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How to Converse With a Whining Co-Worker

by Linda Kaban

You're going to encounter all types in the microcosm of civilization you find in an office setting. Your co-workers are representative of the best and the worst in people and if you happen to work with a whiner, you're going to have to learn to deflect her negativity for your own peace of mind. Learning how to converse with a whining co-worker will take guile, patience and firmness.

Plan in Advance

A whining co-worker will find no end of topics about which to complain. Knowing that in advance, you can devise a script. Plan a few stock phrases that will let you exit gracefully from a conversation in case you come across the whiner in the corridor. Tell her that you’re on a mission for the boss that’s time sensitive or, if it’s lunchtime, excuse yourself with the explanation that you’re meeting a friend. If, however you’re at your desk and you look up to see the disembodied head of the whiner resting atop your cubicle, opening his mouth to moan, shrug apologetically and explain that you’re on a deadline.

Establish Boundaries

Sometimes whiners can't take a hint; so you'll have to use the direct approach. Explain to the whining co-worker that you're focused on the positive and that it doesn't feel good to complain all the time. There's a good chance your co-worker will not only take offense but look aghast; because most whiners are so self-absorbed by their current obsession, they don't even realize how they sound. Let her know that if she ever just wants to hang out and talk about something light-hearted, that you'll be willing.

Flip the "Off" Switch

If you're waylaid by a whining co-worker and there's no graceful way to escape, use the time productively. Set your inner timer to nod every once in a while and take a mental break. Meditate, make your grocery list or plan your summer vacation. Whiners are one of the worst kinds of emotional vampires and unless you want to find yourself drained, escape the nattering by finding ways to pass the time in a more pleasant way until you can find a way to escape.

The Heart of the Matter

If, in all other respects, your whining co-worker seems like a good egg, take the time during a break to ask her how her life is going. Be prepared for an onslaught of complaints on everything from the price of groceries to how the weather is causing a bad hair day. But underneath all the bellyaching you may discern the root of her discontent. It's not your job to fix her; but if you understand her, it will hopefully let you bear your encounters with her with a tad more compassion.

About the Author

Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.

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