It was one of those monsoons and I was planning my yearly monsoon break to enjoy the greenery in Karnataka. As per my holiday routines, I switched off my Hand-Phone and was getting into the groove, call it premonition’, I felt like switching on my cell in the afternoon. Just to reinforce my instinct, there were two missed calls from my boss and a message on the reason. Last four years, I have never got such SOS calls especially when I am on holiday. We had to deliver a project on time and we had missed to take off and also communicate it rightfully. My Boss was sweating some bullets from his stake holders and had called me for clarification. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me as this issue was being mismanaged for the ‘N’th time.
I was angry with myself as I had to log in to get back to work. The rage in me wanted to send nasty SMSes to ten of my team members, whom I believe had caused my weekend plans go awry. I sent one ‘nice’ SMS to one of my colleagues, shouted at my 4 year old for nothing and hit the gym to calm me down. Post Gym & amp; shower I went to the temple and came home.
I now know why there are so many outbursts at workplaces via email, phone or in person. All offices do not have gyms or are next to places of worship. I mean there aren’t enough means to calm us down in a competitive world. The triggers take over us most of the times and we react. I am sure after angrily responding to an email you must have felt, you were better off not pressing the send button. I have felt many times that I have overreacted and used harsh words to express myself.
So what makes us angry at the workplace? Isn’t it just a job and aren’t we all employees of an organisation. Aren’t we all bound by the employer framework as soon as we step into our offices? Why can’t we get it into our head that our employers pay our salaries and there can be measured responses and not reactions? Why do we all react? In my view, some react to people whom they have baggages with and many on feeling challenged, marginalized or not given due credit. I react to all of them. I believe some of us are impulsive to any situation and that can be quite hazardous in the workplace.
We were in the middle of an account review with a large IT Customer and the customer got angry and criticized the service levels. My account manager who had worked really hard to make this our top account got emotional. He got up with tears in his eyes and said” I can’t take this anymore” and walked out. The client looked at me in disbelief. I had not attended any training programs to manage this situation. I was shell shocked and continued to talk to the customer as though nothing had happened. After 30 plus minutes my colleague came back and apologized. But then he had already put the reputation of the organisation under duress.
Unlike this, not all situations are retrievable without collateral damage. I know of one of my ex-colleagues who has thrown a fixed line phone, file, mobile and even a laptop at colleagues in a moment of rage. I am not exaggerating on the laptop part.
Angry workplace reactions are common in an increasingly stressful ecosystem. The root causes of these reactions are plenty. At the professional level, it is the organisational culture. Cultures which are cut-throat competitive, no recognition systems, being over democratic; can breed reactive behaviours. But I would like to believe that it could be more a personal trait too. Nuclear families, pampered upbringing, Childhood conditioning, schooling experiences, previous job experiences, lack of self-awareness could also lead to rash behaviours. In India, we are so much obsessed with self that we can’t work in team settings. Most angry reactions are in the realm of self than the team.
Today’s workplaces which have less face to face interactions also breed care-free expressions. So, we tend to write emails emotionally as we only deal with our emotions and are not listening or seeing the people to whom we are reacting. Our personal interactions personally have reduced and emails/Whatsapps have become our tools to express. I tend to believe they are not the best way to communicate when we are emotional.
Hence, with the leaders, HR needs to work with more maturity in such reactionary situations. Once one of my reportees angrily told me that if she did not get an ‘x %’ hike she would resign. I knew she was reacting emotionally to the latest increment and I let it pass. She worked with me 3 years after that in a booming talent market. If she had told me that when I was ten years younger maybe I would have angrily reacted and pointed to the door
Next time somebody ticks you off, does not give credit to you, promotes somebody else OR you don’t agree with the increment and you are angry, take a deep breath. Before you press the send button of your SMS/WhatsApp/Email with a top of the mind response immediately. Try and see if you want to send it the next day. Maybe your response can be different.
If I get angry, I can’t wait but to respond immediately as my finger is always on the trigger. I am not sure what’s the price I have paid or image I have created.