Thank you so much to those who completed the survey about dealing with people who are difficult at work. The top 3 difficult behaviours at work will not surprise any of you.

The survey on difficult behaviour was designed to uncover the most challenging behaviours we deal with at work and uncover how well organisations and leaders deal with this.  We asked the specific question ‘what made people difficult to work with?’ and the top response was moodiness.  No surprise, right?

The effect of the moody colleague, manager or team member is significant.  The most difficult part is the uncertainty.  Not knowing from day-to-day what their mood will be, what you will have to do to deal with them and working out how to minimise the impact it has on you and others is very challenging.

So, what to do with the moody person?  As a start, try a combination of care and assertiveness using the following steps.

  1. Call it out.

It might sound something like this.

I’m not sure what is happening and I feel concerned for you.  It seems as if you are unhappy or not enjoying your work.  Is there anything going on for you that I can help with?

You may not intend for this to happen but how you are showing up at work now makes it harder to work with you than it should be and it comes across as moodiness.

What support would help you because I am concerned for you and I am concerned for the rest of the team and for our customers because of the negative effect this moodiness has on others?

  1. Listen to the person.

Seems counterintuitive right?  It works.  Ask the person to tell you what is worrying or bothering them and listen.  It might sound something like this.

Will you talk to me about what is going on for you at the moment?  It seems as if you are unhappy or upset?


You are saying nothing is wrong and yet what I see is some-one who comes across as unhappy, grumpy or distressed a lot of the time.  Can you tell me about it?

  1. Acknowledge how they are feeling and put a limit around that behaviour.

Acknowledging the other person doesn’t mean you agree with them.  It shows that you have listened and heard what they are telling you.  It might sound something like this.

It sounds like you are facing some significant challenges.

It must be hard to come to work everyday and feel like you are not enjoying it.

We work hard to have a healthy and constructive team environment.  What is happening is hard on you and is also hard on the team.  What options do you have to manage your mood and attitude at work?  We need to find ways to do this because it is an important part of having a safe and productive workplace.

Is there any support you can call on to assist you?

If you uncover significant personal or work issues, it is important to provide appropriate support.

If the person doesn’t discuss or doesn’t have any issues and you can see that there is a significant impact from their behaviour then continue to address the poor behaviour.

It might sound something like this:

We’ve talked before about the importance of how you interact with others and the need for consistently calm and friendly behaviour.  This is important for our team and I can see that others are affected by your mood.  I need you to take action to support yourself to show up at work ready to work well with others.

If you manage this person it is important that you keep managing this and not let the behaviour go unchecked.  Remember how debilitating and corrosive this behaviour is.  Make sure you take notes of conversations and follow-up as and when agreed.

Your experience:

  • What has helped you if you’ve been challenged by a moody or unpredictable colleague?
  • Have you seen some-one else do a great job of managing and supporting them?


The second most challenging behaviour is not doing their job properly followed by not co-operate with others.  We’ll come back to these challenges in other blog articles.


Talk to us about how to deal with challenging behaviour and support effective teamwork.  Call Robyn 0408 703 344 or Tulsi 0423 600 590 to find out how we support leaders, teams and employees to build a positive performance culture.

Photo by Micah Tindell on Unsplash

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