How to Handle a Negative Co-Worker

Dear Office Mom,
I’ve had a job with a university for over 7 years. It’s a small office and the boss is pretty hands-off as long as we are doing what we need to. I have a co-worker who is moving to another facility soon, but there are some delays. This co-worker has a tense relationship with our boss. He will not converse with her and she waits until he’s gone to make snide criticisms. It is so unpleasant to be around her when the boss is around. Should I push back on her directly when she makes these negative comments? I don’t want to defend him, but I don’t want her hate and venom in my workplace.
— Avigayl
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Dear Avigayl,

Anytime a co-worker makes inappropriate comments about any topic, you have the right to speak up and say something. The workspace is yours just as it is hers. With what I know, based on the limited information, I don’t see what you have to lose in taking steps to resolve the situation. I suggest that you take her aside at some point, in the break room, or a conference room, and discuss the situation. Express how her comments make you feel uncomfortable and ask if she can temper the negative comments around you and others. You may want to say that you understand her viewpoint, but that you do not share it. Tell her you want to minimize conflict at the office to make the work environment more pleasant for everyone. Thank her for her willingness to listen and for her cooperation.

I’m not a big fan of public shaming, but if she continues to make these negative comments after your civil attempt to change her behavior, speak up and say something like, “Hey, let’s try to keep things positive. Negativity isn’t going to help any of us”. And, keep saying it.

Good Luck!