Office Whiners: 5 Ways to Shut Them Up

Dude, you're killing me.



In every workplace, there’s bound to be a whiner. The nag who moans and groans all day and complains about everything. (I know I’ve worked with my fair share.)

“It’s too cold in here.”

“The coffee sucks.”

“I don’t get paid enough to stay late.”

While some may see it as a minor annoyance, the office whiner can actually eat away at productivity and cause otherwise happy workers to sour on management and the company as a whole.

“Hey, maybe it is too cold in here. And come to think of it, this coffee isn’t my favorite…”

Then productivity dips as people are forced to listen to the complainer — or they spend time complaining about the complainer. It’s a vicious cycle.

“Negativity impacts people. Then people take on that same characteristics and become negative. It feeds off their energy,” said Charity Hughes, incoming president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management and vice president of HR North America for SCA Americas.

And it can even cause brain damage, according to an Inc. magazine report:

Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity —including viewing such material on TV — actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. “That’s the part of your brain you need for problem solving,” he says. “Basically, it turns your brain to mush.”

It’s likely that the whiners feel some kind of injustice, said Lynne Andersson, associate professor of human resource management at Temple University‘s Fox School of Business. Plus, there’s a psychological reason.

“Whining and complaining about work gives you — as the whiner — distance from your work,” she said. “It’s self-defending.”

Ready to tackle the problem? Here’s five ways to deal with an office whiner:

1. Confront Them Head on: Rather than being a silent sufferer, let them know that their constant whining is bringing you down. Maybe they don’t even realize their doing it. Wait until they’re whining about something really trivial (like having to participate in an office birthday party) then call them out on it.

2. Weed Them Out: If you’re conducting job interviews, you can weed out an office complainer before they’re ever hired. Ask them to discuss past workplace incidents where there were disagreements. Are they overwhelmingly negative? You might have an office whiner on your hands. Do they discuss ways they avoided conflict and came to resolutions? That’s a keeper.

3. Get Positive: Be the bigger person. Let them know you hear what they’re saying, then ask them to talk about something positive. What is working in the office? What do you like about the job?

4. Empower Them: Oftentimes, people complain because they don’t feel empowered, said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. You think the coffee sucks? Well, here’s our budget, find us a better vendor. Either they’ll succeed and everybody gets better coffee, or they’ll fail and realize it’s not as easy as they thought.

5. Ignore Them: When all else fails, give them the silent treatment. Lots of people in your life are going to be negative — some you’re forced to deal with (family and friends, I’m looking at you) — and others you just ignore. So when a colleague starts whining, don’t engage them. It just may get them to shut their mouths after a while.

Ever dealt with an office whiner? Tell us your story in the comments section below or on the BizPhilly Twitter page.