he other day I was approached by an acquaintance who was offering me a great opportunity to be a part of a great organization where a lot of money could be made with very little work. He got my name in passing and was good at following up leads. During his call to schedule a time to meet and discuss this opportunity further, I found myself in a dilemma. While this may indeed be a good option to explore further and the guy offering this was a new acquaintance, there was no way I was going to add anything more to my schedule, especially another job. So what to do?
A little into the call I simply told him “no”. I was not interested in adding anything more to my life. A few years ago I would have gone into even more of an explanation and justification of my answer in hopes to not hurt his feelings or our relationship. But I have discovered that the art of saying “no” is often enough in itself. No explanation is usually needed unless it is requested and the relationship is higher on the importance list.
Saying “no” is easy when it is a telephone solicitor or via email. As the degree of contact and the importance of the person rises, saying “no” is more difficult. However, it is important to be able to tell even the important people in life “no” if you hope to have more authority and power over your life. Being able to take charge of your life may mean that everything and everyone will not fit into your dreams and goals. It’s time to face the fact that some things and people are energy drainers. You dread the conversations with them when you meet in the hall at work. You see their name on the caller ID and your insides tighten, but you still answer the phone (even though your voicemail works fine).
Let’s begin to employ the art of saying “no” more frequently. For some of you that may mean this week you only tell two people “no”. Which would double your normal rate. Start small and work your way up. This week, when faced with something you really don’t want to do, say so. When given the wrong order at the restaurant, speak up. This is an easy way to learn how to say “no” which will increase the likelihood that you will be able to say it to more people, even those towards the top of the importance list.
Saying “no” allows you to stay on target with your values and goals. I do not recommend saying “no” just for the sake of saying “no”. Say it to take charge of your time. To take charge of your family. Your marriage. Your job. Your recreation. And say “no” without a long drawn out explanation, which often turns into excuses. Say “no” confidently. It will empower your spirit and your life!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
While driving down the highway in the fast lane, the person in front of you appears to have no idea what the fast lane means. After running all over town with the kids, you arrive home. They know they have rooms yet insist that the entire house is their closet and drop things wherever they please. It’s your birthday and your best friend gets you just what you needed, nothing. It seems that in these instances, the first reaction is to take things personally. As if what was done was intentional, a personal attack.
As odd as it sounds, we often think that there are many forces against us and we are innocent bystanders. I don’t agree. While there are some truly random events, much of what happens is our own doing. How we feel and react to the things going on around us will largely determine what happens to us. In the preceding examples, what makes us think that the things that happen to us are directed at us? Instead of reacting with a “How dare you!” we often react with a “How dare you do this to me!” The truth of the matter is that each person is really more concerned about themselves than they are others. It’s survival of the fittest. The person driving slow in front of me in traffic is more concerned about having a wide open lane ahead of them than they are with me getting past.
A lot of our life is spent worrying about what others may think or feel about us. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, we wouldn’t worry near as much about what others thought about us if we knew how seldom they did. When we are emotionally reactive to things in life, we give up our power to choose. If we take things personally, whether intended personally or not, our reaction intensifies. All of the sudden we have to defend ourselves, though many times a response is not warranted. Instead it would be better if we could learn the art of self-soothing. To be able to calm ourselves in the midst of emotional reactions opens a whole new range of responses.
We all have this ability. We are born with it. Just the other day, my 2 year old was climbing up on a toy in the house for the first time. As I watched her, she had a moment of pause just before she stood up tall and proud. In that moment of pause, she gathered herself and found the internal courage to stand. We do the same thing just before we honestly speak our mind, or address an issue with our spouse or kids. Self-soothing can be enhanced and used in all situations. And doing so gives you much more power over life’s circumstances.
To put this another way; you teach people how to treat you. If you feel that many people treat you wrong or take advantage of you, it only happens because you let them. Learning how to self-sooth, then stand up will produce a different outcome. This in turn will change the way others treat you. If you demand respect, trust, love, honor, comfort, or whatever, accept nothing less. Whenever you receive less than you expect, rather than taking it personally and reacting as such, calm yourself and address the issue. Either put yourself in their shoes and see it from their perspective or stand up and be honest, or both. If this honesty comes from both your mind and heart, it carries much more weight than just emotional reactivity.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Have you ever wondered why there are times in life when it seems that you are simply coasting along? Throughout life, there are many tasks that must be undertaken in order to experience a life or relationship that is more alive. Granted there will be times when each of us may be bogged down with a particular event or stage in life (I have a 2 year old and a 3 month old in my house, needless to say, life right now is about them). Life has its natural ebbs and flows of emotion. But if you find yourself asking the preceding title question frequently, let me offer you some hope.
First, you are not alone. There are many, many people that have chosen to settle into their schedule driven life and have begun to believe that this is all there is for them and their loved ones. For many people, a routine life full of kid’s activities, homework, one week of family vacation per year, grocery lists, church meetings, carpool, etc. is enough for right now. What about later? When the kids are grown and out of the house (hopefully not boomeranging back). Have you planned that far in advance? Incidentally, did you know that the second most frequent period of relationships experiencing divorce is after the kids are out of the house? When you are forced to spend time with your spouse whom you may have avoided by “diving” into your kid’s life for all those years. You don’t have to wait that long (to change something, not get divorced).
Second, something can be done now that can begin the process of experiencing a life that is more fully alive. Experience a life full of passion, energy, love, adventure, and fun. It begins by asking yourself a series of simple questions: Would you want to be married to you? Would you want you as your father/mother? Would you want to work for you? Be friends with you? When we can honestly answer these questions, we have entered the beginnings of a life transforming process.
Far too often we want or expect those around us to change and accommodate us. We also may fall victim to the stagnating process of waiting for the other person to change before we respond. Let me explain by personalizing this. There have been times in my marriage when I have grown tired of the routine we have established of interacting, but I wait for my wife to do something different before I do. And to compound the issue, while I am waiting for her to read my mind, I get frustrated that she doesn’t respond fast enough or adequately to my unspoken expectations. Now I know how you may be responding to this; if she truly loved me and understood my needs, she should just know. If you are thinking this, you have fallen victim to the Hollywoodization of relationships. Just because you are in a marriage/committed relationship/close friendship/family does not mean that you cease to exist as an autonomous being. One with your own hopes and dreams and fantasies.
Having a life that is more fully alive, starts with you. By answering these questions honestly, you can begin to grow yourself into a better human. However, this does not come easily. This honest assessment of self and life is often accompanied by a spike in our levels of anxiety and discomfort. This is why we settle into the routine of life and don’t rock the boat. What I am proposing is that you have the willingness to stand up and address the things in your own life that get in the way of the life you want and in turn, take charge of your life and become more fully alive.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ask for help. When we ask, we run the risk of being told, “no,” having our needs dismissed or invalidated. As a result, we may become fiercely independent, determined to do it all ourselves. Or we may become bossy and demanding, hiding our vulnerability by voicing our needs as demands. Either way, if it doesn’t feel safe to ask for what we need, we can’t be close to our partners, and ultimately, that’s what we really want.
If you find yourself in one of these two roles, it may be time to try something new – something like, “Sweetheart, I’m feeling overwhelmed (or tired or unmotivated…), and I need your help with something.” If this approach feels scary, it may be useful to sit with a therapist who can help you get the words out and help your partner practice listening so that it really IS safe to ask for what you need.
It may also help to preface the conversation, preparing your partner that you’re about to do something hard, and need him/her to be kind. Maybe even showing him/her this posting as a way of introducing the topic. Though it may be uncomfortable for both of you at first, knowing that you can ask for what you need and that your partner will listen without judgment can make you both feel closer and more connected.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Women seem to have a reputation for being “catty” and competitive with other women, unlike how men behave with other men. This is a curious notion, especially since women are actually less competitive than men out in the world and less comfortable being competitive.
How can we make sense of this paradox?
Healthy competition and confidence are encouraged in boys but often seen as undesirable traits in girls. Team spirit and friendship provide the glue that strengthens and bonds men when competition prevails. Not surprisingly, men are typically comfortable with competition and see winning as an essential part of the game, rarely feeling bad for others after a victory, and maintaining camaraderie with their buddies.
Because women learn that they are not supposed to be competitive and win at others’ expense, their natural competitive spirit cannot be shared openly, happily, or even jokingly with other women. In such situations, when aggression cannot be channeled into a healthy, positive edge, it becomes inhibited and goes underground. What could have been healthy competition becomes a secret feeling of envy and desire for the other to fail – laced with guilt and shame.
Thus, what looks like hostile competition between women may instead mask feelings of insecurity, fear of success, and healthy aggression. Women, often experts at being tuned in and sensitive to others’ feelings, may easily overidentify with other women’s insecurities, projecting how they would feel in the other’s shoes and then feeling bad about their own success. Women learn to feel guilty for feeling happy and successful – and with their female friends who may not be having such luck, they may experience their own success as hurtful to their friend. This can make it uncomfortable for a woman to share and enjoy her accomplishments with her female friends.
In a common example, women may feel uncomfortable or self-conscious discussing their dieting success or weight loss with certain friends. They may even eat high-calorie foods they don’t desire when with a friend who is struggling with her own weight but having trouble being disciplined with food. In such situations, women may succumb to what they experience as an instinctive pressure to protect their friend in this way, sabotaging themselves but insulated from becoming the object of envy and resentment.
Interestingly, in friendships with men, where men and women are often competing in different arenas, these issues of competition usually do not come into play. Women don’t perceive men to be as vulnerable and sensitive as women, or threatened by success, and are therefore freed up from worrying about their feelings in this way. Further, women seek approval from men and often rely on them to validate their desirability, creating an interpersonal context in which success and confidence are rewarded. (Note that this “safer” dynamic with men applies to platonic friendships but is more complicated in romantic relationships, where women may diminish themselves with their partners as they do with other women.)
Women often rely on the approval of others to feel good about themselves.
Women often take care of people emotionally and rely on the approval of others to feel good about themselves. Women’s fear of triumph over others may lead to keeping themselves down and even (conscious or unconscious) subversion. Dependency on other people to maintain self-esteem creates a double bind, impeding women from embracing and using their own edge to achieve success. Constrained by internal conflict and over-focus on others’ reactions, many women endure the frustration of being unable to fulfill their true potential in terms of aggression, sexuality, and power.
Women’s trepidation and ambivalence in the face of their own strength and power often underlies their mistrust of the power of other women. Discomfort with their own power can make women alternate between inhibiting themselves to protect a female friend, and feeling mistrustful and helpless in the face of another woman’s perceived destructive power. A good example of this is when women whose husbands have had an affair blame the other woman more than they blame their spouse, holding the other woman more accountable – and seeing men as helpless in the grips of a desirable woman.
Autonomy cannot be achieved when actions are based on fear, and without the self-protective capacity to experience anger and aggression, which are part of drive. Being able to experience and utilize these states adaptively is different from acting them out in hurtful ways. If women are frightened of aggression in themselves or others, and threatened by success, their experience of themselves will be muted, leading to depression. How can women feel comfortable with their own (and other women’s) drive and power, without feeling threatened or worrying that their own success will hurt others?
Inspirational Tips for Women
• Women who feel more confident within themselves are less vulnerable to feeling threatened by, or threatening to, their female friends in the face of success.
• Good fortune, happiness and success can be used to help others and as a source of inspiration.
• Women can allow themselves to be separate and autonomous and still maintain close connections. An example of this is giving oneself permission to be happy (or unhappy) even if someone else is not.
• Feeling confident and whole involves allowing one self to know, accept and hold onto one’s own inner experience without being reactive to the anticipated, imagined or perceived feelings of others.
• Taking responsibility for a friend’s feelings is different from being caring and empathic. Being over-protective at the expense of one self weakens relationships by leading to an insidious sense of burden and resentment, passive aggressive behavior, or withdrawal.
• Competition does not have to be dangerous or hurtful but can be motivating and allow for healthy sublimation of aggression. Sports works well for this.
• A healthy balance of competition and compassion means allowing oneself to do well and embrace a positive feeling of empowerment and strength while at the same time caring about friends’ feelings and supporting them in their own growth.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
David Bennett worked hard climbing the corporate ladder and found himself in a great position where he could influence and serve at a high level. His wife and three sons were doing well. Life was great! Then it all changed.
“My wife became ill,” said Mr. Bennett. “For three years we went from one doctor to another trying to figure out what was wrong. No one could give us a firm diagnosis. All the while, my wife was going downhill fast. One physician thought she needed ionic (salty) sea air to breathe and detox her body. He encouraged us to move as soon as possible.”
Willing to try anything for relief, Heather Bennett loaded up the boys and headed to Michigan for a month to see ifa change in environment surrounded by her extended family would help.
“Towards the end of the month I started feeling better, but when we returned to Atlanta I tanked,” said Mrs. Bennett. “I was ready to move anywhere for relief from whatever was attacking my body. If it meant packing up the family and moving to Florida, I was ready to go, David was more reluctant.”
Angry and defensive Mr. Bennett thought the physician was completely irresponsible in telling them to uproot their family and move when he didn’t know if this was truly a remedy. Intense discussions were a regular occurrence as the Bennett’s tried to figure out their next step.
“I was thinking about how hard I had worked to get to my current position,” said Mr. Bennett. “I wanted my wife to get better, but at the same time I wanted to keep my career momentum going. I also thought about the challenge of selling our house in a down economy.”
After speaking with several mentors and wrestling with the situation, Mr. Bennett realized his identity resided in his position at work instead of his calling at home.
“If you ask most business people where family falls on their list of priorities, they would say first,” said Mr. Bennett. “Until your back is against the wall you don’t really know if that is true. I had to step back and realize that my identity is a husband first, dad second followed by work. I will never earn enough money to make up for losing my family. I want to be the only husband Heather will ever have and the only father for my children.”
The Bennett’s decided to make the move. In addition to knowing that this was the best thing for Heather, they also thought this was a great opportunity to model what it meant to take care of your family. Recently, Mr. Bennett was reflecting about the move with his oldest son. His son shared he thought it brought their family closer together.
“I was scared to death of what this was going to do to me internally,” said Mr. Bennett. “It has been ten months since we made the move. We sold our house, downsized significantly and I took a different position in the company. Best of all, Heather is symptom free. We have much less today, but at the same time we have so much more. It is times like these when you really find out what you value.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Workers losing their tempers and yelling? Or worse, throwing something or damaging equipment, committing physical violence and even murder? Does this describe the modern workplace? Has “desk rage” now replaced road rage and air rage?
Integra Realty Resources, a national real estate valuation firm, which conducted a workplace survey, concluded that stress in the workplace had escalated in the U.S., reporting that 50% of respondents commonly skip lunch to keep working, and 52% indicating they worked up to 12 hours a day to complete their work. In Integra’s survey of American workers, 42% said yelling and verbal abuse took place where they worked, and 29% admitted they had verbally abused co-workers. More disturbing, 10% of respondents said they worked in a place where physical violence had occurred.
John Challenger, CEO of a Chicago based workplace consulting company, reports that their surveys show that up to 3% of people admit to pushing, slapping or hitting someone at work. With roughly 100 million people in the U.S. workforce, that’s 3 million guilty workers.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and a report entitled Compensation and Working Conditions conducted by the University of Virginia , in 1998 alone, 700 homicides occurred in the workplace in the U.S. A U.S. News and World Report poll says that 89% of U.S. workers said incivility is a serious problem and 78% said it is getting worse. The cost of workplace violence to employers is estimated somewhere between $6 to $36 billion annually.
Along with the increase in “desk rage” has been the “Dilbertization” of the workplace–corralling workers into increasingly smaller workplaces in cost cutting measures. Integra reports that 1 in 8 office workers now work in a cubicle.
The Workplace Violence Research Institute reports that many workers have long and difficult commutes, and often arrive at the workplace already stressed and even angry. Anna Maravelas, author of How To Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress, says that rudeness and anger has spread from the home to the workplace, and is so common that people are less and less embarrassed about it. According to C. Leslie Charles in her book, Why Is Everyone So Cranky? American workers are “overwhelmed, overworked, overscheduled and overspent.”
Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, writing in the Harvard Business Review, cites the recent case of a JetBlue flight attendant, who verbally abused a passenger and then made an angry exit down an escape ramp. His actions are reminiscent of the movie Network, in which a fictional newscaster, Howard Beal, stands up in the middle of the broadcast to yell that famous expression, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
Kanter says that as a result of layoffs and cutbacks, fewer and fewer people are asked to do more and more, and then told to be happy about it, and that can lead to anger and rage. There is potential for workers to “go postal”–an expression indicating extreme physical violence. Kanter argues that the root causes for “desk rage” is anchored in the American culture and reflected in the media’s desire to feature if not stage rancorous political fights as public entertainment. Behind the lost desire to treat people with respect and dignity is the pressure for short-term financial gain at the expense of people, Kanter argues.
The Desk Rage trend is a not-so-hidden time-bomb that could have serious detrimental effects on both productivity and workplace culture. Whether it’s the result of austerity measures such as downsizing and layoffs, or a result of increased workloads and stress, or a reflection of a society becoming increasingly uncivil, remains to be seen. Needless to say it is a disturbing trend, one that employers and executives need to take seriously.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The psychology of road rage has always intrigued me. For some reason, it turns normally rational people into raging lunatics over seemingly trivial matters. Usually placid, reserved people are transformed into foul mouthed, 1 finger saluting maniacs and drivers with an existing tendency towards anger are reduced to emotionally charged barbarians.
So what is it about being behind the wheel that causes these transformations? Is it the fact that cars are potential weapons that have the power to inflict devastation and anyone who uses them gets subconsciously charged by this innate power? I don’t think so.
I think it is because of the arrogance effect. That is, everything that occurs in traffic whilst in a car has a built in arrogance to it. This is not really anyone’s fault as such, it’s just a trait that has been built in to the system. Think of this: You are at the supermarket, browsing through the isles, in that ‘supermarket state’ where you are partly looking for something, partly looking at where you are going and partly thinking about the meaning of life. Someone bumps in to you. Startled for a split second, you stop and look at the perpetrator. In this moment, you aren’t offended or threatened, but you are trying to rationalize what has just happened and are looking at the person who has bumped into you for answers. The person immediately apologizes almost before the act of bumping has finished. This apology is usually coupled with a sincere kind of embarrassed smile. At this point you have your explanation: It was an accident and the person who bumped you is sorry for disturbing you. You are totally fine with this. You’ve made this accident yourself many times. You smile back and say something like, “that’s ok” and never think about it again. All is well. Perhaps you are both better people for having had this frivolous interaction.
But suppose that person didn’t apologize, suppose when your eyes gazed at theirs in search of that vital bit of communication, you were met with nothing. In fact, the person who bumped you didn’t just fail to acknowledge what had just happened, but had pretended you didn’t exist and to top it off grabbed the last can of baked beans from the shelf (the one you were just about to put in your trolley). All of a sudden, this interaction is not so pleasant. You would most likely be a little aggravated and retaliate. Needless to say, if this person then retaliated back in the same arrogant fashion in which he or she bumped in to you, things would escalate pretty quickly.
The problem with cars and traffic, is that this kind of behavior is almost unavoidable. When someone cuts you off in traffic, often it is an accident, or it was a necessary maneuver and at that point, you are back at the supermarket and someone has just bumped into you. You are seeking that act of curtosy that allows you to smile and say, “that’s ok” and then move on. The problem is though, that because it happened in a car, there is no way for that person to give you that human interaction that can defuse the situation in a split second. All you can see is the cold arrogance of the back of their car. It’s actaully not their fault (the arrogance, that is) or yours. It’s just that the human element has been taken out of the game and in your eyes, that person is the kind of person who would bump into someone at the supermarket and not even acknowledge that the person exists.
So what do you do? You probably beep the horn. That’s another great problem. While it is is almost impossible to inject that gentle human interaction into the situation, it’s quite easy to pump aggression into the situation. A nice loud pounding of the horn will do the job. True, often a wave out the window can act as a nice gesture of appreciation or apology, but it rarely happens because it relies on both drivers being able to see each other clearly (which is rare) and both drivers being able to not focus on the road for a second (which is dangerous) in order to interact. But the horn happens instantly and unmistakeably. And just like the supermarket scene, once the tone is set, things escalate quickly. Trading horns, slamming on breaks, speeding up and overtaking, swearing and yelling. These are the mild reactions of road rage. These are the reactions of normally rational, peaceful people. When there are a few aggressive people at play, things get very bad, very quickly.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
“I’m afraid if I ever let go and just really feel it, I’ll blow up the whole world!” That comment is often made by persons along the way on the journey to wholeness. We fear the enormity of repressed emotions caged up inside of us for what seems like centuries now. We fear that we could do harm if we were allowed to just let it rip.
In fact, some do. Anger management classes are operating right this moment all over the Western world, classes that teach us how to “walk away,” “count to ten,” and other like techniques meant to keep us from behaving on our rage. But anger, on all of its levels from mild irritation all the way up to rage is more than behavior. Yet behavior is what we fear. In fact I’ve heard adolescent boys struggling with rage say, “I didn’t get mad—I know because I didn’t throw anything or hit anyone.” They were totally equating anger only with behavior.
Irritation, frustration, anger, rage: these are all forms of anger. And they are feelings first. But when a person’s rage becomes behavior even before thought has a chance to plug in, it is usually because of one of two reasons: 1) it’s been repressed for a long time, and when someone drops the proverbial straw, it explodes; 2) it works for manipulative purposes.
Either way it has something to do with maturity. I said at the end of the last blog that I’d talk about maturity, and so I am. Maturity is the result of having faced and overcome obstacles by gathering deeper and deeper aspects of self. In other words, when faced with a challenge we don’t repeat a rote behavior, or do what someone else taught us to do, or just do what we’ve always done. Rather, we dig deeper into ourselves to create something original as a solution to the problem or to overcome the obstacle. In the process we learn something about ourselves and/or about life in general.
What has come to be called “uncontrollable rage” comes about as a result of not having developed maturity. We can see this clearly in the example of frustration. When some little thing goes wrong, say a key won’t work in a lock, we generally get frustrated. We feel blocked. What we do at this point is going to make a difference as to whether or not we take a step forward in our psychological growth. Of course, we may have to fail a few times before we can figure out how our frustration can be a catalyst for creativity. But ultimately if we can learn to feel the frustration, hold the tension between the feeling and the act, and then push on just a little further, we find that we can create a solution or even something wholly new out of that frustrating moment.
When we continuously fail to step forward in this way, we do not grow emotionally, and thus we do not mature. And so it is that some will learn that rage works to manipulate or scare someone else into overcoming the frustration for them. Or, they learn that unloading their rage just makes them temporarily feel better—in a similar fashion to the way that using substances can make us forget our challenges in a haze of feeling better—so that we no longer feel motivated to solve the problem or become creative in response to a life challenge.
What most people don’t know is that we have a choice. Feeling our feelings and using them for a springboard for creativity is an option that is always available to us, but one which we can decide not to take. And the more frequently we choose to forgo that option, the less likely we are to mature through the process.
This means that the batterer is most likely to be an immature person whose rages are comparable to a toddler or adolescent temper tantrum. And the notion that batterers are just “out of control” is unfounded. The concept of being “out of control” is based in the notion of external locus of control—or the idea that if the external world cannot stop me, then I’m just beyond control. And it belies the fact that we always have a choice.
In fact, when we talk to people who are willing to really be honest about rage, what we learn is that before they behaved out of it, they were aware of other options for expression besides harming someone or breaking something.
On the other hand, rage as a simple feeling can be quite useful for informing us of where we need to place our boundaries, where someone else stops and we begin and vice versa. Holding the tension between the rageful feelings, for example about a previous abuse or betrayal, can inform us of how much we actually do care about our own well-being so that we can solidly declare “never again!” And the rage has just the right amount of energy to allow us to keep our promises to ourselves.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or, it can be a force that destroys the organization’s ability to fulfil it’s purpose on an everyday level. Managers play a critical role in determining which of these results will come about. The way the manager deals with conflict and anger will set the climate for employees.
There are a number of different anger/conflict situations that managers will face at one time or another. Each of these situations is slightly different, and may require different sets of skills.
■one employee angry or in conflict with another
■employee angry or in conflict with manager (you)
■one employee angry at someone in another organization
■two factions that habitually square off
We are going to look at employee angry that is directed towards you as a manager.
The Anger Iceberg
You should be aware that the anger you see is much easier to deal with than the anger that goes unexpressed by employees. You should also know that the large proportion of employee anger is not expressed directly to the “boss”. It is this anger that is destructive to your organization since it will surface covertly through activities such as back-stabbing, un-cooperativeness, rumour spreading, and poor performance.
One important management/leadership task is to be alert to cues that indicate that there is anger sitting below the surface, unexpressed. While it may be frustrating to bear the responsibility of identifying and dealing with the “iceberg under the surface”, it is an important part of building a positive climate where conflict can be resolved. If you wait for an employee to broach the subject, when it is clear there is a problem, you may be sacrificing a great deal.
We are going to focus on how employee anger that is out in the open can be dealt with so that there is a potential for increasing the level of respect and harmony, and by extension, productivity.
1. Conflict/Angry situations become negative and destructive when they are not dealt with promptly and effectively. When the situations are dealt with properly, there is a tendency for a team to get stronger and better.
2. While angry employees may appear to want a specific issue addressed, they are looking for something else that they see as equally or more important. They want to be heard. If you don’t provide a means for them to be heard, they will find other more
subversive ways to be heard (and you won’t like it much).
3. Staff will watch very closely to see how you handle anger directed at you. Even if you have a private discussion with an angry employee, staff will know about it. Your ability to lead will depend on your behaviour, and the interpretation of your behaviour.
4. Most people react to anger directed at them with a fight or flight reaction. That is there is a gut reaction which, unchecked, results in “firing back” with an aggressive manner, defending oneself, OR, avoidance. Only in rare occasions will these gut reactions result in dealing with anger effectively.
Tips & Techniques For Dealing With Overt Angry Behaviour
1. When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean in two weeks! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
2. Certain situations require privacy for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. However, if anger is expressed in a staff meeting, you can develop a positive climate in the organization by dealing effectively with it in public. One technique is to ask the angry employee whether they would like to discuss it now, or prefer to talk about it privately. Let them call the shot.
3. Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive tone and manner, and gently use questions. For example:
“You seem a bit upset. I would like to help even if you are angry at me. What’s up?”
4. If an employee refuses to talk about what’s bothering them, consider adjourning by saying:
“I can understand that you are hesitant to talk about this, but we would probably both be better off if we got it out in the open. Let’s leave it for a few days and come back to it”
Then follow up on the conversation.
5. Respond to the employee’s feelings first, not the issue underlying the feelings. Use empathy first by saying something like:
“It sounds like you are pretty annoyed with me. I would like to hear your opinion”.
6. Before stating “your side” or your perception of the situation, make sure you have heard what the person said. Use active listening.
“George, if I understand you correctly, you are angry because you feel that I have not given you very challenging assignments, and you feel that I don’t have any confidence in your abilities. Is that right?”
7. If the employee’s perceptions do not match your perceptions express your perceptions in a way that tries to put you and the employee on the same side. Your job is not to prove the employee wrong (even if they are). Trying to prove the employee is
incorrect is likely to increase the anger level even if you are right.
“George, I am sorry you feel that way. Let me explain what I think has happened so you can understand my thinking. Then we can work this out together.”
8. A technique used by expert negotiators is to establish agreement about something. Before getting into the issues themselves, lay the groundwork by finding something the two of you agree on. Again, the point here is to convey the message that you are on the same side.
“George, I think we agree that we don’t want this issue to continue to interfere with our enjoyment of our work. Is that accurate?”
9. At the end of a discussion of this sort, check with the employee to see how they are feeling. The general pattern is:
a) Deal with feelings first
b) Move to issues and problem-solving
c) Go back to feelings (check it out)
Ask the employee if they are satisfied with the situation, or simply ask “Do you feel a bit better?” You may not always get a completely honest response, so be alert to tone of voice and non-verbal cues.
If it appears that the employee is still upset or angry, you may want to let it pass for the moment. Allow the person to think about the situation away from you, THEN follow-up in a day or two. This is important because someone who is angry initially may “lose face” by letting the anger go immediately. Or, the employee might just need time to think about your discussion.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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