Walking on Eggshells

Yelling at the Office?

Do you work with someone reactive? Someone with a temper? When someone in the office has a temper, generally, it leaves the rest of the team walking on eggshells, trying to manage that person’s reactivity.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how I feel about that strategy: Not Possible. That’s why today I’m talking about how to deal with a yeller in the office, someone in a position of power who keeps everyone guessing when the stack will blow. Here’s what happens in these situations: the rest of the team uses all their energy being overly proactive, trying to prevent eruptions of anger by playing out the scenarios.

For more on what you can (and can’t) control, you can read this article or this one for more insight on that. The upshot: Controlling others doesn’t work. There really isn’t any course of action you can take that will modulate other’s reactivity. Your effort will be wasted. And when I say wasted, I mean it will be an exhausting, fruitless, and dare I say even boring waste of time and energy.

What’s also a waste of time and energy is to trying to continue to work once the eruption commences. Yelling is most certainly not appropriate in the workplace, especially because once the yelling begins, the work ends. This is where my “Traffic Cop” strategy can be helpful.

  1. Stop the conversation. For example: “Yelling is a non-starter for me. Let me know when you’re ready to calmly get back to work.”
  2. Contain the event. Calmly extract yourself from the situation. You may need to repeat your limit if the other person persists. This is normal and repetition deepens the seriousness with which you are taken.
  3. Follow through. This is Limit Setting 101: find your limit and hold steady. It’s not enough to state your limit, you also have to follow through. Pro tip: This is the piece the actually helps to prevent future incidences of yelling.

Ongoing office yelling is bad behavior that’s been left unchecked. Sadly, it often rolls out from someone in a position of authority. The behavior continues because the organization doesn’t have a culture of correction, doesn’t invest in a bringing in help, or the eggshell culture is so pervasive that is taken as the norm. How many times have we become so comfortable with the discomfort of the situation that change feels even more difficult than the eggshells status quo. Beginning with identifying your own limit for acceptable behavior and then becoming your own traffic cop is a start.

NOTE: Not sure whether it’s possible to be your own traffic cop? Let’s talk. Whether it’s worries about job security or confidence, I can help. Click here for consult call.

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