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I have been working at my current job for a little under a year, and am generally quite happy - apart from sitting one desk down from a project manager who seems to be quite depressed and frustrated. He is constantly sighing and complaining. I cannot explain how this feels apart from just saying that I constantly get bad vibes from him. What's more, I think he dislikes me through a combination of jealousy (I have an easier job) and the fact that I am a foreigner.

So I guess my question is how do you deal with depressed individuals? And how do you stop their mood from getting to you?

  • This article might be good reading. I've found that perspective to be useful. – enderland Dec 15 '15 at 14:45
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    While I appreciate your acceptance of my answer, @Lukas_T, I want to point out that we generally encourage you not to accept an answer too quickly. You may want to give other people a chance to submit an answer as well and accepting early tends to discourage other people from replying. You are free to change or remove the mark-as-answered tick at any time and you may want to do so and wait one or two days before evaluating the answers you received and accepting the one that you found the most helpful. – Lilienthal Dec 15 '15 at 15:06
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    In an empty, Godless, meaningless universe utterly devoid of hope or human warmth, where genuine communication is an impossibility, you're worried about your manager? Why? He's racing to the grave as fast as you are. Focus on your own anguish. It's the only thing that's really yours. – Ed Plunkett Dec 16 '15 at 3:34
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So I guess my question is how do you deal with depressed individuals?

Ignore them.

and how do you stop their mood from getting to you?

See above.

Now, for a less facetious answer: you should only do something if a colleague's behaviour becomes a distraction to the point where it is interfering with your work. In your situation, those sighs and complaints might rise to that level, in which case your first action should be to ask the person directly if he can tone it down. Your tone should be respectful but how you word that depends on your culture, relative position in the hierarchy and a lot of other factors.

If you've tried that many times without effect, you might have to learn to live with the behaviour or. If it's truly a disruption, you can escalate this to your manager who may or may not do something about it, or HR where the same caveat applies. Only go to HR if you know they're receptive to this kind of thing and have shown competence in the past. When you're raising this, focus on the behaviour, how it impacts you and remain matter-of-fact and non-judgemental. Explain that you've tried to work it out with the individual directly but that it's had no effect.

In fact, you should treat this as general "my coworker's behaviour is annoying me" situation. That question has been covered here before: What can I do about a very loud coworker?

As for his dislike of you, your coworkers don't have to like you to maintain a professional relationship. Jealousy and bigotry are personal defects that say much more about this colleague than about you. Write him off as a boor and remain professional but distant. If his behaviour is more severe than you describe that is a different problem and there are a fair number of question on the site about dealing with such a situation.

As for the broader question of depression: a person's mood, medical history or psychological condition is really no concern of yours. Guessing at a diagnosis is pointless: you should just focus on a person's behaviour and aim to preserve a good working relationship. About the only exception to this is when a person is exhibiting signs of compromised functioning or severe medical symptoms: expressing suicidal thoughts, delusions, suddenly slurred speech and so on. But such signs are typically very recognisable and they're a far cry from someone feeling frustrated or a bit melancholic at work.

  • +1 for talking to them first a few times. Depression is no joke and I can hazard that HR does not like someone complaining about a depressed person without talking to them first. – Magisch Dec 15 '15 at 14:38
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    @Magisch True, but I'd argue that depression shouldn't even enter into it. It's not the OP's job to diagnose a colleague, he should just focus on what concerns him: how this behaviour impacts him. (Post updated) – Lilienthal Dec 15 '15 at 14:43
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    Thats very true. The other person's medical history is absolutely not their business. – Magisch Dec 15 '15 at 14:48
  • I had a coworker who suffered from depression, and I did exactly what you suggested for 5 years. He sat on the other side of the cubicle. The only habit he had was he'd tap his foot sometimes but after making him aware - he wore headphones and couldn't hear it - he stopped. During the last year I was there his personality changed and he was no longer depressed and seemed more sociable. Turns out he went to a doctor and got medicine to treat his depression. Honestly forgot he even worked there for probably a few years since we worked at different times often. Was very effective. – Sirisian Dec 15 '15 at 22:27
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Everyone is different. You will have to work with all kinds of people. It may be that he is just that kind of person. It may be that his child is in hospital and won't survive for more than six months. Do you know which one it is?

Look at it like this: Would you rather be annoyed about this "depressed" colleague, or would you rather your colleagues being annoyed about you? In other words, would you swap places with him? If not, be happy that you are in your position and not in his position.

And if you think that he dislikes you because you are a foreigner, that means he is a foreigner to you, which means you may very well be misinterpreting signals completely wrong.

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