Ask Aliyah: Dealing With The Office Whiner

Me, an office newbie with a desk located near a much trafficked corridor entrance/exit.  Him, an office veteran with a bad attitude and a need for unloading his disappointments/observations/concerns/bullshit on others.  He stops by my desk at least twice per day and I am afraid I will be lumped in as being the ‘Eeyore 2.0’ of the office.  In order to save my reputation and sanity, how do I get him to take his complaints elsewhere?

Ah, the office ass has found a new ear to bend and you don’t want to be guilty by association.  By all means, protect your image and your time by refusing to be a sounding board.  Behold this completely fabricated, yet totally realistic, conversation. Office Ass:  Ugh, for real.  I am being called in to justify my new budget proposal.  I mean really!  [Looks like he has found something to complain about, don’t be drawn in.] You:  Oh, bummer. [This is your empathy statement.] Office Ass:  I know, right? [Don’t get pulled into this conversation!] You:  Well, what are you going to do about it? [This statement lets him know he owns this problem, it is not yours.] Office Ass:  What am I going to DO about it?  Go to the meeting for my budget proposal, it is my only choice!  [And look who found a solution to his own problem.] You:  Sounds like a good idea.  Let me know how it goes, good luck!  See you later, I have to make a call/go to the bathroom/build a football stadium for my Sim City metropolis.  [Close the conversation with a sincere statement and let him know your intention to move on with your day.] Here is a simple formula to neutralize a complainer, inspired by ‘Love and Logic’ by Jim Fay: Empathy Statement:
  • Oh, bummer
  • How sad
  • That stinks
  • Oh no, I bet that feels terrible
Follow Up With:
  • What do you think you are going to do about it?
  • What is your next move?
  • How are you going to handle it?
End With:
  • Let me know how everything turns out
  • Give me an update