Chronic complainers can have a damaging effect on those around them. So what should you do if you manage an employee who’s prone to perpetual pessimism?

First, be realistic with yourself about the situation. If the person is truly a chronic complainer, offering sympathy or solution is likely to change their behavior or mindset. You need to set clear boundaries instead. Tell your employee that you are prepared to listen and discuss whatever is bothering them, but that your conversation needs to focus on a specific issue that can be resolved.

Going over the same unresolvable problem repeatedly won’t do either of you any good. If the issue at hand doesn’t have solution, or is entirely out of your hands as a manager, urge your employee to change their perspective and reframe their thinking around appreciation and gratitude for the things that they value. Of course, fostering this kind of a behavioral change takes time and may require support from a coach or therapist.

Present these options to your employee, and explain that while you care about their wellbeing and happiness, you may not always be the best person to help them work through all of their personal struggles.

Adapted from “Managing a Chronic Complainer by Manfred F.R Kets de Vries

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