Do You Work with a Mood Hoover?

hooverMood Hoovers. They suck the life and energy out of you. You know the ones. When you walk into a meeting, see them sitting there and your heart sinks.  Mood Hoovers moan. Mood Hoovers blame. Mood Hoovers complain. They find fault. They play the victim role. They are never happy. Mood Hoovers are never satisfied. You feel as though you have just gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. No matter what you do or say your energy is flat.

There’s a great story about Sir Clive Woodward and mood hoovers.

Back in 1997 he took his 40man England Rugby Team training with the Royal Marines. Unfortunately he’d already picked his team for the World Cup. His story went something like this:

At the end of the event, he asked the Sergeant Major what he thought of his team. Here was his assessment:

“Well, sir, You have three men in your squad whom I would not go into battle with. I don’t know if these three guys are good rugby players or not. I don’t know if they have superior skills to the others or if they make better decisions under pressure than some you have left behind.

But, in the Marines, we know there are certain people in life who live for themselves and only themselves. They are more interested in their own good, not the success of the team. If something goes wrong, it is someone else’s fault.

 If they see themselves in competition with a colleague, they will undermine that person by making snide comments behind their back or lobbying others against them. They are not capable of taking personal responsibility for their own actions. They suck attention from those around them and don’t give anything back.

We call them energy-sappers”.
Clive Woodward then went onto define what an energy sapper was and his preferred role of ‘energiser’.

Sapbleed, deplete, devitalise, drain, erode, exhaust, undermine, weaken, and wear down.

Energy: drive, efficiency, exertion, fire, force, intensity, power, stamina, strength

Clive Woodward believed that energy sappers are the biggest obstacle to success.

So what exactly can you do about Mood Hoovers?

Here are five ideas for handling Mood Hoovers:


1)      Avoid them.

Now that’s easier said than done. But if you know that your energy is affected by them, then have absolute minimum interaction with them.

2)      Find something positive about them.

We can often find that the more we think about these individuals the angrier and frustrated we become. It’s self-perpetuating and can eat away at you. So a trick is to find something that you do value about them, one thing that they do well (no matter how small). Then when you do have to interact with them play this positive thing over and over again in your mind. You’ll be surprised at how well you energy responds.

3)      Dig out Stephen Covey’s Circle of Influence v Circle of Concern

This is a great pragmatic tool. Mood Hoovers are usually focused on all of the concerns – the things that we cannot do anything about. This model says okay, let’s park the things we can’t do anything about (and acknowledge what they are). And then look at all the things we can do something about. Challenge each other on what is possible.

4)      Challenge their behaviour.

That’s right! They genuinely may not know what impact they are having on others. You can either do this directly (and provide examples); through a 360 feedback assessment or through coaching. They may be technically too good to let go. So help them by providing some support on their behaviour skills.

5)      Let them go.

And if that doesn’t work you need to find ways of getting rid of them. If they are not prepared to change then the damage they will do to team morale and performance is too great.

Clive Woodward lost the World Cup back in 1997. He didn’t make the same mistake next time – he ensured his team were full of ‘energisers’. Is yours?

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How to Deal with Passive Aggressive Behaviour

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