As a child, you were sure that monsters are unsympathetic creatures with claws who were about to jump at you from under the sofa. Who would have thought that they could be bumped into not only in a dark room, but also in the metro at rush hour, in the queue to the therapist, and even in your own office (when you accidentally took someone else’s cup)?
All of us, from time to time, are just not in the mood. But some individuals constantly behave disgustingly and enjoy mocking others. Let’s look at it in terms of werewolves. Some people are hairy monsters only during a full moon. Others became wild and act like beasts on any day of the month.
Each transformation has a reason. Sometimes even a small thing can turn your colleague into something you wouldn’t want to deal with. It’s better to recognise dangerous signs in advance, while you can still fix things without Van Helsing. Let’s see what turns us into monsters, and how to help a colleague become a nice person again.
Wrong side of the bed
It’s so easy to make excuses with this phrase! But after all, only monsters get out on the wrong side of the bed five times a week.
How come? Definitely there is a real reason for bad behavior: a protracted conflict, an unresolved problem or chronic pain. The worst case is when abusing colleagues without any consequences makes a monstrous person satisfied.
Antidote. If your colleague is always not in the mood, talk about it (directly, via your team lead or your HR). A calm tone conversation and honesty can clarify what is this really about.
Fear of failure
To worry before some crucial moments is fine. But sometimes a person starts to be insecure no matter the occasion is. In most cases, it ends up with constantly shifting responsibilities to team mates and doubting each step the team makes. This monster person is always responsible for nothing and takes only simple tasks.
How come? Fear of failure appears when a person does not feel secure enough at work. Every incertain decision is a risk of losing their job or status, or the respect of their colleagues.
Antidote. This monster thinks that if something goes wrong he’s in a danger zone. Therefore, the monster person does not want to make anything. To overcome it, you’ll have to work on the feedback culture in the team and find the true cause of the uncertainty.
It could turn anyone into aggressive creature as soon as someone starts chewing a cookie nearby. From a systematically hungry person, even a “bon appetite!” can sound like a wish to suppress.
How come? We like to eat! What we don’t like is when a favourite food suddenly becomes forbidden. For example, when people are forced to change their food habits they tend to broadcast dissatisfaction on others who do not burden themselves with prohibitions.
Antidote. Replace the cookies in the office kitchen on fruits and nuts. Advise where a monster person can find some tasty and “allowed” food in town. Or from time to time have an extra sandwich to share with someone who has none.
Fatigue appears because of a chronic lack of sleep, too complicated or too simple tasks, or the routine at work. A tired monster person, like an influenza, infects the office with constant irritability and apathy, which as a result greatly harms the project.
How come? Sometimes, somebody’s fighting fatigue, and simply cannot admit that he/she needs an extra day off, a hand to do the job right, or even have an honest tet-a-tet conversation about what you really want to do on the project.
Antidot. Offer help, give a hand (or two). Advise the fatigued monster to take an extra day off or to work from home for the next few days.
Recently we published an article about chronic fatigue and work: here is a 4-minute read about the causes of burnout and how to avoid it.
Often, we do not see the real value and danger from them. At first somebody broke your mug (and did not admit it), you can hear their music through their headphones, you were the butt of a joke, and a few hours later someone stepped on your brand new white shoes in the metro. And that’s it. Goodbye patience.
How come? After all small disasters monster person can’t handle, he/she starts “defending” and snapping even at those who have always wished them a very good morning.
Antidote. Ask a monster person if everything is fine. Gently let him/her know how unpleasant it is when they start throwing thorns all around. Even if it’s a small bad joke or irritation, speak about it. Otherwise you risk to find yourself covered in thorns some time after.
To sum up, a monster person is distinguished from a regular person having a bad day primarily by how often such periods of “not in the mood” are repeated and how long they last. Some people, when constantly under stress, may not even notice that being unfriendly and rude have become their typical way of behaving. That’s where the colleague needs help. The calm and honest feedback are often the key to pacifying any monster person (even if it’s actually about you).
However, if someone in your team looks like a real monster, and, alas, this can’t be fixed with a kind word and warm embrace, we advise you to talk about the problem with your HR or team leads. And in addition, you can read this article about “toxic” behavior in the teams and how to deal with it on your own.