Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Challenge For Your Interpersonal Leadership Skills - The Toxic Effects of Moody People

The moody person is one that's easily recognised by negative changes in behaviour in temperament because of emotional pressures. These emotional pressures can have external origins that have a negative effect on the behavior of the person. The behavior is often characterised as being sullen, sulky, withdrawn, aggressive, vindictive, irrational, unreasonable, silent or uncooperative.

From leadership point of view, this is very frustrating because the cooperative person has suddenly become uncooperative. The real problem with moody people is that they infect the rest of the team with their negativity. It is like a nasty virus in the workplace.

From a leadership point of view it may help to understand what has actually happened to the person and to immunise yourself against their negativity. The stronger your bond with that person, the harder it is to deal with their moody behavior. The very presence of a moody person with their negative feelings will effect yourself as the leader and the rest of the group. This happens even if the moody person doesn't say anything.

Moods are contagious. A good mood is contagious but only remains contagious provided it is stronger than the bad mood. Intuitively, we know this and this is where we make our mistake. We take a person who is sulking and think that if we jolly them along they will just snap out of their bad mood. Now, this is may work with very young children but unfortunately, it has exactly the opposite effect on adults and older children.

With adults and older children any suggestion that their behavior is inappropriate will be interpreted as criticism. Because we all seem to have a bit of a teenager in us, no matter how old we are, we will not conform. This is not done consciously because it is part of our complex make up as human beings.

With moody people you may have tried various approaches like, telling them to snap out of it, being jolly, telling them off or being sarcastic and putting them down. I guarantee that your success rate has been much lower than you would have wanted.

What you need is some different strategies for dealing with moody people. Why don't you try some of the following. Validate their mood. This means that you accept that's how they are and show them some sympathy. A validating statement might be, "So you're feeling a bit down. That's not much fun, is it?"

Do not give it too much attention.

  • Do not take personal responsibility for it. (I must have done something wrong)

  • Don't take responsibility for getting them out of their bad mood. If you try and fix it, they will assume it is up to you to help them, and lose the motivation to help themselves.

  • Try and shift your own attention to something that is not present, while they work out what to do. Leave them alone and find someone cheerful to talk to. This will rid you of the negative effects of the moody person

All these suggestions are ways of getting some emotional distance from their negative mood, so that you can neither be infected by it nor judge it. Pick your time to cope with the moody person carefully. If you want a discussion with that person about their mood and it's toxic effects on you and the rest of the team, wait until the person is feeling better about life in general and much more receptive.