Workplace bullying is bad… perhaps overlooked is something nearly as toxic….. chronic complainers!

By Trevor Blake

Being around complainers at work is not only unpleasant; it’s bad for your workplace brain and performance. Brain researchers have long known that the adult brain is surprisingly “plastic” – we can strengthen synaptic connections through repetition, for example, to improve our memory. But a new study using functional MRIs found that negative words actually stimulate the areas of the brain associated with perceptions and cognitive functioning.

Why does this matter? Negative thinking at work, or being around negative co-workers, can decrease your workplace performance. Chronic exposure to negative messages from complainers will reinforce negative thinking and complainers.

Fascinating new research proves that the brain can’t distinguish fact from fiction, so if you keep hearing negative messages, your workplace behavior will change to fit these perceptions – and not in a good way!

The following are several ways to defend yourself against workplace complaints – yours and others’ – so you can rewire your brain and boost the occurrence of positive thoughts and behaviors.

*Become self-aware. When you feel a complaint coming on, no matter how trivial, stop yourself. You can’t delete the thought, but you CAN revise it before saying it aloud. Instead of saying, “Oh, that’s exciting, but they would never give me that assignment,” you might say, “That’s the type of challenge I’m ready to tackle once higher-ups take notice of me.”

 *Redirect the conversation. When you participate in negative dialogue with a complainer, you’ll walk away feeling depleted. Instead, take control of the direction the conversation is going. If he says, “I hate Mondays, the weekend isn’t long enough,” counter the negative statement with a positive one: “I’m glad I rested up this weekend! Now I’m ready to dig into that big project!”

 THURSDAY: More ways to defend yourself against workplace complaints are presented.

 Trevor Blake is a highly successful entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. For more information, visit