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Dealing with complainers?

“a person given to excessive complaints and crying and whining”
S: (n) whiner, complainer, moaner, sniveler, crybaby, bellyacher, grumbler, squawker
—Antonyms 1. rejoice.

Give me a week in a cube-filled room, and I’ll flag them for you. You know who I’m talking about. They catch you at the water cooler, sit across from you at the cafeteria, or pounce on you in the smoking area.

They’re the complainers.

Always quick to point out what’s wrong with the latest project, the corporate strategy, or the world in general (and you’ll usually get an earful about their spouse/kids/neighbors as well.)

Even worse, as you’re enduring this barrage of negativity, only wanting to be left alone with your crossword puzzle, invariably the boss walks by.

Can you say “guilty by association?”

Susan M. Heathfield, over at About.com gives some tips on dealing with the “negative Neds and Nellies,” as well as how to deal with folks who have justified beefs.


I try to smile, nod, and keep my eyes on my book, paper, or slice of pizza, hoping against hope that my body language will make it clear that, yes, I WAS doing something before they walked up, and YES, I’d like to still be doing it.

Usually that doesn’t work on Ned or Nellie, but at least it may lessen the appearance that I’m whole heartedly involved in their current gripe-o-thon.

BusinessWeek.com’s Liz Ryan has some good advice for dealing with “Kvetching Co-Workers” as well.

Have you experienced this? If so, how did you deal with it?

Please let me know, I really want to finish the crossword.



PS – One thing I’ve found to be a sure-fire deterrent is the synonym listed in the definition above. Nothing bugs a complainer more than a rejoicer.

Wouldn’t THAT make the world a nicer place!


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8 thoughts on “Dealing with complainers?

  1. 2Lt. "Z" on said:

    Criticism without Recommendation is worthless

  2. Mary Lou on said:

    I found that rejoicing IS the best answer. When they say “this day really sucks” I counter with “it’ll be great I work with ____ today” or “I’m just happy to have a job and a paycheck”. If they say “_____ is lazy ” I reply with “Really? He/she has done amazing work for me.”
    I have found that if I am around a Ned or Nellie I just have to make a conscience effort to be positive without being contradicting to their moaning session and they go away. They want you to agree and feel sorry for them and the current cross they have to bear. They don’t want to see the bright side in anything.
    I am a boss at my job so I think I have a greater responsibility to look on the bright side and show that things are positive. I don’t have the time or energy to deal with whiners; I dismiss them with a smile and a comment on what is good about the task/coworker/day or whatever they are moaning about 🙂
    The difference between a great employee and dead weight is whether you come to me with a problem that you wish to remedy vs. coming to me with a problem you wish to point out. If you have a willingness to improve your surroundings I am all ears; you do not have to have a solution, just a desire to find one. These are the people I promote and love working with. If you are just coming to point out problems you will be very disappointed when I assign you to fix it. Whiners generally do not come to me with problems more than once. 😛

  3. If the person is a cronic complainer, I’ll usually tolerate it once or twice. After that I’ll usually try to make a suggestion to remedy the situation or tell them I’m not the one that can adress their concerns. The next time I duck out of the conversation or make some comment (usually not as polite as it should be) to end the complainfest.

    I agree with 2Lt “Z” “Criticism without Recommendation is worthless”

    I don’t have the time nor the energy.

  4. Perry P. Perkins on said:

    Mary Lou,

    Great advice. I’ve noticed myself that it seems the folks who get ahead here at Xerox are the ones with a combination of the best work ethic and best attitude. Seems like those often go hand it hand.

    I think, unless you work in a bubble, even talent will only get you so far.

    Thanks for your insights!


  5. you should all stop complaining about complainers.

  6. Tosha,

    I respect you opinion.

    Maybe you should stop complaining about complainers who compain about complainers???



  7. Lisa on said:

    Thank you to all those who gave solutions. This is a serious issue. I recently married a complainer. He is the greatest man on the planet but everyone has their shortcomings and I didn’t know how to deal with his until now.

  8. hey!
    Just waisting time when I should have been working and I found you. Have to tell you that your artical has put a “light at the end of my tunnel” with my work place complainers. I was at the end of my tolerence level and now the bar has been pushed a little higher. Thanks you have made a diffrence!

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