My Co-Workers Won't Stop Whining

Last Updated May 7, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady, Don't tell me to just get a new job. I live in a small town, I can't move because my parents are sick, and there is no other company I can work at. The work I do is fine, but I work with 3 of the most annoying women on the planet. You could say, "It's a nice day, today, isn't it?" and one will complain that the nice weather brings out the animals, so there's lots of roadkill. Another will complain that it's unfair that the weather is nice and she has to be in an office all day but her jerk of a boyfriend gets to be outside because he's in construction. The third will say how low pressure/high pressure/rain/drought/whatever exacerbates her arthritis. The day then goes down hill from there. How can I survive these women? The evil side of me has a lot of suggestions, but they would ultimately land you in trouble, so I'll try to channel the good side. (This is hard for a Human Resources person to do. We don't see Catbert as a caricature; we see him as a role model.)

All right, here's the good side. I have a friend who is a successful business man. He loves his job. But, if you ask him what his favorite job of all time was he'll tell you about the summer between college and graduate school where he worked for a brewery, delivering beer to local bars. Not exactly the type of response you'd expect to hear.

He explains, "It's the only job I ever had where people would applaud when I came in."

You don't have to start applauding every time your negative co-workers enter a room, you should start providing positive feedback. "This is great coffee you made," may be met with a snarl of, "if my salary was higher I could go to Starbucks." But, keep at it. Compliment their work, their font choice, their car color, whatever it takes. Try to engage them when they say something negative. "Oh, your boyfriend works construction? Has he built anything I'd be familiar with?" Or, "Oh, the dry weather is hard on arthritis, isn't it? What do you do for that?"

You have to do this sincerely or it will come off wrong. I realize this will be next to impossible at the beginning, but work at it. If you consistently shower them with positive remarks, they just may start being a little bit positive themselves. Of course, this works better if there is only one nattering nabob of negativity you are dealing with. They may gang up on you, but keep trying.

Because you are stuck there, you'll have to put up with more than you normally would. Just don't get yourself caught in their negativity. And if this doesn't work, start keeping a list of all their negative statements and stick it on the wall of your cube. It won't solve your problem, but it will amuse you and that's worth something, right?

Photo by Ell Brown, Flickr cc 2.0