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Anne Zimmerman

Anne Zimmerman

June 23, 2015

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Dealing With Moody Co-Workers

I could always tell when my co-worker Jane was having a bad day. She’d stomp into the office, sigh heavily, and wipe underneath her eyes as if she’d already had a very long morning. Then she’d toss her laptop on her desk and grumpily sit down.

I knew what was coming next: rapid-fire negativity. No matter what I was doing, it was wrong and she knew how to do it better. Anything I said, she took the opposite position. If I mentioned how pretty it was outside, she’d comment that she thought yesterday had been a much nicer day.

The irony? When she came back to work the following morning, it was as if all was forgotten. Suddenly she was open to the idea of a new marketing strategy. She’d re-thought my concept for the launch party and it was great. And by the way, wasn’t it a beautiful day? Argh.

We work alone, but we cannot deny that our co-workers have a huge impact on our worlds. This means when a co-worker has a bad day, our day can go downhill too. Here, a few tips on how to deal when your office mate has the moody blues.

Assess their body language. Is your normally chatty colleague sitting with her back to you? Leave her alone. Is the boss’ door closed, blinds drawn? Don’t knock. Often your co-workers will send subtle but clear messages about whether or not they’d like to be bothered. It’s your job to pay attention.

Prioritize. Since you do have work to do, chances are you may need to actually talk to Crabface to get something accomplished. Take a look at your to-do list and determine what you need immediate answers on. Then, crawl into the lion’s den and say: “Jen, I need about 30 minutes of your time today to go over some details. What time works for you?” Bad moods are often about feeling out of control, and this gives your co-worker the opportunity to choose when they can deal.

Respect the chum/co-worker boundaries. If the blues are affecting a colleague who’s also a friend, suggest that you both go on a quick coffee run, or even offer to bring coffee to her desk. That’ll save her a trip, and by the time you get back, she may be ready to talk about what’s bugging her. If she isn’t, don’t press. Lay low and hope that tomorrow is a better day—for both of you.