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Office Tips: How to Deal with Coworkers Who Complain



No matter how hard we try to build a good relationship with our co-workers, we cannot avoid facing ‘the complainers’. Complainers may get on to your nerves, but you can find a way to deal with them. Check out this article by Stever Robbins of for some tips.


Complainers Want to Sabotage

You have to understand why complainers complain. One kind of complainer is the hidden sociopathic monster. They were passed over for a promotion that they really thought they deserved. The fact that they didn’t deserve it, and the person who got the promotion did deserve it, is irrelevant. They feel unappreciated, they’re darned mad, and they want to leave. But they can’t because then they’d lose their health insurance. So they stay, with the malevolent intent of destroying the company with a thousand tiny cuts.

They complain because they want to undermine your morale and enlist your aid in dismantling the Deity-forsaken place once and for all. Just watch—pretty soon they’ll be picking up 55-gallon drums of fertilizer while they ask you to drop by the hardware store and grab a couple of detonators. When they ask, say “no.” Trust me on this.

Plus, an extra little bonus is that if their complaining destroys your morale so you do a bad job, they’ll get promoted in your place.

When a complainer is motivated by malicious psychopathy, be wary. Tell them, nicely, that you don’t have time to talk right now. Avoid them, and make sure to keep a paper trail, so someday, your estate will be able to trace your mysterious disappearance back to them.


Complainers Want Validation

Of course, not all complainers are evil demons from Heck bent on destroying the world around them. Many just want validation. The things they complain about are genuinely problems for them. They complain because they want agreement—to know they’re not being unreasonable. “The way the new programmer leaves the lid to the M&Ms jar half off drives me crazy. Right? Don’t you think so, too? They should be fired for such irresponsible behavior!!”

Your response when someone needs validation is a bit tricky. If you buy into their narrative too much, they’ll keep coming back for more validation of their next set of gripes, like “I think birds fly way too much. I mean, they clutter up the sky and probably pose a danger to helicopters. Don’t you think so? They should be exterminated for such irresponsible behavior!!”


Name Their Behavior and Let It Drive You

Look them straight in the eye and say, sincerely, “That sounds really upsetting. Do you want advice, or do you just need to vent?”

What you’re doing here is validating their feelings, without necessarily agreeing to their specifics. You’re also sneakily naming what’s going on—that they’re venting. And you’re even giving them the option of telling you how to deal with them.

If they just need to vent, look them straight in the eye and say, sympathetically, “That sounds really horrible.” Then listen quietly until they run out of steam. Nod occasionally, but just empathize. Don’t agree, don’t discuss, don’t multitask. Just nod and listen with your full attention.

After a few minutes, they’ll start to realize they’re just sitting there venting, and they’ll begin to run out of steam. If they then switch to asking for advice (or if they just wanted advice in the first place), just say, “I find that my best course of action comes from the Serenity Prayer: change the things I can, and accept the things I can’t.”


Shift the Responsibility Back to Them

You’ve exhausted their emotional spewing by simply listening with full attention. Then you’ve given them advice that basically amounts to saying, “Welcome to life, baby. You get to suck it up like the rest of us!” In any event, if they try to complain more, you can gently ask, “Do you want to do the work to change that, or do you want to accept it?” Now you’ve shifted responsibility for their misery squarely onto their shoulders. Complainers generally complain about stuff they perceive is out of their control. Once it’s in their control, they might have to do something about it. So after this little maneuver, they probably won’t stick around to explore how they can take back their life.

Complainers Want to Bond

Some complainers don’t want evil or validation. They want to bond, and think that complaining is the way to make friends. If you’ve got this kind of complainers, just be up front with them. “I’d like to be friendly and have some good conversation. I find that complaining really shuts me down, though. Can we talk about what’s going right in our lives? What did you like about Rogue One?


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