The Arc of Anger in the Workplace

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:

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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.

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“A faint knock on the door…”

“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.

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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.

“But, Bridget?”

“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.

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“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?

  1.  No filters- speaks in negative terms
  2.  Only one of the side of the story is important- hers
  3.  Blames others for her shortcomings
  4.  Allows impatience to fuel anger
  5.  No compassion
  6.   Seems “put upon” – perhaps a by-product of overwhelm or large undertakings beyond her scope of time or skill
  7.   No delegation of role- did not refer to human resources
  8.   Not a champion for the team- lack of respect
  9.   No leadership skills
  10.   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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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! kat@taprootsforlife.com               929-333-4624

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Leadership: InPower? or EMpower?

With the recent occurrences in our world, I felt compelled to write about the attributes of a true leader in any situation, whether it be in our family, at school, at work, social networks and other places where leadership can elevate or sabotage an event or situation.

In my years of management, I experienced empowering mentors and ineffective mentors.  While the empowering mentors helped me grow, the ineffective ones also taught me a lot about growth in a different manner.

I will share a couple stories that bring out the qualities that make someone ineffective as a leader in an organization, and share other stories that create a spark in the consciousness that make people come alive in a work setting.

file8841263254299I was already a single mom in my 20’s, a budding manager,and excited to help people succeed. I knew I had a lot to learn and looked up to my superiors to teach me the ropes.  What I quickly learned was that not all managers were effective.

Maureen (not her real name) was an experienced nurse in her prime years of care for patients.  She partnered with another nurse and created a successful hospice service to patients experiencing end of life.

Maureen shared with me that the only reason she became a nurse was that she was forced by her parents to choose a profession and that it was mandatory that she attend a prestigious college.  Her decision was to become a nurse because it was the shortest path to gaining a degree that her parents desired for her. This was Maureen’s path.

I attended my interview Maureen and her partner, complete with suit, pumps, and pad and paper for notes. I answered their questions and shared my experience.  I liked the diversity of the two personalities and enjoyed the short conversation.  I walked away from the interview not knowing if I was hired.  Two days later, I received the call:  “You’re hired.”

In my five years with this organization, I created better communication, scheduling practices, and earned the owners’ trust in running the organization in their absence.  But, then the abuse arrived at my door like a thief in the night.

Maureen lived in a world of fear, hatred, and self-doubt.  She was used to gettangry-womaning what she wanted no matter how unrealistic or painful it was for others around her.  She stomped her feat, screamed, and slammed doors.  This was her management style.  The company’s turnover hovered around 75%.  But, I was not a quitter.

I soon became known by my peers as the “whipping post” for everything that went wrong, even though I was not technically overseeing anything, except those I oversaw in a closely controlled, loosely described supervisory role.  I knew this would be the case, but I was just learning and at the bottom rungs of my career.  I could take a little abuse (I had already been there, I thought, with an abusive husband).

One day, Maureen, came to me and openly reversed on a principle that she made known to everyone in the organization.  She told me to do something morally wrong that served her purpose to appear “large” in the eyes of a client, who was well-known in the community.

file4781300045861Humbly, I repeated her principle back to her and she came unglued. Big mistake on my part. Her arms began flailing in the air, her eyes on fire, feet stomping, and her voice raged like the fury of a mother jaguar.  She came at me, all five feet of scrambled wildness to my five foot nine.  She wrinkled her face, lunged up at me, and screamed for over five minutes.  After a minute, it was like hearing the teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons: “wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.”  Then…silence came.  I drew in a deep breath and without a beat,  calmly asked her if she was finished and said, ” Thank you, may I get back to work, now?”

Maureen spiraled around in a fit of flames, stomped to her office and flung the door shut, creating a jarring slam that I am convinced woke the dead.   Nothing was resolved, and I was still sitting with a dilemma that could have lost us a very valuable account.

This was my first experience with a manager who had no respect for herself or others. She never took time to understand a person or situation before losing her true identity as a caring person (who was, sadly, lost).  There is more to this story, but I digress and put this one on a shelf to tell you about an effective manager.

About ten years later, I was hired as a manager to an international organization that provided internal service to hospitals.  I worked for seven years before making it to corporate management.  Just prior to getting there, I was under the direction of a boss who looked out for people. He helped them become successful.  He asked their opinions, offered engagement in processes.  He valued the people who worked with him. He went by the name Garvey.

Garvey took time with me when I was frustrated that I could not get buy-in from the teams on some of my projects.  He taught me about people and the importance of meeting them where they are.  Further, he saw something in me that I knew, but never really took it to heart.

Garvey asked me, “Do you believe that leaders are created or born?”  I truly believed that leaders could be both.  I believed there were leaders who were ineffective – think Hitler – and those who empowered others -think Mother Teresa.   Garvey and I got along quite well, and he became my professional mentor.  He helped me learn how to take over his job.  I came from the same school of thought – teach others to be at least as successful as me.

One day, I was called into Garvey’s conference room “office.” He traveled to multiple locations within the region.  He said, “shut the door and lock it behind you, we are going to have a discussion.”  Needless to say, I was very concerned. Very…

“Kat,” Garvey said, “I want you to know some things about your management style and what you do with your skills.” Now, I was seriously contemplating handing him a resignation.  “You possess the skills of a leader that I have not seen in a long time.”  As I wiped the sweat from my brow and shook my head, I felt myself looking around to see who he was talking to.  I relaxed into the conversation.

Garvey was talking in a very serious manner.  He had my attention.  “You will be the next regional manager,” he said.  I was speechless.  The silence felt like hours.  I gulped and responded, “But, Garvey, I have no formal degree, or any accounting background, or…”

“Stop,” he said.  “Hear me out. You possess the qualities of a good leader.  You’re not perfect, but you know it.  You set a standard, hold people accountable, but teach them how to be successful. These are the signs of a true leader in my book.”

I nearly cried to hear these words, especially since I recalled the prior conversation when he informed me of his belief that leaders were born.  He really believed that!  So, I sucked up my “girliness” and choked back the tears.  I began to feel my confidence rise with his words.  I felt like I had real purpose in this huge company where employee’s ambitions easily became homogenized, for lack of solid managers to support them.

Later in the year, Garvey retired, and the next director called me into his office.  He said the familiar words I learned about leadership, and I was promoted to the next regional manager -over thirteens states.  My time with Garvey, and other effective mentors along the way, had been fruitful.  I put in the work and it paid off.

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Today, I  have learned so many lessons: from others, and my own shortcomings, as well as the celebrated successes in life and business.  I am now an empowered woman in her golden years, still leading with my love for people and helping them get to a place that brings empowerment to their own lives- a place of happiness and freedom.  I am ever so grateful for the people like Maureen and Garvey who taught me so much about the person I’ve always wanted to be.

 

 

When we empower ourselves, we have completed our own  basic need for attention, the need to feel validated or heard.  We begin to see ourselves in others’ eyes, seeing our own places of opportunity while being grateful to be in the presence of these teachers in our lives.

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Kat is a Professional Core Alignment Mentor who specializes in the art and science of NeuroLinguistic Programming and Emotional Wisdom Training.

She has helped many people realize their own potential, improve parenting, build confidence, respond more wisely to stress, and more.

Kat’s practice spans the globe for English-speaking people.  Her passion is helping people awaken the light of wisdom within themselves to live a life of joy.

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Contact:  info@taprootsforlife.com

Site:  https://taprootsforlife.com