Office backbiters, cynics and whiners accent the negative

Office backbiters, cynics and whiners accent the negative

Have you ever noticed how a negative person can suck the energy out of a room? They make your stomach tighten up and your mouth pinch. Your impulse is to get away from them but when you're trapped in the same workspace, they can sour your day and ruin your attitude. Who are these negative nay -sayers? You know who they are:

The subtle backbiter
He or she is smart enough to know that cutting someone else down is politically naive. After all, it could get back to the person and then the backbiter would look bad. So they find clever ways to achieve essentially the same effect. They feign support for the person, while they quote negative comments other people make. For example, "I've got to give Sam credit. There aren't many people who can make friends among top management as fast as he can. I have nothing against the guy, but I'm sure some people wonder how he's climbed the ladder so fast."

The cynic
Some people just seem to view things through "you can't fool me" glasses. They are suspicious about every new policy, corporate initiative or memo from on high. They are convinced that everyone in positions above them are evil plotters, out to get the little guy. They have made it their role and responsibility to shine the light of truth on these conspiracies. Anyone who is foolish enough to see things more positively are simply sheep. They can be heard uttering their warnings, "Oh sure senior management wants us to start up teams to come up with cost saving ideas. Can't you see what they're doing? You mark my words, they're going to use our ideas to get so efficient we'll work ourselves right out of a job!"

The loophole detective
There always seems to be one person who takes great pains to find the way around every policy. They must study the employee handbook in their spare time, because they can come up with ways to find an exception to every rule. They must have been authority haters since their teens because their skills are a reflection of years of experience. For example, if the company allows five sick days, they'll find a way to get seven. If the policy manual says "no blue jeans," they'll say, "But it didn't say I couldn't wear black jeans!" They play cat and mouse games that waste time and energy, and infuriate their manager when they say, "You're always picking on me" when, of course, that is the object of their game in the first place.

The sarcastic jokester
This is the "I was only kidding" crowd. They use their razor sharp humor to skewer people in public. When confronted with their not-so-subtle tactics, they are quick to exclaim, "He's too thin skinned. Can't he take a joke for crying out loud?" Their anger simmers just below the boiling point and people learn that they'd better not turn up the heat if they don't want to get burned. The sarcastic joker is usually a powerful person who has mastered the art of instilling just enough fear to keep people from attacking him.

Mr. or Ms. Negative
For them, nothing is ever right. Even on a bright, sunny day they seem to drain the light from a room the minute they enter it. It takes a concerted effort to keep up your own attitude if you have to spend much time with this person. "Mondays stink." "They give us too much work." "Don't they know anything in the front office?" "I hate this project. "They just wear you out. You just want them to shut up or go away. They make a hard job harder and a long day longer.

The whiner
This is the second cousin of Mr. or Ms. Negative. The difference is that their negativity stems from their feelings of persecution. For example, "Why do we have to do this? "How come we always have to do it their way? Why do they get to do that and we don't? "They drone on in their "poor me" tone until their peers want to run in opposite directions screaming. Of course, they usually whine the loudest about not getting promoted.

If you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, it's important to ask yourself what is really at the bottom of it. Chances are, you are angry or hurt about something or someone. You need to face it honestly and decide what steps you can take to either fix it or move beyond it, even if it means leaving your job to find one that will give you a whole new attitude.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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