Need Snappy Comebacks for Negative Nelly at Work

Updated on July 27, 2010
C.J. asks from Frisco, TX
16 answers

I work with the MOST NEGATIVE person that one could ever hope to share an 8 hour day with.
It's beginning to wear me out to the point that I feel I should invest in a TrashCan, dye my hair green and re-name myself Oscar --- I get grouchy by the end of the week and I end up bringing it home. Attitudes, are contagious!!!

This girl (I can call her that, she's 8 years younger than me and her attitude makes her at least 20yrs my junior) has a NEGATIVE comment about everything, everyperson, every situation.
I recently found out, through a friend that during a day that I was out last week that she (Negative Nelly) advised my friend who was there covering my position that she (Nelly) does ALL of my work and I do NOTHING, leaving her very overworked, hence her own tasks are very disorganized and behind. I know she did this in an attempt to make an excuse for why she was so far behind on her own work... but did she really think it wouldn't get back to me? She took credit for every task, every report that IS/WAS done (mine) but blamed me for the things that are not done (hers). She told her that we are horrible team players as I never offer to assist her (She has 4 tasks which are time consuming but simple) Though we have an itemized job description that was given to us that details each task and mine contains more than 3x hers.

I confronted her today, but it caught her off guard. She is a mean spirited person and I am a very laid back mild mannered person. I know tomorrow is going to be YUCKY - - - - I need some good juju!
What can I say to put Nelly in her place?

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

SHE QUIT! She she quit! Whoooo-hoooo! I feel like singing "Ding Dong the witch is dead!"

Featured Answers


answers from Milwaukee on

just say i'm so sorry you are having a bad day and that i have left you so much work....i'll try harder tomorrow to do better.....remind that there is no such thing as tomorrow!!

or tell her that you are glad that you don't have to rub elbows with her 24/7 because you would hate to have her attitude rub off on you!!

or ask her if she is the evil twin!

ask her if she is ever happy

everytime she says something to you look at her and say REALLY

Edit My Answer
8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I didn't read any of the other responses, but after I read the book "MARY KAY ON PEOPLE MANAGEMENT" it changed my life!
It has NOTHING to do with the company or cosmetics, but it was written by a VERY smart woman on how to deal with people.
I love the book and recommend it to everyone that talks to people!

Edit My Answer
1 mom found this helpful

More Answers


answers from Fresno on

I work with several people like this. What I can tell you is that you need to go on the offensive - but not against Nelly. Ignore her completely.

Go on the offensive with your boss. Whenever you appear in his/her office doorway, make sure to carry a stack of papers with you. When you go to the copy machine, walk quickly (with your stack of papers). If someone says, "How's your day going?" your response needs to be a somewhat harried, "Drinking from a fire hose! Wow am I busy!" If anyone above you at work asks you for something, get it to them right away and make sure it's perfect. Then follow up later with a cheery, "Was that report what you needed?" This forces them to acknowledge that your report was GREAT. If Nelly asks you for anything - ANYTHING - tell her you are really busy with your own work, however if she wants to get permission from your boss for you to stop working on whatever report/spreadsheet/task you're working on, then you'd be happy to. This forces her to admit to your boss that she can't handle her own workload, and furthermore, that you are so competent that your co-workers come to you for help.

Basically, you need to be your own PR person at work. Nobody else is going to do it for you. They need to know you are busy and competent. None of this other nonsense matters. You aren't at work for people to like you. You're there to get your job done and do it well. But you also need to remember that perception is reality - so you need to make absolutely sure that your boss' perception of you is a positive one. Do not engage Negative Nelly, no good can come of it.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Generally, I don't support confronting negativity with negativity. It is not productive and solves nothing, as the short-term emotional boost is outweighed by long-term toxicity to the working environment. Instead, I will comment on something you didn't actually ask about - please take care to ensure that you keep track of, and inform your supervisor of, your own accomplishments so that you don't get undermined by your co-worker. If she is telling people that you don't do your job, then you want to take extra steps to make sure that the people who count know that you do.
Best of luck.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Most of us grew up hearing how people "hurt someone's feelings" or "made somebody mad." I worked with those kinds of beliefs for awhile to undo that misunderstanding, and it helps. Nobody can "make" me feel anything – it's actually only my own thoughts that make me feel positive or negative. (music plays… shafts of light fill the room… heavenly voices chime…).

I highly recommend learning this, and teaching it to our children. Life is so much happier when we don't give others that power over our thoughts and feelings. It takes some practice because we're so used to having our thoughts manipulated by others. But it's not hard to learn.

If Nelly knows she can "make" you feel bad, uncertain, or worried, it sounds like she'll do exactly that. Some people need such strategies to feel more respected or more in control. So the simplest thing to do is to get clear about exactly what she said that was inaccurate, and ask her to explain to you why she said that. No drama should be required, just look at her calmly and ask for an explanation.

She may behave very badly for a day or a week in an attempt to reassert her perceived advantage. Just look at her calmly, observe what she says or does with an unemotional comment, "Nelly, I hear that you think I'm disorganized/uncooperative/dishonest. Please explain specifically what I did that led you to that conclusion. I'd be happy to do a better job next time, if I know exactly what your problem is."

Try it, you'll like it. I am NOT an assertive person, or wasn't, until I found out just how deliciously empowering it is. Just be clear, honest, non-judgemental in your choice of words, and have a hoot.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

As a couple of others have alluded to, it is the perception of your boss and higher ups that matter. She is a difficult person to get along with, but focus on making sure those that matter know what a good job you are doing. Don't get caught up in her world or it will bring you down too. Document everything, always follow up verbal discussions with an email (especially discussions with your coworker).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

tell her that "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you couldn't do your job without me holding your hand... Don't worry, I'm sure we can find a way to put "training wheels" on the job for you."

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm prone to be pretty negative at work. Stuff rolls down hill and I have a meaner than average boss. That's no excuse - just a snapshot of my work environment. I don't mean to be negative, but it's a toxic environment. I certainly don't take credit for other peoples work or put them down. But I do vent about our customers. We have some that are repeat offenders in the annoying category. So sometimes after I hang up with one I might roll my eyes or shake my head and say what a [email protected]! I usually think I'm being pretty funny and people laugh, but after reading this, I'm taking a look at how that might be annoying to my coworkers and I'll work on that. I'm taking a long hard look at myself right now. But if someone were to say something mean and snarky to me, you can bet it wouldn't be ME I was taking a long hard look at right now. I'd be focused on what a wench that person was. And that leads to the uncomfortable atmosphere you mentioned. But if someone were to tell me in the spirit of friendship and commraderie - hey T., you are so funny sometimes, but I think some of your comments may unitentionally come across as negative." well, I'd feel like a jerk and go home and really try to work on my attitude. You don't have to be as mean as her, and if you try to be, you'll just get her wrath. That's not the result you're looking for.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

Ooooooooooh I know this type! I always try to remind myself that when someone is that nasty, it's probably because they've been dealt a really bad hand in life. Usually the people who are overly critical, are people who have ben criticized a lot in their lives. I know that she is an adult, and it's not an excuse, but some people never know better until someone teaches them, or shows them that there is a different way of living. I mean, look at the way she made you feel, and want to react. She probably gets that a lot, and probably has for most of her life. Her perception of the world is a very negative one, meaning she probably had a lot of negative things happen to her AND because of that her pain and unhappiness breeds even more negativity for her.

Have you ever tried to talk to her? I doubt you can change her, but maybe she just needs a friend. That way, maybe she would become loyal to you, rather than trying to make you look bad at work.

I would definitely say something to her, though. I would start like the others said, by asking "I hear you have a problem with my work...", she how she responds, and then say "look, I know that you've been stressed out, but that is no excuse to try to give me a bad reputation at work. I have kids I need to feed, and with the economy the way it is today, I would ask you to reconsider making your false statements that could potentially affect my employment. That is, unless you would be able to sleep at night knowing that you took the food from my children's mouths if I were to lose this job because of accusations that you've made".

I also agree that you should talk to your boss about this, because you can't risk your job. I've learned the hard way that keeping my mouth shut in the workplace, and just hoping that the boss is smart enough to catch on to what's really going on, is like trying to wish yourself thin. It's just not going to happen, you have to do something.

Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I agree with Peg & Eleanor Roosevelt 100%

DELICIOUSLY empowering.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well I don't have a comeback for you but your post reminded me of an incident back in my office working days:

There were 3 desks in a row & I sat in back against a wall. My co-worker (whom I love) sat in front of me. She was old enough to almost be my grandmother. Another woman (the negative nelly) sat elsewhere. You could hear Nelly coming, walking, huffing, grumbling. She was a woman that was about 45 yrs old, never married, dressed like a church lady, still lived at home. She got on my friends case (again) & my friend says "You really need to go get [email protected]#&*%!!!! Oh my God I never laughed so hard & almost peed my pants. This happened 10 yrs ago & I still laugh like it was yesterday.

I hope you can get a good laugh from your Negative Nelly! Good luck tomorrow.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I would say "listen I get why you are always in a negative mood, if I had to look at myself in the mirror like you do everyday I'd be in a nasty mood too!!, So how can I help you today??!! (BIG SMILE) But in all seriousness, you don't want to really play that game because you can easily become Nelly if you constantly have to one up her on the grouch meter. Just know that you work with her, but she is not family, she dosen't live with you, pay your mortgage or bills and thankfully you are not kissing HER good night!



answers from Dallas on

I don't have any tips for what to say to her.. but with people like that... there is something major going on with him at home, or from their childhood. My mom always told me to think of people like that as being very sick.. either mentally, physically, etc.

She is probably very jealous of you and everyone around her. People like her drive me INSANE. I was just at a restaurant last weekend and this lady behind me and my family complained about EVERYTHING... the place was too cold, her food was bland, the waitress took too long to get her drink, etc. I didn't say anything to my husband about her.. figuring I was just being nosy.. and when we got in the car, he was like.. "OMG, how miserable is that lady"... If your coworker is married.. I feel SOOO sorry for her husband.. I am figuring she isn't. I would try as hard as you can to ignore her and go about your day with good spirits...I am sure no matter what she would say about you, your boss and everyone else, already knows how she is, and they know you are a good employee. Eventually she will say the wrong thing to the wrong person and she won't be bugging you anymore..

Good luck!!



answers from Wichita Falls on

I always tell my daughterto tell the negative nellys "I'm sorry we can't all be as perfect as you are, but we are doing our best and you need to lay off." Or, God only made one perfect person and none of us is him. Grandma's favorite was - "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" Good luck


answers from Detroit on

I love christina's response!



answers from Dallas on

Redirect her tirades to the positive. Try and get her to look at things from a different point of view. Focus on positive things and don't let her drag you down. When she starts a tirade as her to take it to the break room...don't let her get started. Keep good records of your guess is that the boss already knows what is going on, but make sure you let him/her know in subtle ways already suggested.

Take Care,

Next question: Troublemaker at Work