Who is afraid of the big bad co-worker?
Dealing with scary people at work
By Aisha Newton
Monster Contributing Writer
A typical office day begins, your colleagues arrive and you grab a cup of Joe and start working. You check your email and voicemail and partake in casual banter about the weather, traffic and what you watched on television the night before. Everyone is getting their work done. The phones are ringing and you can hear the sound of keyboards clicking and the hum of computers running.
A typical office day is about to begin...Until that one individual arrives. You know the one or do you? Who will they be today, Dr.Jekyll or Mr.Hyde? Instead of casual banter you are privy to a barrage of profanity and negativity. Forget about checking your voicemail. Instead you get to listen to the sound of fingers pounding on the keyboard and desk drawers slamming. The scary thing is that it's only 9am
This is how it goes. The slightest thing will set them off. Everyone in the office is on edge. The tension is so thick that you can cut it with a knife. You are forced to walk around on eggshells because of them; Treading carefully to maintain the delicate balance. You never know, today might be the day that they snap!
Working with a co-worker that scares you is an unnerving experience. They can be erratic, menacing and at times of unsound mind. You feel like you are working with a ticking time bomb!
What can you do when you work with someone that scares you?
One of the first things you can do is see if there is a pattern. Perhaps Dr.Jekyll has certain triggers that will turn him into a raging monster. If you know that Mr.Hyde seems to appear more frequently in the morning, try to limit your contact with them. Keep your headphones on, make your photocopies or do some filing. Basically, do anything you can to stay out of their way.
When you think things have calmed down go back to your desk. Dr.Jekyll should be there and you can get your work done.
Sometimes you are forced to work with them on a team. Avoiding them altogether may prove difficult. Try to minimize your exposure. Maintain a polite and civil work relationship and limit your communication to brief verbal exchanges or email. This can help keep things at an even keel.
If your office allows telecommuting, try working from home. Speak to your boss and see if an arrangement can be made. Working from a remote location can help ease the tension. You will gain the benefit of a mental break and you can put some distance between yourself and the venomous outbursts.
Try talking it over with your friends and family. They can provide you with some insight or advice based on past experiences. Your Human Resources department can also prove to be a valuable source of information and expertise. They are often trained to deal with difficult situations and can provide you with some guidance.
Speaking to your boss can also help. Let them know that this is a problem, especially if you fear for your safety. The company needs to ensure that the workplace is safe for all of its employees. Make sure that you share with all concerned so that they can be documented. Speak to your employer immediately, if you suspect that they will become violent or you may witness violent or aggressive behaviour.
Confronting Mr.Hyde is probably not the best idea. Even if they appear to be behaving more like a Dr.Jekyll. Based on your experience with this volatile personality you risk making things worse. They may lash out and you will find yourself on the receiving end of their anger.
I once worked with a gentleman who had his share of issues. One minute he was charming and friendly. The next minute he was an angry raging ball of hate. The vitriol that spewed from his mouth could be likened to a scene from “The Exorcist”. The joke around the office was how many of us brought in our Kevlar vests, in the event of an emergency.
In the end we spoke to our employer and the situation was addressed. The individual’s behaviour was better but we still had to be careful. Whenever he started losing his cool he went for long walks. We also noticed various stress relief devices at his desk.
Mr.Hyde would visit us now and again but not like before. The office was a calmer place and Dr.Jekyll seemed to be here to stay. The office shouldn’t be a scary place, it can have its share of stress but if you find yourself working with someone whose mood can change from one moment to the next don’t be afraid to get help. The benefits will be incredibly helpful for both you and them.