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Sep 12 2017

How to Deal With Negativity at Work


Your team member, employees, and manager are human, meaning they’re not going to be 100% positive all the time. Sometimes—maybe even often—they’ll express doubt, anxiety, frustration, and disappointment.

As their coworker, it’s your responsibility to hear them out and, if possible, help them. Read on to find our four-step plan for dealing with negativity at work.

Step 1: Identify the Type

Not all negativity is created equal. Your colleague might be simply venting, in which case they probably don’t want you to offer a solution. On the flip side, they might be confused on what to do next and hoping you have some suggestions.

The best way to figure out which type of negativity they’re communicating? Ask them. Understandably, it’s easier to be honest and straightforward than play Sherlock with their emotions.

When your coworker first brings up their negative emotions, say, “Let’s pause for one second. I want to make sure I’m being supportive, so can you tell me if you’re looking for a sympathetic ear versus some advice?”

If they pick the first option, reply, “Okay, I’ll be quiet then and simply let you talk.” If they pick the second, say, “Sounds good. Tell me what’s going on.”

Learning their motivations from the get-go lets you use the right approach. Plus, your coworker will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Step 2: Express Empathy

When your coworker is dealing with a genuine issue, you want to be respectful and sympathetic. Showing them that you understand will put them at ease and make them feel a little better.

Here are phrases that may come in handy:

“That sounds tough.”
“I can see why you’d feel that way.”
“I’ve never experienced that, but based on your description, it seems challenging.”

Steer clear of statements that suggest you know exactly what they’re dealing with. You may have been in a similar situation, but it’s impossible to understand their specific one.

“I know how you feel.”
“I’ve been there, and…”
“I’ve dealt with that same thing.”

Step 3: Ask a Few Questions

Once you’ve demonstrated empathy, dig a little deeper into your coworker’s thoughts. If they want someone to listen to them, and nothing more, ask something along the lines of, “How do you feel on a scale from 1 to 10?” or “What are the top three things going through your mind right now?”

If they want your opinion, ask, “Do I have all the context, or are there any other details that I may need?” Once you’re completely filled in, ask permission to share your ideas. Even though they requested it, people often have trouble accepting advice. This final step ensures that they’ll be open to hearing what you have to say.

Step 4: Close the Loop

Once you’ve finished the conversation, check to see how they’re feeling now. You might ask, “How has this conversation affected your mood?” or “Would you say you feel differently?” Let them explain their thoughts—but if they seem reluctant to talk, don’t press it. Ask if they’d like to have a check-in in a couple of days or weeks.

About Signature Consultants, LLC

Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the ninth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 15th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 29 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit https://www.sigconsult.com. Signature Consultants is the parent company to Hunter Hollis and Madison Gunn.

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