Did you ever experience a person of authority in the workplace who “ruled” with anger? I say “ruled” because you really can’t call it managing, and you really can’t call them a manager or even a leader. Although people who accept this barbaric style (do I seem a bit passionate about this subject?) of “ruling” will call it managing. Well, I am here to talk about this beast of anger that exists in millions of businesses from the executive offices to the person who sweeps the floors.
It is the dream of every business owner and manager to have team that is aligned, balanced and satisfied. When the entire team has this mindset, there is little turnover, better bottom lines, the business simply thrives with ease. But if the leader falls short of these expectations, the ripple runs deep throughout the organization. Consider this story about one potential leader:
A nurse (we’ll call her Carol) stepped into her boss’ office one day to discuss the time off structure. “I believe that part-timers should get paid vacation, too. I have worked here for one year and have not been able to take time off. with pay” Her boss (Bridget) was surprised by her request, since she only worked two to three days per week and had the rest of the week to call “vacation.” “Carol, we’ve had this discussion before and it seems that other part-time nurses are completely satisfied in working with the current structure. What else do you have to talk with me about?”
Carol’s anger was mounting as she resolved that she had no other choice but to be persistent – today. It was important to her and her family. “Bridget, this is really important to me and I wish you would not dismiss it as though it were not. Each year my family would like to take vacation without my loss of income. I’m only asking for a week, for God’s sake!”
Bridget stood up from her desk. “We are done here. You have come to me for six months, ungrateful for the job I have given you, and you ask for paid vacation while others are perfectly happy with this arrangement. I am not going to re-write policy for one person, let alone a part-timer who is consistent whining!”
Tears brimming in her eyes, Carol left and went back to her desk. She couldn’t show this tyrant her defeat, although she felt defeated and a failure. She wanted Bridget to at least consider her request just once. She believed it was a small request that would show little impact. Two days a week? Really? This nursing agency can’t afford that?! C’mon!!
Bridget slammed her door upon the heels of Carol’s exit. She was billowing with the internal fires of anger. How dare her, coming in here like a princess, demanding that she have more perks than what we already give! She is such a pre-madonna witch!! I oughta just fire her and put myself out of this misery each month.
A faint knock on the door in intervals of three caught her attention. “What?!” she shouted.
“Bridget, a man has been waiting to see you for about 20 minutes, ” said the receptionist. “He said he only has 10 more minutes to wait.”
“Tell him that he was late, so he’s just going to have to reschedule,” Bridget barked back.
“Yes, ma’am, I will tell him, but he is here to audit our files.” Bridget’s body began to shake, she felt out of control. “It’s that damn Carol, she started all of this, this morning! “
Bridget instructed the receptionist to detain the auditor just a few more minutes because she had to take care of something extremely important. The staff could hear her vindictive sounding high heels stomping through the walls of cubicles. Who will be next? They were used to this weekly turmoil from Bridget’s office. Always someone getting reprimanded or fired. They were nearly immune to the continuous drama.
Her stomps stopped at Carol’s cubicle. Bridget hovered over Carol as she sat nervously fumbling through papers and not daring to look up at the “monster.” “Carol?” Carol did not dare look her in the eye, she trembled with fear. “I called your name, I deserve your attention, Carol.” She finally complied with a wincing eye-response.
“Bridget?” A long pause seemed to suck the air from Carol’s lungs.
“Carol, you have caused my whole day to be disrupted, late for my appointment, and it is 9am and you are not out seeing patients. How can I expect to run a decent agency when one nurse cannot comply like the rest?” Carol mustered up the courage to regain her composure.
“What do you want now, Carol?!” Bridget screamed back in single word accents. ” I have someone important waiting!!”
“Today is my day off. I came in on my day off to meet with you, so I will not be seeing patients, today.”
“Fine, that’s just fine. See, you have a day off! I do not, however, and need to get to an appointment. You can pack up your stuff and get the hell out of here. You have caused too much disruption in the flow of work around here!” With that, Carol experienced a calmness that seemingly came out of nowhere. “Not a problem, Bridget. I will be gone, today. All of my equipment is setting on the counter. Have a successful year, Bridget.”
Expecting a fight from Carol, Bridget needed more fuel for her anger. She stomped back to the front desk where the auditor was waiting. She shoved her hand in his face, smiled with all teeth, and made her introduction. She turned dryly and led the man back to her office, again digging her heels into the floor as she walked.
The auditor asked for a glass of water and Bridget stopped for a deep breath, rolled her eyes, and called the receptionist to bring back a pitcher of water and two glasses. None of her actions and words went unnoticed by the auditor. He was within clear ear-shot of the earlier conversation and the eye-roll was the next straw that were tipping the scales of his awaited report.
“Bridget, we met three months ago and discussed a few items that did not pass my audit. Would you present your response and demonstrate the process outcomes?”
“I sent those to you, Mr. Clark, on tie so I thought you were here to clear our response to the discrepancies. Did you receive them?”
“Well, yes, but I need to see how you corrected the process.”
“Oh, the process! The process, yes. Well, the nurses took care of that.”
As you read this story, you can see where Bridget’s fate is headed. What can you point out as some of the key components of how her anger is mounting to an arc, like a flashpoint of fire?
- No filters- speaks in negative terms
- Only one of the side of the story is important- hers
- Blames others for her shortcomings
- Allows impatience to fuel anger
- No compassion
- Seems “put upon” – perhaps a by-product of overwhelm or large undertakings beyond her scope of time or skill
- No delegation of role- did not refer to human resources
- Not a champion for the team- lack of respect
- No leadership skills
- Does not see how her actions affect everyone around her (remember the fearing people in the cubicles?)
It appears that Bridget allowed her anger to surpass what was really important – apparently on a daily basis.
What? You don’t think these managers still exist in the workplace in our current society of being equal and kind to one another (tongue in cheek)? Hmmm. Ask around, they exist more than you know. What is important is that you recognize it, report it, and possibly offer help to bring balance – if you are that type of person who is strong enough to handle this style of management. Work with your human resource department, and get some coaching to arm yourself with mental tools to care for yourself.
Now, what to do about Bridget. Eventually, Bridget was reported by Carol to the human resources director. With Carol’s persistence and accurate reporting, the human resources department referred Bridget to a coaching program. Their company had an employee assistance program that included six weeks of coaching. Of course Bridget was resistant because her anger was still at the arc of destruction – self-destruction and workplace destruction.
After several phone calls from human resources, and finally a warning, Bridget succumbed and scheduled her first coaching session. She agreed to “meet” her coach over the phone on her lunch break (which Bridget had to create time for to make this work).
Her assigned coach, Cara, greeted her with openness and grace. Immediately, Bridget began spewing out all of her woes with work and how she feels like she could die due to all the stress. She said she was on a heart monitor and taking a sleep study because she cannot sleep and her heart was beating a “million miles a minute.”
Cara allowed her to download for about 10 minutes and then stopped her to ask a question: “What’s your favorite time of year?” Bridget stopped her spinning abruptly and answered the question. Cara always viewed this as the magic that intercepts the arc of anger. Surprised with the abrupt cadence, Bridget responded, “I like Summer, why?” And, the healing began.
Bridget attended Cara’s sessions for the maximum allowed, then hired her for the next year. Bridget had broken a cycle that was causing her suffering for so many years. Each session brought more clarity of her anger: she was angry about her father leaving when she was 10, she was the primary caregiver of her siblings when her mother went to night classes, she had no friends at school, she struggled through college; and, the list went on.
All of these incidents and events in her life impacted how she would interpret the journey in her adult life. ‘Fight them off before they get to know you‘ became her internal mantra. However, without external intervention she may have lived with this in her mind for the rest of her life, impacting everyone around her and beyond (ever “kicked the cat” when you came home from work? It’s called the domino-effect.).
Bridget took a short leave of absence, at the recommendation of the director. She was lucky, very lucky to have a director who saw her potential and did not allow Bridget’s emotional “baggage” to cloud what she knew was important: take care of the person and the rest will come.
When Bridget returned to work, she – bravely- held a meeting and shared her journey. Most of her staff were understanding and willing to start over. Others had their own arcs of anger that Bridget would embrace as a new journey, just like her boss had done for her.
The agency was able to reclaim their license with Bridget’s new diplomatic process. She created a new policy for all meetings that included listening to each individual who had something to input. Bridget made it a priority to really “hear” the complaints and concerns of her staff and to help them make a better impact on the world with their own happiness. Bridget was finally aligned, balanced and satisfied.
Kat is a professional mentor, author, and women’s advocate who specializes in the art and science of Core Alignment, NeuroLinguistic Programming and Emotional Wisdom Training, and holds a certificate in the Psychology of Happiness.
She offers programs for life and business, featuring Women’s Enrichment Programs and Diversity in Business.Ask about her POW (Power of Wisdom) Tribes! firstname.lastname@example.org 929-333-4624
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