Is your coworker a workplace werewolf? One minute he or she is a pleasant and friendly colleague and the next they are foaming at the mouth, lunging at you with vicious verbal attacks. As a participant in one of my workshops recently told me, “I can go from zero to b—- in a hurry.” Working with a workplace werewolf is no easy task. Aside from the wounds, it can lead to its own kind of anxiety and self doubt. Just when you think you’ve had enough and you’ve figured them out, the full moon passes and they are back to normal leaving you scratching your head, wondering “what just happened?”. So if you think you’re working with a workplace werewolf, what can you do?
Watch for a Full Moon
Like any werewolf, a full moon triggers fangs, foaming and fury. If you think you’ve got a workplace werewolf on your hands, your first step is to identify his or her full moon. Maybe it’s his / her boss. Or maybe it is that customer that gets under their skin. Or perhaps it is something you can’t see like issues at home. Either way, if you know what their full moon is, you can learn to protect yourself by keeping a safe distance when you think they might be getting ready to “wolf out.”
And like werewolves in the movies, most workplace werewolves claim to not know what happened during their full moon episodes. Call it embarrassment or a lack of self awareness, whatever may be the case, don’t expect a remorseful apology from a workplace werewolf. More likely they are going to go on as if nothing happened. This can leave victims not only tending to their wounds, but utterly confused. More importantly, it will make the story of vicious snarling attacks at the office difficult to swallow for higher ups that only see your mild-mannered co-worker.
Your Silver Bullets
You have a few options for dealing with a workplace werewolf. Consider the following silver bullets:
- If your workplace werewolf is a co-worker or a boss (but not THE boss) band together with other co-workers. Never allow yourself to be alone with the potential werewolf. Witnesses and team complaints are your best strategy to get others to take you seriously and investigate what “really” has been going on.
- If you want the werewolf to change their ways, confront the co-worker with the nasty truth. In most cases, the best solution for addressing a workplace werewolf is for the werewolf to be invited to leave. However, in rare cases it is possible for a workplace werewolf to change his or her ways. This requires an openness to feedback and a willingness to confront their inner beastie. With good coaching and hard work, change is possible. If you consider this route, be thoughtful on who delivers the message. Only the most trusted colleague will be able to deliver the news and not trigger another episode.
- If the werewolf is THE boss, pack your backs. Finally, if you have the unfortunate pleasure of working for a workplace werewolf that is THE boss of your office (in other words, they don’t have a boss AND can’t be fired), your best option is to leave. Confronting the boss werewolf in these situations may only anger them to historic proportions. While not ideal for fixing the werewolf problem, a quite exit may be your safest strategy.
So, if you find yourself in the clutches of a workplace werewolf, stay close to your friends, watch out for full moons and keep your silver bullets handy. Follow those guidelines and you should live to see another sunrise.
The Workplace Therapist Featured on The Today Show
For more, read the entire My Coworker is Scary series.