Let’s face it we’ve all worked with people who act so much like grownups that there’s little fun to be had, but equally as often we’ve worked with people who sometimes act like children. We may too have been a bit childish at times, but the big question is: how do you deal with a co-worker whose behavior warrants a time out?
If it’s a subordinate, you can somewhat coerce them into more professional interaction, but what if it’s your boss?
Study after study shows that employees often feel their bosses are volatile and childish when it comes to getting (or not getting) their way. Very often it is the superior who needs a paddling; the HR rulebook just doesn’t address office corporal punishment. So what do the rule books say about our options?
Quite honestly, they expect us to be the bigger person. Much like parenting, psychologists teach that when a child is throwing a temper tantrum, the parents’ best defense is to let the child scream and cry its way to sleep. I think the same is true for grownups…
Seriously, you have to imagine yourself always as the sane one in a situation where you work with a volatile or opinionated co-worker who throws a tantrum or pouts to get his or her way; a good parent will let them pout, say nothing, then proceed in a calm, collected fashion instead of perpetuating the bad behavior.
I kinda had one of those semi-tyrannical encounters last week; I sat back, stayed cool and I retorted with resolution-based logic instead of reacting to their rant. That seems to be my defense to illogical, irrational behavior of any kind these days—whether at work, home or even in traffic. Yes, I have to restrain myself when I’m on deadline and the copier (as if it mis-behaves by choice) decides to malfunction, but restraint is key. And as I mentioned regarding the screaming, tantrum-filled child, not reacting is key. When people taunt, rant, pout and behave childishly at work the first thing you have to remember is to not take it personally. Don’t get sucked into the vortex!
I once had a boss who threw a stapler through his paned glass door because he couldn’t find his keys and he was tired of our “incompetence.” Another boss (male again) threw a clip board across the studio at an intern…never, I mean NEVER is a physical tirade acceptable, but it happens. It happens more with men than women. Women would be branded as crazy or unstable if we threw things at our employees.
I borrowed some tips from eHow’s Ryn Gargulinski on ways to keep out of the way of an office tornado:
- Get the heck out of the office. Either take a fast-paced walk around the block or drive to your favorite park to settle down. Just get out of the office–even if it’s only for 5 minutes–before you explode.
- Call a friend. Use your cell phone and be far enough away from the office so no one can hear you, and then vent, vent, vent.
- Write down what made you so angry. Sit quietly and reflect on the situation for a few moments. Rip the paper up into little bits and hurl it into the trash. Better yet, burn it. Watch the smoke rise, releasing your anger in its wisps.
- Sit quietly for a few more moments, closing your eyes and breathing deeply. Pray to have the anger lifted once you’ve sat through it. Go back to your desk and work.
The best advice is to not react. The best defense is to be calm, cool and unaffected. Sometimes when you have the level head and someone around you has lost theirs, you can almost laugh at the situation when it passes. But until it passes take the walk, call the friend, write it down and be still. You will be delighted in your own maturity and you will garner a healthy respect from your peers for being “the bigger man!”