Is a curmudgeon creating a conundrum at work? You know every workplace has at least one – the bad-tempered, complaining, irritable, negative, grudge-holding office grouch. You can hear their groans when there is an invitation to a company event or even when they’re asked to sign a birthday card. You must drag them out of their office to join coworkers for lunch. Change is inevitable, but a new office policy, product, or alteration in plans can really set them off.
What the Office Grouch Can Teach You
We’ve heard the concept that your worst enemy can be your best teacher. Enemy may not be an entirely appropriate word to describe the grouch (perhaps annoyance is better), but you get the idea. You can learn from people that you find the most bothersome.
NEWS ALERT: Curmudgeons can be valuable to an organization.
- Grouches may compel you to hone your soft skills, such as empathy, listening, problem-solving, accepting feedback and conflict resolution. Exercising these interpersonal skills will help you successfully interact with all colleagues and customers, and ultimately add value to the business.
- Let’s imagine your organization is developing a new service offering or creative product and everyone else seems to be onboard and super positive. Maybe you should ask for feedback from the grouch? They’re surely willing and able to provide skepticism and propose possible negative consequences. Be open to their opinions.
- You go into a meeting knowing the office grouch will be present…so what do you do? You over-prepare. You make a list of pros and cons. You feel obligated to consider what the grouch may find distasteful and develop your arguments. See…that Negative Nelly forced you to get organized!
- And lastly, you know how meaningful a compliment is when it comes from the complainer! Since everyone is used to hearing the negatives from a grouch, when they say something positive, you know they really mean it. Your enthusiastic reply may encourage more positive behavior.
What You Can Teach the Office Grouch
Lead by example. Treat them with respect, listen to their concerns, and let them know your side of the story. Don’t encourage gossip and complaining. Sometimes ignoring the negativity is effective. Counterbalance their negativity with positivity. After all, positivity is contagious!
In your efforts to set an example, just smile. Greet everyone in your workplace with a friendly “hello” or “good morning.” Keep your office door open, encouraging coworkers to stop by to say hi. Bring in bagels or homemade goodies for the staff.
Build rapport with colleagues. Participate in work functions, and go to lunch or after-hours gatherings when you can. Celebrate special events, promotions, and new product releases. Give praise and recognition when it’s due. Appreciation can go a long way with a grouch.
Get the scoop on managing a curmudgeon in our So You Hired a Debbie Downer blog.