Human beings come equipped with massive contradictions and imperfections. Our emotions battle with our intellect. Our community spirit wrestles with our selfishness. We think thoughts both lofty and low and emit smells both lovely and, uh… not.
But when we come together in the workplace, we’re making a deal with each other to bring our adult selves to the game. It’s not that our weaknesses cease to exist, but they do cease to ride shotgun on our day.
There are days when I’m running on two cylinders or less—not enough sleep, not enough breakfast, too many pressures, bad news, whatever. You have to figure at least one out of every four people around you feels about the same on any given day.
Now suppose we all had permission to give full expression to those feelings—you’d have 25 percent of the people in any given workplace whining, sighing, crying, or screaming their way through the day. Adult day care. The drain on productivity would be impossible. Forget about achieving anything great or being of profound service, even on your own good days.
A little expression of fatigue or frustration once in a while is fine, and we can all be there for each other at those times. But then there are the people who seem to have woven dramatic emotional displays into their job description, day after day after day.
Approach this carefully by all means, but for the sake of everyone’s sanity, DO approach it. Start by expressing genuine concern. Is there something going on in this person’s life that they’d like to talk about? Is there anything you can do to help?
If he or she waves off your attempts to help and continues to be a vortex of negative energy, ramp it up a bit. Ask Human Resources or your immediate manager if anything can be done to assist the person—and drop a mention of how long it has gone on and how difficult it is to work well in the presence of such displays.
If you have offered personal concern AND attempted to get help at a higher level and no improvement is made, it’s time to call in that mutual contract, that unspoken but rock-solid agreement to bring our higher, stronger selves to work. Let the person know gently but firmly that something’s gotta give, that she MUST take advantage of offers of help, that the situation is impacting the work and attitudes of those around her.
If no improvement is forthcoming, it is incumbent on you to return to management with a stronger insistence that something be done.