It started off innocently enough. When you discovered that the milk had gone bad, thereby ruining your perfectly good cup of coffee, you couldn’t resist turning to Brittnee, your co-worker who always has something to complain about: “This place. Sometimes I really wonder if anyone is actually doing his job,” you say, confident that she’ll respond in kind.
“I know, right? It’s like, how hard can it be to stock the community fridge with fresh milk? Or make sure the restroom doesn’t run out of toilet paper? Lame,” she responds, and before you know it, you’ve found something else to vent about, and you’re feeling more annoyed than ever.
Later, at your desk, your boss’ email request feels like a personal assault. Frustrated, you respond tersely and put your head down to avoid talking to anyone for the rest of the day.
The next week when you and Brittnee head out for lunch, you feel yourself get heated as you listen to her air her many grievances. Her manager’s the worst. No one on her team pulls their weight, and she can’t understand why the company can’t just buy a printer that works!
Although your printing needs are minimal, and you’ve never actually noticed a problem with the seemingly up-to-date machine, you find yourself agreeing with her. And then adding to the litany of complaints with a jab at the office’s subpar tea selection.
See what’s happening here? You, my friend, are getting sucked in by your negative co-worker, and it’s bound to affect not just your own mindset but your performance and your reputation if you’re not careful. It’s one thing to be a sounding board on occasion and listen intently while a colleague expresses frustration. But if your work BFF is constantly negative, it can have a pretty significant impact on your own workplace satisfaction.
Having someone spew pessimistic thoughts about the leadership team, the company’s mission, and whatever else you can think of can get in your head. It can take you from the comfortable place you were in—recognizing the inevitable flaws of the organization but not getting rattled by them—and turn you into a hater.
If that happens, you may cease caring about your work. You may start to nitpick your boss’ management style or find fault with the way the department handles client complaints. Before long, you’ll struggle to remember why you ever liked the job or why you took it in the first place.
Avoid this toxicity and distance yourself from your increasingly miserable colleague. Try to put yourself in the way of the always-smiling co-worker you barely know. Adopt a positive attitude yourself, reserving the majority of small work complaints for your mom, friend, or significant other.
If you’re feeling bold, the next time your grumpy friend grumbles, don’t nod or contribute to the objection; instead, make a statement about something you like at work. Or—carefully—call her out. Suggest that if things are going so poorly maybe she’d be better off somewhere else. Trying to problem-solve is another option, but chances are, if she’s gotten in the habit of complaining for complaining’s sake, she won’t bite.
Remember: No company is perfect. And no one is going to be chipper all of the time, but when you start to detect growing feelings of dissatisfaction you didn’t have before, consider the source, and move away from it so you can start redirecting your energy.
Photo of people courtesy of portishead1/Getty Images.