A Contagion of a different kind – don’t let the office vampire get you
During the current lock down, the mental health of staff is front of mind for most managers. It is normal to feel anxious and scared as the terrible human tole of the pandemic mounts. But we can protect ourselves against ‘emotional contagion’ – a phrase I read about in the Harvard Business Review’s ‘Management Tip of the Day’.
And it got me thinking. While the Harvard Business Review was advocating staying away from negative sources such as social media or cable news, it got me wondering about how our own attitude and those of our staff really matters – particularly at this time.
Someone told me last week about a management consultant they met who talked about the ‘office vampire’ – the negative person who sucked the life out of others in the workforce and by doing so made the rest of the workforce vampires as well.
The office vampire would drain the business not only of positive vibes, but also time and energy. Workplace morale would plummet. Poor attitude in the workplace is contagious – and it can spread quickly with one interaction.
I think this is particularly relevant right now. Everyone has been – or has the potential to be – the virtual office vampire.
In these days, where the future seems uncertain and many are dealing with emotional problems we may not know about, leading by example is even more important. Keeping morale up, giving praise, taking a bit more time to listen and encourage will pay back tenfold. Goodwill and cheer can also be contagious. We all know someone who makes us smile long after we have spoken to them. Perhaps we can strive to be that person.
How to avoid emotional contagion in the workplace.
- Don’t let the b******s get you down: Avoid long conversations with people who bring you down. Try to manage the conversation to stay on work – make sure you have a meeting agenda.
- Lead by example. Take a leaf out of Monty Python’s Life of Brian and ‘look on the bright side of life’. Try to think of the things that are going well in your life and work and use that to keep your mood up.
- Use the positive energy of others: Call a work colleague who makes you smile – it may be someone in your office or a client, a broker, an underwriter – the person you’d like to go down to the Winchester and have a pint with.
- Use garlic: Keep the vampire at bay by repelling them and changing the subject when they get negative.
- Use a stake: Sometimes you may need to kill the vampire if they are getting too toxic. If they are wasting yours and everyone else’s the energy, time and attention – get rid of them in a fast and humane way.