Extraordinary Team Blog

Mad Managers: Lose Your Temper, Lose Your People

Posted by Joseph Sherren on September 24, 2012

I once had the opportunity to interview a great business leader and he told me the secret of his success. He said, “As a leader, when things go wrong and your employees are trying to do their best to meet deadlines, they are already stressed.

“As a leader, you have a choice. You can become angry, which causes them more stress and lowers their productivity, or you can communicate in a calm way and ask, ‘What can I do right now that would take stress away from you?’”

This CEO said the best strategy is always to stay calm and do whatever you can to take away their stress. People who become angry and lose their temper are showing classic immaturity. It is a communication technique learned as a child that they continue to believe is the way to control people and get what they want from others. Unfortunately for most people, especially managers, it does not work.

Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to work with a boss who becomes angry will know how demoralizing and counter-productive that can be.

Even more significantly, anger adds collateral damage to the individual. Studies show that angry people are more likely to suffer a stroke than people who stay calm in the face of adversity. Research often links stress to heart disease.

A recent study which appeared in the Journal of Neurology and Psychiatry looked at how people handle stress in relation to having a stroke. Researchers from the Hospital Clinico Universitario San Carlos, Madrid, measured stress levels using all the latest tools that assess major life events, depression, general health and personality type. They discovered having an angry personality doubled the risk of having a stroke.

Dr. Curtis Reisinger, a clinical psychologist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in N.Y., said that it is likely the frustration and hostility associated with this personality that contributes to cardiovascular issues.

He said, “Anger can elevate blood pressure, and we know high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke. A lot of people don’t even recognize when they are angry. They will often snap with very little provocation,” he said.

Biofeedback and cognitive behavior therapy can teach people to control how they react to situations that cause them stress or anger.

Eliminating anger can be achieved by reframing your thinking toward everything that happens to you. It is not suppressing your emotions. It is simply having a belief system that says, “I know there is a reason this is happening, and it is my responsibility to find the lesson in the situation.”

I hear people say, “That person made me angry.” This is not true. The only one who can make you angry is you. Those who become angry do so by engaging in thought patterns conditioned from their childhood.

When I asked Jim Ferguson, senior manager with CBC in Charlottetown, how he is able to stay calm when tensions rise, he said he tries to remember that emotion is a choice. “My choice is to respect the people. I have learned that anger does not add value toward problem resolution. I focus on diffusing the tension.”

Managers think they can get away with angry and abusive behavior toward employees but the loss of morale, productivity, attrition and even legal issues will eventually catch up. Employees learn to read the moods of their managers and the best will chose to work somewhere else.

I have even seen managers use anger as a way of turning employees against their organization. A manager who is unhappy with their management will provoke anger in staff, hoping to turn them against the company as well.

Their objective is to unite the workers against the organization. Unfortunately, employees may not see what is going on and thus suffer the consequences of lost opportunities and bad reputations. Some Individuals even use this strategy to turn friends against friends and family against family.

My question for managers this week is, “What is your strategy for ensuring your thought patterns and choices are rational and optimistic, resulting in positive emotions and constructive behaviors?”