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How to prepare for stormy relationships at work

3 min read


Hurricane season takes on a new meaning if you work with some “storms” and feel the need for storm-tracking in the office. Preparations won’t include plywood, flashlights, or bottled water. Instead, the following guidelines will help you weather even the strongest of stormy relationships at work.

Stay out of the way
Storms travel in a predictable path, and the longer you’ve worked with someone the more you know about their “track” or behavior. If you’ve noticed a bad mood brewing, don’t push an issue that you’re sure will set him or her off. This is not the time to instigate a disagreement. Steer clear and address sensitive issues another day.

Protect your valuables
In this case, valuables pertain more to your self-esteem, confidence, and outlook. Why risk turning a good mood sour by engaging in conversation with a negative Ned or Nellie? Say hello, be professional, and reconsider saying “How are you?” when you’re confident the response will resemble grumbling thunder. This idea of protecting your mindset is from my book “Make Difficult People Disappear.” It will protect you and send difficult people the message that you’re no longer willing to tolerate their negativity.

Batten down the hatches
When strong winds and hot air whirl dangerously close to our homes, we close the doors, secure the windows and bring in the lawn furniture. However, when someone who blows “hot air” whirls our offices into a bad mood, we still invite them in. What’s worse is that we give them a seat and converse with them openly, expecting them to be as positive as a warm spring day. You wouldn’t let a storm in your home, so why let a negative person hang out in your office?

Let it pass
Few would stand in a storm, yelling at the clouds to clear and rain to abate. We know we have no control over the weather and we simply have to wait it out. We have the same control over others, too. Their behaviors, their actions, their perception of stress and how they respond is out of our control. It’s best to watch, wait and let it pass. Screaming at the clouds makes you look silly. Engaging someone who is prone to yelling and known to be negative is worse.

Have a plan B
People who plan outdoor events always have a plan B venue in case of rain. What is your plan B if the stormy staff member is on your team? If you’re not sure of the severity of their storm, a backup plan is needed. If you’re not sure they can be relied on to bring a good mood to the meeting, have an alternative. The frequent need for plan B might require more energy, but you’ll be prepared and calm for whatever blows by.

Stormy relationships, much like a rainy day, can ruin your mood or be inconvenient. However, if you’re prepared and have a plan, the “human storm” will move through quickly, leaving sunny skies in their wake. And you won’t be dealing with a bad mood. Those who fail to prepare and fight the storms find themselves standing in the rain and blaming outside forces for getting wet.

Monica Wofford, CSP, is a leadership development expert. She is the author of “Contagious Leadership” and “Make Difficult People Disappear” and works with managers and leaders worldwide on the prevention of promotion without preparation. She may be reached at (866) 382-0121 or at