Managing Grumpy People
Coping With Team Members' Negative Moods
On any given day, the people we manage experience a whole range of emotions. They can be happy, sad, angry, cheerful, frustrated, and, at times, grumpy.
It is especially challenging to manage people who are consistently grumpy. Their negative energy can cast a shadow of gloom over an office, and this can affect an entire team's morale and productivity.
In this article, we'll look at how you can manage grouchy team members successfully. We'll also explore some strategies that you can use to turn around their negative moods.
The Problem With Grouches
It can be a real chore to manage grumpy people.
They might complain constantly about their work and life, but seem unwilling to do anything to change their circumstances. They may ignore colleagues, be reluctant to cooperate on team projects, show disrespect to others with their actions or words, or nay say every new idea that you come up with.
In short, it might seem that they do everything to drive you, and the people they work with, into a bad mood.
How to Manage a Grouch
Use the strategies below to manage grumpy people more effectively.
1. Set a Good Example
Stop and look at your own behavior. Do you come into work feeling positive and excited about the day ahead? Or do you sometimes come across as grumpy?
Everyone goes through ups and downs, but if you come into work grouchy yourself, you set a poor example for everyone on your team.
2. Create a Happy Work Environment
A negative work environment can cause people to be grumpy.
Use Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory to uncover things that make team members feel dissatisfied. Speak to them to find out if you can do anything else to create a more positive working environment for them.
It's also important to look at their work space. Is it clean, comfortable, and well lit? Do what you can to create a healthy workplace for your team, and make sure that you minimize stress in the workplace.
3. See Things From Their Perspective
Next, take a step back and try to see things from their perspective.
Can you identify a possible reason for their negative attitude? Perhaps they do not feel well, or they have problems at home. Or, maybe they're overloaded with work.
Also, consider whether you've said or done anything that could be causing their grumpiness. (If you generally have a good relationship with them, ask them.)
All of us need a listening ear now and again. This includes grouchy people – their negative rants or endless complaining might be a sign that they want to be heard. Use empathic listening while they talk, so that they know you are paying attention to their needs.
Listening is important, but there's a fine line to walk here. It's considerate to listen when others want to talk about a situation that has upset them, but you shouldn't feel trapped into listening to endless complaints. That won't do you any good, and it will likely make others feel bad as well.
Therefore, set boundaries – for instance, you could give them 10 minutes of your time, and then politely excuse yourself.
5. Distract Them
According to one study, you can distract people from a negative mood when you "put more demands on their working memory" – essentially, you give them other things to think about.
To do this, ask them specific, engaging questions about their work, challenge them with a tough problem, or ask them for their thoughts on work that you're doing. Encourage other team members to do the same.
You can also distract them with humor, where appropriate – tell a funny joke or story to lift their mood.
Confronting Grumpy People
Ultimately, there's only so much that you should do to tolerate grumpy people, and you need to confront them if their grumpiness is consistently having a negative effect on the team.
To do this, speak with them privately. Keep in mind that they might be unaware of how their attitude affects the people around them, so approach this conversation sensitively.
Use "I" instead of "you" statements to communicate the effect that their behavior has on the team. And, be specific about how they're harming the team's mission.
For example, the statement, "You are always grumpy" places blame and comes across as antagonistic. Instead, you could say, "I feel sad and upset when you come into work and complain about your clients. I think this puts people in a bad mood for the rest of the day, and makes people feel that they can't talk to you about projects."
The last statement is clear and effective because you communicate how this person's behavior affects you and the team.
Then make it clear to them that their behavior has to change. Remind them that their attitude has an impact on others, and consider using a performance agreement to record their commitment to stopping the behavior. This also holds them accountable if you have to take further action.
Make sure that grumpy people have the support and resources that they need to deal with their behavior. For example, you might need to coach them on how to be more positive, and help them develop emotional intelligence.
It can feel uncomfortable to approach people about their grumpiness. Use role-playing to practice the conversation if you feel nervous. Remember, conversations like this can be challenging, but they also allow you to grow as a manager.
Team members who engage in emotional labor might be grumpy because they're not equipped to deal with the stress and pressures of being "upbeat" all day. Make sure that they have the training and support they need to work in an emotionally demanding role.
If your team member's grumpiness escalates into anger, you may need to use alternative methods to manage them. Your HR department may have some useful resources to help you deal with an angry person.
It can be especially challenging to manage people who are consistently grumpy. But there are strategies that you can use to turn around their negative mood.
First, make sure that you set a good example and do what you can to create a happy work environment. Also, make sure that you see things from their perspective, and that you're available to listen to their concerns.
If grumpy people are negatively affecting the team's mission, confront them about their behavior. Be sensitive to their needs, but make it clear that their behavior has to change.