Monday Hustle: Dealing With Your Office's Negative Nancy

Monday Hustle: Dealing With Your Office's Negative Nancy

Remember when I previously wrote about being the Leslie Knope of my workplace? If you're yet to cry with laughter whilst watching Parks and Recreation and are unfamiliar with who Leslie Knope is, I'll give you a brief overview: think Tigger on ecstasy working for a local government, spreading joy and positivity amongst her colleagues.

Don't get me wrong, not every day is all sunshine and rainbows (I am human after all), however I always start and end the work day on a positive note. The middle, however, can always be a slight haze of emotions, depending on the presence of the office Negative Nancy…

You know the Negative Nancy. Every office has one. They're the person who manages to turn everything into a negative situation or complain without any suggestions or solutions to make it better. Their bad attitudes, catastrophic thinking, and fatalistic outlook on life - in and outside the workplace - can infiltrate the ranks and spread like wildfire. Although they should get the least of our time and energy, we often give them the most attention; they revel in their storm of negativity and drag others down with them. With that, you never really know whether they actually enjoy being a Negative Nancy or if that's just their genuine way of thinking.

For example, I used to work with someone in my previous role who would self-sabotage her own projects with negativity, which would in turn affect the rest of the project the team was working on. Since we were a very small team, one slight ripple of emotion would create tsunamis, and meetings would turn into roundabouts of ‘we can’t do this’ followed by a downpour of moaning and complaining. In the end, we would have to pick up her pieces and complete them to make sure the project finished both on time and hiccup-free. The worst thing for the team was that neither our manager pulled her up on her behaviour, nor was she made aware that she even followed this routine regularly. 

As much as you try to overcome the negative with the positive, when it's constantly in your ear it starts to rub off, whether we want to accept that or not. But there are ways to either shake it off again or help change their way of thinking. Here are some quick tips to stay positive and keep your Negative Nancy at bay:

  1. Don’t allow Negative Nancy to steal your time and energy. This includes even when she's not around, for example, think about how often you're finding yourself sat at your desk, still annoyed or aggravated by something a colleague has said or done. You're still wasting time and energy on the person regardless of whether they're actually there or not.

  2. Choose to strike up conversations about pleasurable topics that may help Negative Nancy think or speak positively about things, including their project and work.

  3. Make a conscious effort to choose your attitude and the way you speak, and pay attention to how your thoughts change when you’re faced with Negative Nancy. Pay particular attention to your emotions to curb negativity — remember you are the positive one.

  4. Decide that you’re not going to allow Negative Nancy to determine how you think, feel, and behave, especially in the workplace.

Negative people can bring out the worst in us if we’re not careful, and if we’re really not careful it can start to affect mental health. My Negative Nancy sure did. Even being the optimist that I am, after being surrounded by Negative Nancy for hours, I found myself convinced that the company’s future was doomed. It wasn’t the company that was doomed, just Negative Nancy’s outlook on life.

If you're lucky enough to have dodged dealing with a Negative Nancy so far in your career, consider yourself blessed by the workplace gods. Although without trying to take that away from you, give it time — days, months, years — and you might just find yourself sat at a desk opposite Negative Nancy. Consider this a fair warning. For those who find themselves in that situation right now, take back your power and focus your time and energy on becoming your best self through your work. Banishing Negative Nancy doesn't mean shipping her off to Siberia, it's all about how you choose to deal with it. Keep your work life glass half full, or if you're super optimistic, brimming to the very top. Nancy, who?