Office whiners – they’re our colleagues who are known to complain and rant about anything and everything in the workplace.  A polite “how are you today?” greeting will surely launch them into a tirade of every little gripe they have about someone or something.  The vibe they give out is so negative that they tend to suck out all the cheerful optimism in your reserve.  They take up your time, demanding you listen to what they have to say, dampen your mood, and worst, reel you into their harsh, critical way of thinking.  In short, having them around or listening to what they have to say is destructive and demotivating.

Unfortunately, this breed of office workers never run out, whatever business we’re into or whatever department we’re involved with.  Here are some lines and moves that may possibly quiet them down or put them in the “right frame” of mind.

Hear no evil, see no evil.

If you see a whiner heading your way, or when in the middle of a professional conversation, you sense that he’s about to start…

  • Move: Ignore and walk straight past him.  Appearing that you didn’t see him will give him second thoughts of “accosting” you to listen to his gripes again.
  • Line: “Thank you for answering my concern on the Sales Project.  I’m sorry I don’t have time to stay and listen further if what you’re about to discuss is not related to the project.”  This will send a clear message to the whiner that you want to keep all interaction and conversations on a professional level.  You’re a no-nonsense person and discussions in the workplace should always be value adding to whatever projects you’re busy with at the moment.

Help them see the light

Whiners are full of unconstructive thoughts and emotions.  Because of their nature, they zero in on the negative aspects of every situation, or even person.  Sometimes all they need is someone who can point out to them the other side of things – the good and the positive.

  • Move: Show the whiner that you are listening attentively and in fact hearing what he’s trying to say.  This conveys a sincere listener whose objective is to understand and if possible, help.
  • Line: “I understand what you’re saying, to a certain degree, you are right.  But then again, you may want to consider the possible benefits… This can mean more free time for you, or less stress in terms of work hours…”  Help whiner see the encouraging part of whatever he’s complaining about.  Your thoughts on the matter may help him sift through the negative and somehow realize how it can benefit him.

Stay away

Misery loves company.  Fortunately for you, you are not in a miserable place and therefore, you need not go to that “dark, miserable place” where the whiners are.

  • Move: Keep your distance, avoid fraternizing with them.  When they see that you’re not “one of them”, or that “you’ll never understand”, they’ll leave you alone and keep their “dark, miserable” thoughts and emotions to themselves when it’s you who’s in front of them.  They’ll know better than to bring it up with you.
  • Line: No words needed.

Sympathize & be that sounding board they need

Sometimes, whiners just need sounding boards so they can get the load of their chests.  If you’re willing to be a rant buddy and the negative vibes don’t affect you, you can win them over and eventually, help them out of their way of thinking.

  • Move: Keep things friendly, give him a knowing smile or look, to let him know you understand what’s going on and you feel for him.
  • Line: “I hear you, buddy.  Let it out then let go.”

Direct them to the appropriate “complaint” body

Whiners say a lot of things because they’re not the type who will naturally think of the next step, or how to resolve this issue that they’re facing now.  After listening, encourage them to talk to the right person who can help.

  • Move: Advise the whiner to stop whining and go directly to the colleague or boss who can out him out of his misery.  It’s either that or he’ll keep complaining until it’s resolved.
  • Line: “Look, what you’re saying has merits.  I suggest you talk to your boss and let him know what you’re going through.  No matter how long we discuss this now, the only thing I can do is listen.  It’s your boss who can resolve this matter once and for all.  Go and talk to him.”

When dealing with whiners in the workplace, you have only two choices:  ignore or help.  Whatever you choose, do your best to be mature about the matter and keep your resolve not to be reeled in into their dark and miserable place.  It’s never good to find yourself there.

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Paul Bailey

Paul is a highly experienced Business Coach, Mentor and Personal Development Specialist. He works with people to enhance business and personal performance through a process of supported self-awareness and self- development. Paul is the Co-Author of the book 80 Tips.