Dealing With The Mood Hoover

I have been talking with a former colleague recently who has taken on a new management role in a Customer Service team. The team and indeed the business is going through a lot of change and she is finding that she is having to deal with a number of negative people who she refers to as “mood hoovers” which is a phrase I have heard used before.

I am sure we have all met them whether in work or in our private lives. The moody or grumpy person who can be a real “mood hoover” to be around. Obviously many people can have mood swings for a variety of reasons. Some people may not be feeling well at a particular moment, or may be experiencing some sort of issue or have a concern that just occupies most of their mind.

Some people, on the other hand, are just moody by nature. They have regular ups and downs that seem to be a part of their daily routine. They are a real mood hoover and it can feel almost as if they are sucking the positive out of the air! Dealing with this sort of person is never easy but there are some techniques for dealing with this sort of person and that can minimise the impact on you and others.

Get to know their basic temperament. In essence there are two types of grumpy or moody people. The first is one who has an occasional bad day. They may have lost their car keys and been hopelessly delayed by trying to find them or had a misunderstanding with their partner, whatever it is, there is generally a reason we can empathise with for their mood. They are the sort who will soon shake it off with calm and order being restored. Then there’s the kind who seems to go through an emotional roller-coaster on a daily basis. The latter is the kind of person who just brings those around them down with them because they like to always look at the glass as being half-empty. People like this are usually extremely sensitive, and any little thing gets them on a roll of negativity and criticism of others and everything around them. Should you be faced with that kind of person, one thing you should never do is feed their fire. Step back and avoid circumstances that can tick them off.

We all need to learn how to read people. While some may all too readily share their emotions, there are others who are prone to withdrawing and displacing their inner feelings by having inappropriate reactions to small incidents. People like these will rant and rave about the most trivial of matters when what they are trying to do is mask their vulnerability. The best way to deal with people who do this is to try to find out the underlying causes of their anger. Ask them how they are and offer to listen to them when they are calm enough to talk. Never force them to open up and talk about it, otherwise they will retreat further into their shell. If they really refuse to talk, simply take a step back and let them know that they can approach you when they are ready. When we have problems, most of us need to talk about the issues when the time is right.

Try to put things in perspective. It’s important to know that with the typical mood hoover you are not responsible for their mood because whatever you do they will find some way of turning it into a negative. The important thing here is to remain positive and continue to be the objective person. Take a step back and observe the things that trigger their anger. When they are grouchy towards you even when you haven’t done anything, you also need to stand your ground and let them know that you will not tolerate this kind of treatment.

Deciding when enough is enough is entirely up to you. When you deal with a moody person, you have to be brave enough to also say stop. The mood hoover can be incredibly destructive and ultimately they will have to face the consequences of their behaviour but don’t let them drag you down to their level. As I advised my former colleague you need to maintain your focus on the positive and sometimes you have to accept that some people cannot be jolted out of their approach to life however good a manager you might be.

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