Have you ever just lost it at work – gone ballistic – lost your cool – lost your temper? Generally this is not a good thing to do, but it happens to the best of us. If it happens to you, how will you recover and move on?
Here are some tips, based on one of my bigger work faux pas.
Here’s what happened.
I worked as a technical leader at a company that processed data from various clients. I shared oversight of several client teams with a business leader (one business leader per team, just one technical leader for all teams).
My understanding of my responsibility was to make sure that all projects and technical services were rendered appropriately and to administer to the technical associates. The business leaders were there to handle the clients and administer to the business associates.
A couple of those leaders were real jerks – lording it over ‘their’ domain, and trying to boss everyone around. Some of them were of absolutely no value in a crisis. During one incident, one of them sat in their chair actually yelling at my staff to hurry up and solve the problem at hand. Boy that really helped (snark, snark).
The occasion during which I lost it big time was when I had a disagreement with all of them on how to handle a sensitive technical policy. I felt that it was totally within my management domain, yet each of them felt perfectly free to tell me what to do about it.
The bottom line was that I recognized that the client leader solution would have thoroughly alienated the entire technical staff and could have caused disruptions in work they needed to do for the clients.
So, I drew my peer leaders into a conference room to discuss it. Instead of a decent conversation on the topic, the jerk noted above turned red in the face and actually started yelling at me – thinking I would give in to their opinion and their methods. Since I couldn’t get this person calmed down at all, and they seemed to only respond to anger, I just started yelling back. The yelling went on for several minutes before we parted ways with things unresolved.
I found out later that one of the leaders had relayed the incident to the person to whom we all reported. I found this out when our mutual supervisor called us into a meeting to discuss our various roles and responsibilities. She dwelt on the customer care role of the business leaders but didn’t really get around to talking about the technical roles.
After calming down and thinking through the situation, I decided that I needed to just take control – decide on a procedure and get it implemented. I also decided that I needed the client leaders all in the room when I announced the new procedures to my technical staff – so we all heard the same thing.
I somehow managed to get the boss on board with what I thought we should do, then I brought in the client leaders and let them know that this was the direction I was heading and invited them to come to the meeting where I announced the plan. They, as well as our supervisor did attend. We presented a united front to the technical staff and answered their questions and concerns.
The supervisor later gave me a prime assignment, dealing with getting more projects of a sensitive nature implemented across the company. This gave me a chance to work directly with her (they were pet projects of hers) as well as with other higher ups across the company. She did this because my actions convinced her that I was in step with the company direction.
Learn from my lessons.
- Don’t accept a position that causes you to have to share responsibility with a peer.
- If you do have to accept such a position, make sure that you, your peers and someone you all report up through sit down together up front to hash out who has responsibility for what.
- Do stand up for your position and your associates. If I had backed down from the jerk, my staff would have revolted, my boss would have been disappointed and client work would have suffered.
- If you end up defining roles and responsibilities after an incident, make sure that every role is covered, not just some. I should have insisted on another meeting with our supervisor and my peers to cover the technical roles and responsibilities since she didn’t get around to it in the first meeting.
- Take charge, be strong in leading the way – even with an unpopular initiative. Presenting a sane plan, convincing your stakeholders of it’s validity and being able to carry it through will get you noticed in a positive way.
- If you do get backed into a corner and get into a shouting match, try to exit the situation. Be aware of what is happening to you (harder than you think when emotion is running high). Take a deep breath, look the other guy in the eyes and say ‘This isn’t getting us anywhere. We need a breather before we can sit down and get it settled’. Then walk out of the room.
- Understand the rationale of the position of your supervisor and work to implement it when possible. If you can’t understand or agree with it, discuss it in a rational manner – there may well be facts of which you are unaware. My initial reaction to the initiative discussed above was negative. I did have to think through the concept and understand the concerns and issues before I could support the initiative.
- Don’t yell at your peers. It does no good and makes you all look like fools in front of your staff.
- If offered, enroll in a class to learn how to handle confrontations.
Have you ever pulled a real boner at work? How did you recover? What would you have done differently, given the facts above?