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Question
Posted by: Need advice | 2010/02/07

How to deal with a negative person in a positive way?

Hi, there is a person that works in our department who is extremely negative. I have tried to ignore it, talk to her and eventually moved to a different side of the office.
She is constantly complaining, lies a lot about important and not important things, gossips about people.I dont know how to handle it? I have tried everything. She has told me and everyone else about her sad childhood but still chooses to behave as a victim. she accuses men at work of sexually harassing her and she is not even attractive (my opinion). These men dont even do anything. she will be nice to them and then all of a sudden says they harass her. very creepy and concerning. I really have no clue how to handle it. I recently found out that she has also been gossiping about me (not surprised). we are a very small team and sit in a small offfice space so it is not possible to avoid her. What do I do? it is not easy having a negative person causing trouble in the workplace. I really think there is something very wrong with her - it is concerning but also very creepy. any positive ways to deal with this?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Sometimes being a victim can get to be a habit. Sad, isn't it ? And creepy, as you describe it.
Excellen response from Purple. False accusations mave to be strongly discouraged, in part because they so easily lead to Genuine claims being ignored.
I'd build on the idea of finding small things she gets right without complaining, and comment cheerfully about those, praising her for managing this in the face of all difficulties. Encourage that little part of her to grow.
Once in an American Dept where I was a Professor, we had a very bright guy who was similarly grumbling. We named him our "Departmental Creative Problem Finder", and treated every grumble as a positive act, thanking him for pointing out something that might need improving - and would then send him off to explore and report back on possible solutions to the problems he had identified. HE became a very useful member of the team.
Don't borrow any of her negativity - she probably needs all she can manufacture.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Purple | 2010/02/08

Sexual harassment is more about power (and is a severe form of bullying) rather than being about attractiveness.
The only time attractiveness has anything to do with it is when someone is making genuine romantic overtures andt hey are spurned but the person doesn' t stop - that is a far less serious form of sexual harassment - its a nuisance rather than being an abuse of power.
For a woman to claim sexual harassment when there isn' t any is extremely serious, and if your managers aren' t properly investigating the facts around her complaints and disciplining her for making false allegations - then there is a problem, and you as other employees need to complain (in writing) about this and spell out that you want allegations properly investigated and appropriatelly dealt with.

If she gossips about you, sit with her and tell her you don' t appreciate it, things get back to you and would she stop.

You won' t ever change her negativity, but when she really goes off in the mornings, tell her what a ray of sunshine she is, and then breeze off and make yourself coffee.
You don' t actually have to take on board all of her negativity, leave her to wallow in it, she clearly enjoys doing it.
You can alternate the perky sunshine comments by telling her you don' t know how she copes so bravely in the face of such a horrid life - you don' t know anyone else who has so many things go wrong so often - ask her advice on how she deals with things.

Nothing you say or do is going to change her though, but it might make you feel a bit better. If you have moved to the other side of the office, stay there, and walk around her. IF she seeks you out, tell her you' d rather not be around her as she' s like a rain cloud, so if its all the same, you' d rather be on your own. She won' t like you, but she' ll leave you alone.

Reply to Purple
Posted by: Shoes | 2010/02/08

She did not write that she cannot possibly have been sexually harassed because she is not attractive, she said AND she is not attractive, in her opinion.

Reply to Shoes
Posted by: qwerty | 2010/02/08

I don' t really have any good advice regarding how to handle her, except to smother her with kindness - it' ll either freak her out, or shame her into being more positive...

What I DO want to comment on, is your very irresponsible comment that she cannot possibly have been sexually harrassed because she' s not attractive?? Wow. I' m absolutely stunned at your ignorance.

Reply to qwerty
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/02/08

Sometimes being a victim can get to be a habit. Sad, isn't it ? And creepy, as you describe it.
Excellen response from Purple. False accusations mave to be strongly discouraged, in part because they so easily lead to Genuine claims being ignored.
I'd build on the idea of finding small things she gets right without complaining, and comment cheerfully about those, praising her for managing this in the face of all difficulties. Encourage that little part of her to grow.
Once in an American Dept where I was a Professor, we had a very bright guy who was similarly grumbling. We named him our "Departmental Creative Problem Finder", and treated every grumble as a positive act, thanking him for pointing out something that might need improving - and would then send him off to explore and report back on possible solutions to the problems he had identified. HE became a very useful member of the team.
Don't borrow any of her negativity - she probably needs all she can manufacture.

Reply to cybershrink

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