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Career Success: Managing Interactions to Manage Negative Nellies

career success

Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Everyone wants to succeed in their career path, but not everyone moves forward together. And not everyone in our lives is positive about us moving forward in the career path we have chosen, whether they are aware of it or not. Or perhaps they are simply negative about their own life course, which can inadvertently cause our own negative feelings to creep up. In these moments, it is helpful to manage our interactions with those negative nellies to minimize negativity and stay positive. (For more on this topic, watch this video to learn more about managing negativity for career success.)


career successStep 1: Identify Who Triggers Negativity

Family– The closest relationship is family, but family can also cause the most tension. My mother says, “Our family members know how to push our buttons because they installed them.” While family members can have the best intentions, sometimes they can have a negative impact on our thinking.

Friends– All friends need to vent their problems from time to time, but sometimes we have a friend who is consistently negative and pessimistic. This can be emotionally draining and cause our own thoughts to become negative.
Workmates- A negative workmate could be anyone from a poor performer to a poor loser to someone who takes credit for others work. This can cause an entire team or office atmosphere to become pessimistic.


Step 2: Identify Actions to Control Interactions

Set Boundaries– Decide how much negativity you are willing to put up with, and then communicate your boundaries. In the workplace for example, communicate to the poor performer how much of their work you are or aren’t willing to take on. In the family, try to avoid “button-pushing” topics. Decide how much time you are willing to spend with a negative friend.
Action tip: Learn how to say “No”. Once you determine your boundaries, come up with 1) time limits for the interaction or 2) a time limit on the touchy subject and your “party line” for what you will say about it that doesn’t invite further conversation, and 3) additional topics to bring up as needed.

Stay in a Group– In a group you don’t have to listen to someone else’s negativity alone. In a group the negativity is shared by several and isn’t so personally draining. And in a group there may be someone else who is able to turn the negative atmosphere into something more positive. At the very least, you have a better chance of finding a more positive conversation for the evening.
Action tip: At a family gathering, talk to your negative Aunt with your sister, or cousins. If
you are cornered by a negative friend, invite the nearest person into the conversation.

Offer to Help– Sometimes deep down a negative person is really asking for help. This can combat their negativity and create more positivity in your own self. After all, helping others can give us a sense of giving back.
Action Tip: When you feel someone is consistently negative, ask them, “What can I do to
help you?” “Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?”

Sometimes those we know are just going through a hard time and having trouble being positive. Others seem to have a pessimistic outlook on life. Whatever the situation, keep in mind what is going on in their life as well while you manage your own thinking.

Need help with your career?

Certified Career Coach Hallie Crawford is a career coach that specializes in helping professionals identify their ideal career path, navigate their transition and nurture their career. To schedule a complimentary consultation and find out more about Hallie visit


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