A woman who works for me has proven herself to be a real “Debbie Downer,” continually focusing on the negative. For example, she repeatedly complains about how broke she is. I offer advice, but she seems more interested in rehashing the same old gripes than actually doing something about her situation. It’s not that I lack compassion for her, but her negativity has become a distraction in the workplace. How would you suggest I handle this?
Dear Mood Management,
When someone in our life chooses to repeatedly complain and refuses to take positive action, it can be draining for all involved. In the workplace, this type of behavior costs us in productivity and morale. The next time she starts going down that road, simply say, “May I make an observation? In the past you’ve shared with me your financial challenges, I make suggestions, and yet we find ourselves back here in a similar conversation without anything changing. This pattern concerns me, as it’s getting in the way of our productivity and office morale. Moving forward, I’d like you to refrain from these conversations in the workplace. Please know that I always have a listening ear should you need support taking action with regard to your situation.”
If that type of direct approach makes you uncomfortable, I’d like you to consider that you’re modeling the same behavior that she is: You’re going round and round, offering advice that you know won’t be heard or implemented. Instead, by practicing this new strategy, it may make you uncomfortable, but you’ll be taking action to correct the problem. Remember comfort and growth are incompatible, and as her supervisor, you need to model the behavior you want from others. Who knows? It may inspire her to take positive steps to remedy her own situation.