Today’s topic isn’t strictly just a management discussion, although it does occur in the business world. I seem to be running into a very specific type of person recently. Both in my professional life and my personal life. Have you ever worked with, or know in the outside world, the “woe is me” person?
Doing a little research I learned that the origin of the phrase came from the Old Testament in the form of “woe unto me” and it has been used in multiple places since then. Shakespeare used it in Hamlet back in 1602, so the phrase is one that’s been in use, in different forms, for thousands of years. The phrase is considered to be an exclamation of sorrow and misfortune, but today I’m going to utilize it to describe a very certain type of person many of us encounter.
These “woe is me” people seem to always feel sorry for themselves and wish that you do the same. In all actuality they might have a reason to be depressed however, they allow it to take over their entire demeanor and everything in their life. There’s a reason the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” exists and these people clearly didn’t get the memo.
“Woe is me” individuals want to bring you into their world of darkness so that you’ll feel sorry for them. Often you’ll find them using this trait as a way to deflect or be an excuse for things they haven’t followed through on. For example, in the professional world you might find someone who has several examples of why they didn’t get a contract to you on time because their personal life is falling down around them.
The “woe is me” person’s pet might be sick and, because they’ve been focusing on taking care of that, they are now sick as well as someone in their family and the guy they know around the block. All of those reasons, along with a myriad of others, will be why they didn’t manage to fulfill their end of the professional bargain. They want you to tell them that it is okay they haven’t done their job because they obviously have a lot on their plate.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t be caring and considerate, but I am saying that we all have a lot to deal with around our professional life. Many of us report to work each day, fulfill our business obligations and no one is the wiser to what is going on in our personal lives. I went through my entire divorce without it bringing my professional career to a screeching halt but, the “woe is me” person will make it a point to get sympathy from every individual they encounter in order to validate that their life is rougher then the rest of ours.
This person is difficult to work with, but remember they will eventually show their true colors and have themselves removed from the picture if you can just be patient enough. Companies eventually see that their life is just one long stream of “woe is me” stories woven together to disguise their lack of business prowess. The best thing you can do is stay professional and hold them accountable, as eventually that is what will cause everyone around them to see what you’ve seen all along.