Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bad Moods Really Put Me in a Bad Mood

“Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around.”
~ Bill Watterson

One might think a person who grew up with five older sisters would have a PhD in moodiness, but that was not my experience. Sure, we indulged in plenty of sibling arguing, but generalized, all-encompassing bad-moodiness? My parents would never have tolerated it.

About 15 years ago the company I worked for transferred me to a busy department where everyone was in a bad mad mood at all times. There were reasons for this — the work was intense and stressful, everyone was underpaid and the EVP in charge was a nasty piece of work indeed. Thankfully, the evil boss was soon replaced by a generous, kind man who gave everyone raises, told us often how wonderful we were and literally sang and danced to cheer us up on days when multiple deadlines were weighing us down. (Hello, Neil, wherever you are.) It surprised me that months later, the general bad moodiness remained. In fact, it lasted until the gloomiest employees quit.

This is when I learned that once the bad mood vibe settles in, it is toxic, contagious and fixed.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that not having to deal with other people’s bad moods is one of the primary benefits of working for myself. I was having some screening exams at an MRI emporium, and the woman at the reception desk had the practiced pout of a dedicated bad-moodist. I won’t bore you with the details, but her behavior ultimately led me to say, facetiously, “Sorry you’re in such a bad mood today.” Strangely, her behavior improved immediately. She must have thought I was serious. A lesson for the future?

“On a bad day, I have mood swings - but on a good day, I have the whole mood playground.”

~ Charles Rosenblum


  1. Bad moods are fiercely contagious, more so I think than good moods, though the latter can carry too. What you say about avoiding moodiness being a benefit of self-employment is very true, and little discussed.

    People get into habits of moods, often not realising that it's generally possible to talk oneself out of them, and that one's ability to do this improves immeasurably with practice. It's also possible, as you showed with a deft remark, to embarrass or surprise people out of it, by undermining the self-pitying funk that underlies many a strop.

    Neil sounds great.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I suspect the bad mood habit starts in childhood for many people. By adulthood, it's a way of life. No wonder my parents brooked no sulking — can you imagine six girls pouting around all at once?

    One of my friends makes a point of getting sulky people to laugh. It's a true gift. He just quoted his Laurel and Hardy poster to me: Talk Happiness. The World Is Sad Enough.

    And yes, Neil was great.

  4. The worst job I had was at an accounting firm where everyone was in a bad mood and complained all day. So depressing. I left within months.

  5. Virginia, I was out doing interviews when the new boss arrived. But for him, I would have left in a matter of weeks, too.