaliation.  These always come back to you and are not examples of professional behavior.  
  • Stay in control of your thoughts and emotions by enjoying your work and dwelling on the reasons you do what you do.  Post positive affirmations on or around your desk.  Communicate in a positive manner during meetings and in direct communications with management, clients, customers, and coworkers.
  • Seek to be fair to your grumpy coworker by making a pro-con list.  It’s likely that you can easily list the cons of this person and their work.  But give thought to the good things they do.  They may have a bad attitude about daily procedures, but perhaps they are excellent at dealing with customer issues.  They may complain about management yet be adept at problem solving.

If you look for the good in someone, you will inevitably find it.  Use this good to help you control your own emotions.

Taking Action Against a Grumpy Coworker

A little grumpiness is one thing.  But when the attitude and treatment of others becomes so negative as to interfere with overall morale and general productivity, something must be done.

If you’ve attempted to deal with your grumpy coworker on your own, within the guidelines of company policy and to no avail, it may be time to take next steps.  Speaking with management or your human resources department will be necessary.

During your meeting, share the highlights of your pro-con list to provide a fair assessment of your coworker’s contribution to the workplace.  Also, provide evidence of how the person is affecting other people. 

If nothing changes, whether in attitude or in work environment, it may be time to begin circulating your resume.  This is a tough decision to make, but a better opportunity could be just around the corner.  

Living with extreme negativity from another person is incredibly difficult and can affect you mentally and emotionally.  And while grumpy people are everywhere, it is important to remember that nothing changes unless you take action.

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