I read your column on an employee who is too emotional. I have a similar problem, with some big differences. I don’t know why everyone says it is women who tend to be too emotional. I have a male colleague who is constantly melting down.
I’m not sure where he got the idea that everything he says or does should be met with 100% enthusiasm and support, but whenever he gets any kind of critique or has an idea that gets turned down, he just loses it. Anytime he is treated as anything less than a total star, his response is anger. And when he gets angry, he refuses to respond to emails and drops any number of balls that others depend on his catching so they can move forward. When I or any of several other team members have brought up this ridiculous behavior to our team lead, she acts as if she’s powerless.
I’ve kind of figured out how to work around him, which sometimes means doing tasks he should be doing. My biggest frustration is that he sits next to me, so I hear about his perceived injustices all day long. I also have to listen to him whining to his wife on the phone. I can’t fathom how she puts up with it.
It is a miracle that I haven’t told him to suck it up and stop griping. I am so sick of it I am actively looking for another job, even though I really like my company, my team, and my job. I would really like to stay but I don’t know how much longer I can keep myself from doing or saying something I regret.
How do I get this guy to grow up and stop acting like a big whiny baby?
Sick to Death of a Colleague
Dear Sick to Death of a Colleague,
As I promised in last week’s response, I wanted to elaborate on the crazy idea that you approach the situation with Big Whiny Baby (BWB) with compassion. To do that, of course, you will have to put aside your judgment and put yourself in his shoes. How? Ask for a conversation and get really curious. You can ask questions like:
- Can you help me understand what triggers you?
- What goes on for you when you get upset?
- When you are upset, would it help you to talk about it or do prefer for us to leave you alone?
- As a team, what can we do to help you manage your frustrations?
- Have you noticed that we all throw out ideas and the ideas get better when we build on them?
- How might you keep from taking everything personally?
…and see what happens. Best case, he’ll be willing to open up to you, which will help you understand him better. A little understanding may help you put his behavior in perspective and may even help him calm down.
If your colleague is willing to talk, just listen and reflect back what you have heard.
- “What I heard you say is….”
- “It sounds like…”
Once you have finished the conversation, you can share that it is upsetting to the team when he gets so distraught—and you all really want to find a way to work together so things can stay on an even keel.
This would be taking the highest possible road, which I always encourage, of course. But it won’t be easy unless you find a way to truly care about BWB as a person.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response soon. Please be advised that although she will do her best, Madeleine cannot respond to each letter personally. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.