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Temper Tantrums are not OK
10

Temper Tantrums are not OK

Temper Tantrums are not OK

2
(OP)
Emotional meltdowns shouldn't happen at the workplace.

Not all of us have rock-solid feelings, especially when we are passionate about the job we do. I know from personal experience how hard it is to not bite somebody's head off when they are in my way. However, problems at work can lead to feelings of frustration or even anger when you come up against them. Don't blow your lid off. Whether it's a coworker or a subordinate who doesn't see things your way, made a mistake, or actually failed to do something you trusted them to do, give yourself time to cool down. You still have to talk about it, but only after your brain has started thinking again.

From a practical side, most people will feel bad about a mistake if you tell them about it, no need to shout them down, too. Remember that you still have to work with them tomorrow. They have to trust you tomorrow. And if you're a manager or a business owner, the odds that they'll be buffing up their resume tomorrow goes up if you lose your temper today. Moderating your temper should be a part of your preparation for your management role, so use it.

Many companies in North America now have a "Progressive Discipline" policy, which forbids this behaviour. Depending on how it's written, they may also forbid this with their "Workplace Violence" policy. I can't speak for other places in the world, but it's a common western thing, now. I think it's step forward. Going off the deep end as you confront a colleague about a mistake can actually put YOU in the wrong. Watch out, lest your temper bring the HR wrath upon you. Companies whose policy includes an obligation to report unruly behaviour may earn you more than one simultaneous report for just one outburst!

Before taking that as my absolute position, I'm also thinking about the degree of the problem - it makes a lot more sense to be angry if someone's negligence or deliberate action put another person in immediate danger. I know that I would be more than just assertive in a situation like that. Another dimension is whether you are working with professionals or laborers. I think the difference is obvious, that the tolerance for losing one's temper among professionals is much, much lower than it is when supervising laborers. Also, the amount of force needed in the control system is correspondingly different, sometimes.

For everything else, maintain your professional decorum at all times.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

good advice... you know it's a problem when you bring your AR-15 to the office... 40 years back, I used to go duck hunting and if the project was out of town, I'd often bring my Remington 1100 to the office (it was cased), and no one thought anything of it... couldn't do that today.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

It helps me to ask myself: "Do you think he or she intentionally screwed us up?" Practically always, the answer is "no" because the alternative is sabotage.

Also, I read and believe that an emotional outburst totally wipes out almost all leadership capital and respect for the leader. That's pretty good motivation to universally avoid outbursts or meltdowns.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

Quote (SparWeb)

I think it's step forward. Going off the deep end as you confront a colleague about a mistake can actually put YOU in the wrong. Watch out, lest your temper bring the HR wrath upon you. Companies whose policy includes an obligation to report unruly behaviour may earn you more than one simultaneous report for just one outburst!
We had an idi... er, gentleman... working for us a couple of years back who was constantly making mistakes. But they weren't mistakes. They were intentional choices he made because he thought he knew "better" than all of the other engineers... but he wasn't an engineer himself, he just fancied himself one. Not quite sabotage, as he wasn't try to ruin the project, but it had the same effect.

After a year of time being continually wasted on a project that was always short on time, I finally lost my cool and (calmly) stated in no uncertain manner he wasn't an engineer and needed to stop trying to act like one. Since this was done in front of a contractor, he filed a report with HR. It was suggested (though not required) I apologize, which I did in a roundabout fashion, but it was the beginning of the end for him. I think ~2-3 months later he was provided with less and less work, at which point he lost his own cool, told top management every manager at the company was incompetent, the entire company was immoral, etc. It was practically comical.

He may be gone, but that one year of his time took 10 off of my own life for the frustration. Sometimes emotional meltdowns should be allowed! If they were, I think that year of pain would have been shortened immensely.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

2
I am reminded on Hanlon's razor:

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity"

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

Temper tantrums are not OK. But what is worse is the true passive-aggressive person. This behavior goes under the HR radar and is difficult to combat. And I'm not referring to the active-aggressive person that may spill coffee on your shoes and sneer at you. The people who have a clinical-level problem with this behavior may not even realize they are doing it. And I've encountered some of this type at work.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

Depends on the culture, Comcokid. Hardest part of transitioning to working in NZ from Western Canada has been the transition to 'guess' culture from 'ask' culture. There are similar differences between different parts of the United States / Canada and between rural / urban areas. Difficult to fully explain but essentially, passive aggressive behaviour is the norm even for managers giving feedback or interacting with clients.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

(OP)
Geotechguy1,
Can you try to explain what you mean by "guess" and "ask"? I think I get it, but I'd like to hear your thoughts, just the same.
I have navigated a number of different corporate cultures but I've never been able to sum them up succinctly.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/...

This article, essentially. In 'ask' or I guess 'ask / tell' culture, if your manager expects you to do something, they will tell you, clearly. If they aren't happy about your start and finish times at work, they will directly confront you about it. In guess cultures, they make indirect comments but never directly confront you about it. You're supposed to know or figure it out from the context and all the subtleties.

It's actually a very fascinating bit of cultural difference when you get into it. An 'asker' and a 'guesser' can have a conversation and both walk away completely misunderstanding it without realizing if they don't know what they are getting into. When someone from an 'ask' culture comes to a 'guess' culture, they come off as rude / arrogant; likewise, when the 'ask' culture encounters the 'guess' culture, the guess culture people comes across as weak, conniving / scheming, untrustworthy, etc.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

I would take this a step beyond temper tantrums and say that overly emotional behavior is not acceptable because it makes colleague and customers lose trust in your objectivity. If someone cannot remain detached and objective then they shouldn't be in a professional environment. Being passionate about your overall job/field is a good thing however when that focus shifts onto a specific project and cancelling it or personnel reassignments cannot easily be shrugged off then the line of propriety has been crossed.

As to "ask vs guess" culture, I prefer to think of that as candor vs bs culture. I can adapt to either but really prefer explicit candor to bs as I find it more open and honest. Rather ironically, employers that've made a big deal of "corporate values" often tend to have the biggest bs cultures despite preaching "open and honest communication" because they're afraid of offending someone. I hate bullies and the toxic environment they create however I don't mind working for someone with high standards whose direct nature makes them seem like an asshole most of the time.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

Quote:

We had an idi... er, gentleman... working for us a couple of years back who was constantly making mistakes. But they weren't mistakes. They were intentional choices he made because he thought he knew "better" than all of the other engineers... but he wasn't an engineer himself, he just fancied himself one. Not quite sabotage, as he wasn't try to ruin the project, but it had the same effect. After a year of time being continually wasted on a project that was always short on time...I think ~2-3 months later he was provided with less and less work, at which point he lost his own cool, told top management every manager at the company was incompetent, the entire company was immoral, etc. It was practically comical.

Thats a strange story but reminiscent of an office I had to resign from a few years ago. I was hired in from a mega-corp to run CAE and be a PM helping modernize a small ~20 engineer office. Unfortunately, aside from the fairly new ME director nobody had much experience outside that company so there was very little knowledge of standard process/workflow or even engineering, they'd literally made thousands of variants of the same products (govt protected market) with the same local-yokels for decades. Worse yet, their products were all scaled/dimensionally similar to a half dozen basic electro-mechanical designs, no ground-breaking new design, just iterative variations and the same analysis ad-infinitem. When we started rolling out standard processes there was constant griping about it slowing down work, repeated accusations that I didn't know dink, and was ruining projects or the company. Once the rollout/training settled down and I had a bit of free time, I created a series of basic, scalable FEA simulations so that lower level designers could optimize their own designs rather than wasting my time reworking garbage. I also drafted a book of old-fashioned trend charts so that anybody could guesstimate how close to failure a part/assembly was without FEA. Once again, colleagues thought I was ignorant bc I applied calculus and modern technology to improve the process rather than running the same arithmetic 1Mx. Rather strangely, I didn't mind the nonsense accusations and attitudes so much as I did the lack of thanks or apologies after we saw real improvements in project timelines and quality, and I ended up putting in notice about six months after things normalized.

TLDR: Sometimes the guy who seems like an idiot is the only competent engineer.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

(OP)
geotechguy1,
That's what I thought you meant. I chose to "ask" for clarification rather than "guess". Culturally appropriate response, eh?

I have had these problems, too. Being direct with people who are indirect by nature has been off-putting to them. A 3-week stint consulting with an airplane manufacturing company in China is a good example. My job was to interview people about their work and give feedback about how they could improve the design of the plane. Oh yeah, I was set up to fail...

CWB,
How is it that I'm sure we'd get along famously in real life, but the filter of the internet makes us cross swords here? Thanks for the story.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

Another thought, but might explain something.

Have you ever been assigned a project that was a waste of time? Did you do a good job at it?
Add useless features, or need to explain why a exceptional computer device is doing a simple function (because the specifier wanted an exceptional computer device).
Projects with always changing objectives, or unclear objectives in the first place.
Projects that were under funded and over hyped?

There is a whole book on this, called "How to have fun at work".

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

Quote (CWB1)

TLDR: Sometimes the guy who seems like an idiot is the only competent engineer.
Fair statement, and likely true in some instances. In my particular situation, it wasn't a case of "we don't do things that way here", it was absolutely one of "he's just flat out wrong"... like "engineering and manufacturing 101 principles" wrong.

I have worked with some extremely sharp folk throughout my career... this guy was the embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect, and I can't say that with enough emphasis.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

Would throwing your hard hat across the turbine deck (or in the control room) be consider a tantrum.?

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

I would call throwing a hard hat across the turbine deck a safety violation, and leave it at that.
However, it is rare that you need a hard hat, unless the turbine is offline, and construction is going on.

This time of the year in the northern part of the world, most turbine's that I might work with are running either full steam, or full stream.
Then Glen canyon might be an exception.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

The rule, as with children's aid societies, is that you cannot do anything visible or vocal, and certainly nothing violent. A vocal tantrum may just be a one-off blowing off of steam, and adults should be able to get past it, but nevertheless it will be s permanent mark on your record.

However the non-visible abuses can be the most destructive. It is difficult to prove a case of psychological warfare waged by an employer.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

I worked with a "desk pounder" one time. Any sort of frustration, he'd just start hammering on the desk with his fist and yelling.

The first time it happened was in a meeting with other people, so I tried not to react much.

When it happened 1 on 1, I couldn't help but laugh. More hammering on the desk = more laughing. After about 30 seconds, I guess he got it out of his system, because after that the tone was very neutral and we just continued the discussion like nothing ever happened. Weird.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

My bumper sticker on my old Cooper was, "Support Mental Health, or I'll Kill You."

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

We chemical engineers are quite familiar with relief valves.

Each person has a different relief pressure setting. Some may find that setting to be adjustable. Others find it to be wired and fixed with a lead seal.

I personally have a low relief pressure setting. When things get me upset, generally there is lots of prior indication. When my relief setting is challenged, I vent, then the event is over with rather quickly and pressure is relieved. Nobody gets hurt- if someone is surprised by the loud noise and flying debris, I do apologize, but they also had plenty of prior warning. I do try to vent in a safe direction, always. But I make no excuses for my relief valve setting- it isn't something I can tamper with.

Some people have very high relief valve settings, such that they let the stress and pressure build up to a high level and then they vent violently. My recently retired colleague was one of those guys, and coincidentally he practiced kung fu at a fairly high level. I had to warn more than one person that they'd better stop adding to his stress and pressure, because he didn't give any indication- and when he did "relieve", if you were the cause of the relief event, he was likely to pluck out an eye without warning like in Kill Bill...

I know which of these two relief valve settings I find to be preferable in others. And I find that words are the best warning- visual cues can often be missed.

RE: Temper Tantrums are not OK

1gibson,

Back in the day that was dismissed as 'Bill just being Bill', and we've all encountered one or two of them.
But if employers knew how much staff turnover was precipitated by a tiny handful of such people, they would be more proactive about matters. Good employees don't give a lot of warning, they have options, and they will vote with their feet.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

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