Monthly Archives: April 2011

DeAnne’s Anger Tips

A very normal reaction to someone else’s aggressive rage and anger is to become angry and aggressive ourselves.  This happens because we perceive the other person’s anger as directed at us personally.  We feel attacked and in danger.  So, in order to protect ourselves from that attack, we become angry ourselves. It is called anger by contagion. It makes no sense but we do it anyway.

Therefore, when you are confronted by another person’s anger, the first thing you want to do is strengthen control over your own reactions and body language.

●Take a deep breath and will yourself to relax.

●Imagine that your feet are anchored deep in the ground like an oak tree.

●Remind yourself not to get immersed in the other person’s anger.

●With a calm, strong, voice ask, “What happened?”  (Never ask, “What’s your problem?” because that is demeaning.)

The Thursday Special

Last Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

Critic: If you were a good parent, you would spend more time with the children

Your response:  I am a good parent and I am not able to spend more time with the children

Scenario #2

Critic:  Why must you wait until the grass is waist-high before you cut it?

Your response: Why do you ask?

Scenario #3

Critic:  How come you always step on the gas when the light is yellow?

Your response: I don’t understand the question.

Scenario #4

Critic:  What would happen if everyone wanted to stay out until 2:00 am?

Your response: I don’t know what would happen but I want to stay out until 2:00 AM.

This Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

Someone at work has suddenly exploded into what looks like uncontrollable hostile anger. Even though the person is several cubicles away from you, you are finding their outburst extremely disconcerting and very frightening.  What should you do?

Scenario #2

Someone at work walks into your workspace and starts to yell at you. They believe you told the boss about something they did which was unethical. You are totally unaware of what they are talking about.  You didn’t know what they were doing nor did you ever tattletale about them to the boss.  What should you do?

Scenario #3

Six months ago, Charlie Simmons was fired for poor performance.  Today he appears in the office with a hunting rifle and a face full of rage.  What should you do?

Scenario #4

Christine Jacobs has more energy than any ten people on the staff.  You understand from your co-workers that Christine’s frantic energy is the result of cocaine use.  Staff members have noticed a little traces of white powder under her nose after breaks and asked management to terminate Christine for drug use.  The department manager says there’s no actual proof that Christine is using.  Moreover, he thinks Christine is the most effective employee he has.  Yesterday, Christine became so enraged at her computer that she pulled it out off her desk and threw it out the office window.  You sit right near her.  What should you do?

Aggression in the Workplace, Part II

All of the advice from Monday is useless if you see that your adversary is armed.  In such a situation your only goal is to save yourself.  Get out of the line of fire. Get out of the adversary’s line of sight.  (If they cannot see you, they can’t shoot you.)  Do not attempt to engage your adversary in any way.  Try not to show fear by screaming or expressing terror through your body language. If you cannot see a way to quickly exit the scene unnoticed (by the adversary), falling to the floor and lying very still might just save your life.  Don’t try to be a hero. Leave that to others who may be able to approach the adversary from behind. What you want to do is show the adversary physically that he or she faces no threat where you are concerned. Here is another true story:

He was the first in his family to graduate from college. His family was so proud. They were unaware how much he had struggled and how much he hated college. After graduation, he took a job with one of the nation’s largest brokerages as a trainee.  He was gives a guaranteed salary of $600.00 per month for eight months during which time he was being trained to develop his own stable of clients to whom he would be selling stocks, bonds and mutual funds.  At the end of that time period, his salary would be made up entirely of commissions from the products he sold to his clients.

Every day he left for work in a suit and tie carrying a leather briefcase. His family was so proud.  He was going into the city’s financial center to a tall building of glass and granite. He told his family his tiny his cubical was a grand office, that he had a secretary and that he was an important man in the company.  His family was so proud.

This young trainee dutifully attended all the training classes and endured all the one-on-one coaching he received from his boss, the general manager.  However, he found that he hated cold-calling.  In fact, he disliked every aspect of sales. At the end of eight months, the general manager told him he had not made a successful transition from broker-trainee to broker and that he would be let go. The young man begged to be given another chance. He even shed a few tears and promised to work harder at becoming the broker he knew he could be.  The general manager told the young man as kindly as possible that obviously sales were not his forte. He should therefore clean out his desk and leave.

The young man took the news very hard. He asked if he might return the following morning to clean out his desk.  He needed time to adjust to what had happened.

The following morning, he returned.  Observers stated that the young man seemed to be in a trance as he went to his cubicle to clean out his things. Several minutes later he walked to the doorway of the general manager’s office and shot him eight times killing both the general manager and his administrative assistant.  Several employees took him down with a football tackle from behind.  He was still attempting to fire his gun, now empty of bullets, in the direction of his dead boss when they took him down.

It is critical that once the decision to fire someone has been made, management engages a security person to escort the terminated individual out the door immediately.  Moreover, all forms of identification (badges) and keys should be collected by the security person so that the terminated individual no longer has access to the building.  When these precautions are not taken, it can place all employees in danger.

Aggression in the Workplace, Part I

This week, we will be looking at the issue of violent aggression in the work place

Recent studies released by the FBI profilers in Quantico Virginia have described those most likely to become violent in the work situation as male, white, between the ages of 25 – 53,  live alone, are loners, maintain a collection of guns or knives and talk about weapons quite a bit.

The origin of their hostility comes from two main sources and three secondary sources:

●The person feels under attack and in great danger;

●The person is experiencing the frustration of unmet, maybe even unspoken, expectations;

●The person is on physic modifiers such as drugs or alcohol;

●The person believes he has been taken advantage of one too many times;

●The person is under extreme pressure, feels cornered and sees no possible way out of his predicament.

In these cases, a person’s hostility actually has nothing at all to do with you. You are just the nearest person in the room so you get the brunt of the attack. Your best protection is your own visceral intelligence. In other words, listen to your gut. In addition, read the other person’s body language and non-verbal messages which will signal you that an attack is imminent.  Be aware that psychic modifiers such as alcohol or drugs may be playing a part.  Notice unsteady gait, slurred speech and dilated pupils.

In most instances when violent conflict occurs in the workplace, it occurs in front of an audience. For some reason, this out-of-control person requires spectators to witness their frenzied outburst. Rarely does this type of behavior happen one-on-one in private.

Once you see that trouble is coming, get yourself ready for the ordeal. First of all slow down your physical movements and your mental traffic. Concentrate on formulating a safety or escape plan. How close is the door?  Is there a desk or barrier between you and this person?  Can you dive under the desk if necessary?  Tell yourself to be ready for anything. Finally remember that you must respect this person’s reality. Your goal in this situation must be to:

●Protect yourself from harm;

●Prevent the situation from escalating;

●Attempt to diffuse it.

The most important thing you can do is maintain a non-threatening body posture. Above all, do not look scared or intimidated as that will encourage more hostility from the adversary.  Do not back up or turn away from him or her. Stand up straight, arms at your sides, palms open.

Speak in a calm, firm and soothing tone. Avoid making physical contact.  In fact, maintain a sizable physical distance between you and the person. If the area is crowded with people and furniture, suggest continuing the conversation in another, more spacious location. The adversary may be reacting to extreme pressure from some situation. He or she may feel cornered and can see no conceivable way out of their problem. A more specious location may relieve their sense of feeling trapped.

Give the person your full attention by maintaining strong, steady eye contact. Do not allow other people, sounds or noises to distract you. Physically showing the person that you are paying 100% attention to what they are trying to communicate could save your life. It may be that the person feels as if no one has ever listened to their concerns. Do not try to read the adversary’s mind and certainly do not try to interpret their motives. Do not argue or attempt to offer advice. Just listen. This is tricky but you can attempt to diffuse the adversary’s energy by distracting them. For example, you might say, “How about a cup of coffee?” or “Let’s go get a smoke.”

Whatever the adversary says, do not allow yourself to get hooked by their abusive language, hostile shouting, manipulative questions and angry statements. Speak reasonably.  Forget about using logic. Anger is about emotions and feelings so logic cannot possibly help here.  Therefore, do not deny the person their rage or attempt to trivialize their feelings by saying such things as:

●“You shouldn’t get so upset about that.”

●“I understand how you feel.”

●“Why don’t you just take a deep breath and calm down.”

It is critical that you think before you speak in these situations because you want to avoid escalating things. Take plenty of time before you say anything. Use I messages and words of support. For example you might say:

● “No wonder you’re upset. I’d be upset about that too”.

● “Perhaps you’re right”.

● “I understand exactly what you’re saying.”

Look for an opportunity to exit the scene as soon as possible.

The Thursday Special

Last  Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

The co-worker who is yelling at you.
The passive aggressive response is: listen patiently; say nothing; walk away.

The best action for resolving the problem is: Match her loudness and intensity

Scenario #2

The co-worker who has body odor

The passive aggressive response is: leave a care package of hygiene items.

The best action for resolving the problem is: ask the boss to relocate you. (The boss is the person who should speak to the offending person.)

Scenario #3

The co-worker who interrupts you.

The passive aggressive response is: write an anonymous note.

The best action for resolving the problem is: request a meeting; bring a sign.

Scenario #4

The co-worker who smokes

The passive aggressive response is: hide Pete’s cigarettes.

The best action for resolving the problem is: talk to Pete about assuming more of the work load.

This Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

Your 14 year old son comes home from school and tells you that one of the kids in his class – a small, meek, and very smart little boy – is being bullied by a few of the bigger kids in the class.  What advice should you give to your son?

Scenario #2

You are a sweet young thing just out of school.  This is your first job. Your boss is on vacation and his second in command has been making sexual overtures with looks and comments.  Today he returned from lunch a little drunk and attempted to grope you.  What should you do?

Scenario #3

Your teenaged daughter Allison is tall and skinny with a mouthful of braces.  She is also brilliant and has been awarded a full ride scholarship to MIT.  Last night you came into her room and found her dissolved in tears.  Someone in her class had written some really nasty things about her on Facebook.  What should you say to your daughter?

Scenario #4

It was a very bad recession; good jobs were difficult to come by.  Company president, Brutal Bob Walker decided to cut the salaries of his employees by 20%.  When his most accomplished manager, Cassandra Ward, complained, Brutal Bob laughed and said, “Times are tough.  You can’t go anywhere else. I have you all by the short hairs.  I could probably drop your salary another 10% and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  If you were Cassandra, what would you do?

Bullying in the News

So far in this blog, we have been discussing how normal people experience rage and how to manage that valid rage more effectively.   In recent weeks, however, we have seen a number of violent attacks on made on people who had done nothing to provoke such behavior In fact, the reasons for the rage were all in the perpetrator’s head.

One happened in the parking lot after the first baseball game of the season at Dodger stadium in Los Angeles.  According to the new reports, victim Brian Stow was wearing Giants gear while his attackers were drunk and wearing Los Angeles Dodgers gear.  The man was so badly beaten that he may never fully recover.

The second was by an eight year old in Colorado who was attempting to attack his teacher and classmates who had fled his immediate area.  Police had been called to “talk the boy down” from his rages on two other occasions.  This time, however, their talking did not work.  They had to use pepper spray to stop the boy’s rage.   The mother of the eight year old went on television to say that she thought using pepper spray on an “unruly eight year old was too much”.

There was a time in the early 19th century, if families had a child who was mentally unstable, they would put him in the attic so he or she could not interact with society.  Today, however, we have a plethora of drugs for every kind of mental aberration known to man.  These people can be a part of society if they take the drugs.   What happens is, these drugs make those who take them feel like zombies and so they frequently do not take them. This was the case of Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson Arizona who also attacked people who had done nothing to provoke his onslaught.  You may remember he killed six people.

Today we live cheek by jowl. My question is what safeguards does society provide to protect us from these people?   Are they not a menace to all of us?

What would you do if you had an eight year old who exhibited violent rages?

What would you do if you were Jared Lee Loughner’s parents and knew he had serious psychological problems, perhaps brought on my drug use?

What would you do if you had a young son who loved his alcohol and became violent when drunk?

The Bullying Boss

Research indicates that adults who bully have personalities that are authoritarian, combined with a strong need to control and dominate.  As managers, these bullying individuals often pay a very high price for abusing their subordinates. At work, employees can always find interesting ways to even the score with such a boss.  Here is a true story.

Ed Macklin was a conniving, scheming and devious supervisor who took great pleasure in manipulating his staff to do most of his work. He often screamed and raged at the various individuals on his team over insignificant issues.  He indulged in long lunch breaks, reading magazines during work hours, and engaging in extended personal phone conversations with his many girl friends. He seized all the credit for his staff’s ideas and then acted as if his people should feel privileged to work for him. Ed’s very professional and skilled staff was more than fed up with his behavior.

Ed’s people had been working on an important project which was to be presented to the entire company at their big anniversary kickoff for the coming year. Two staff members wrote the speech, two others made the presentation slides and selected the music, three worked on the handout material and so on. When completed, it was a beautiful, very professional and dynamic presentation. Ed wanted all the credit so he removed any mention of those who had helped create the presentation from the documentation. He then announced to his staff that he alone would make the presentation.

So, there Ed was, standing in front of the podium on an empty stage, speaking to an audience packed with his colleagues from all over the country, holding forth as if he alone was responsible for the excellent presentation. His hostile staff was seated together in the fifth row center back. Suddenly, Ed’s staff stood up holding a very long, narrow sign which in large letters said:

Your Fly Is Open.

Ed’s body language reacted to this (untrue) message by collapsing inward toward his mid-section. His face turned beet red. He began to stutter. He could not continue his presentation and went staggering off the stage. Afterward, no one spoke about the incident but there was a decided change in Ed’s behavior toward his staff.

If aggressive behavior in a child is not confronted by the parents during childhood, there is a real danger that this hostile behavior will become the child’s permanent behavior pattern for life.  In fact, there is research evidence to indicate that bullying during childhood puts a child at risk of criminal behavior and domestic violence in adulthood. Childhood bullies have a much higher likelihood to being incarcerated as adults.

What About The Bystanders?

Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of uninvolved but somewhat enthusiastic bystanders.  The bully creates the illusion that he has the support of the people present.  This illusion instills the fear of speaking out in protest over the bullying activities taking place.  Unless someone speaks up to challenge the bully, a bully mentality becomes the accepted behavior pattern for the group.  Should this happen, the group will indulge in a steady stream of injustices and abuses.  Bystanders to bullying activities are often unable to recognize the true cost that their silence regarding the bullying activities has to their state of mind:

●they lose their ability to empathize with the victim;

●they are unable to muster any effort or energy to stop what is going on;

●they live in fear of becoming the next victim.

It is the general unwillingness of bystanders to intervene that bullies often rely upon in order to maintain their power.

In order for the bullying activity to succeed, there needs to be an aggressor and an unwilling target or victim upon whom the bully can perpetrate his hostile brand of manipulation and disrespect.  Moreover, in order for the bullying to succeed, there must also be an inadequate response on the part of the target.   That is, a response by the victim that is seen by both the bully and the target as insufficient to prevent the bullying-cycle to continue.  A response calculated to stop the bullying cycle might include:

●Look brave and act brave.  Watch your body language.  Walk by with you’re your head held high.  Don’t look like a victim.

●Ignore the bully.  Simply ignoring a bully’s threats and walking away without commenting either verbally or physically robs the bully of his power.   Bullies want a big reaction to their nasty teasing and mean comments.  Acting as if you didn’t notice and don’t care is like giving no reaction at all.

●Stand up for yourself.  You can stand up for yourself with strongly spoken words (see some suggestions below).  Tell the bully to stop whatever he is doing and then walk away.

●Don’t bully back.  Fighting back with words or gestures just encourages more aggressive and disrespectful behavior from the bully. You do not want things to escalate; you just want the bully’s behavior to stop.

Call upon legal intervention.  Depending upon where the bullying takes place, you may wish to discuss the issue with the head of school, human resources, your immediate boss or your boss’s boss.

Have a selection of handy verbal comebacks at the ready. A great comeback line is brief and leaves the bully feeling that he did not get to you. However, if you are not good at this skill, forget it.  Remember, these clever lines and words are for situations where there is no threat of violence. The key to using comeback lines is to look the bully in the eye while remaining calm and cool.  Avoid trading insults with the bully.

You’re good!

Very nice!

Oh my, that really hurt!

Thank you.

You ought to be on TV.

Great try.

Sticks and stones.

Mission accomplished.

You need new material.

The real you can’t be this mean.

And you were so cute when you were little

Using me for laughs again?

I hope that one didn’t keep you up all night.

Brain exercises again?

Your goal is to sufficiently discourage the bully from repeated attempts at attacking you.  When you show yourself to be a poor choice to play victim in the bully’s little drama, he will go find someone else to co-star with him.

Typically the bullying-cycle must include both an act of aggression on the part of a potential bully, and a response by a potential target that is perceived by both as a definite sign of submission.  The cycle is only set in motion when both of these two essential elements are present.  Once both of these two elements manifest themselves, the bullying cycle often proceeds to feed on itself over time.

The cycle can be easily interrupted and broken at any point by the target.  While group involvement may seem to complicate bullying activities, the act is most often an implied agreement in principle between a chief bully or instigator and the target who is the willing victim.

In the act of bullying the bully attempts to make a public statement to the effect of: “See me and fear me.  I am so powerful that I have the ability to inflict pain on a target person without having to pay any consequences.”   Should an intended target exhibit an attitude of defeat in response to chronic bullying, then the bullying is likely to continue.

Should the intended target respond with a clear attitude of self-confidence that clearly demonstrates the bully’s attempt to dominate is futile, then the bullying attempt will quickly diminish or end all-together.

Types of Bullying

There are two types of bullying:

●direct bullying, and

●indirect bullying which is also known as social aggression.

Direct bullying involves physical aggression such as shoving and poking, throwing things, slapping, choking, punching and kicking, beating, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching, biting, scraping and pinching.

Indirect bullying or social aggression is characterized by threatening the victim into social isolation.  This isolation is achieved through spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the victim, criticizing the victim’s manner of dress and other socially-significant markers including the victim’s race, religion, disability or other obvious differences.  Other forms of indirect bullying include name calling, the silent treatment, over-talking or arguing the target into submission, manipulation, gossip, falsehoods, lies, rumors, laughing at the victim, mocking and saying certain words that trigger an embarrassing reaction from a past event.

The effects of bullying can be serious and even fatal. The link between bullying and school violence has attracted increasing attention since the 1999 rampage at Colorado’s Columbine High School. That year, two shotgun-wielding students, both of whom had been identified as gifted and who had been bullied for years, killed 13 people, wounded 24 and then committed suicide. A year later an analysis by officials at the U.S. Secret Service of 37 premeditated school shootings found that some of the shooters described bullying in terms that approached torment.  It is believed that such bullying played a major role in more than two-thirds of the attacks. It is estimated that about 60-80% of children are bullied at school and 40 percent of employees experience being bullied at work.  Moreover, in the work setting, approximately 62 percent of bullies were men and 58 percent of targets were women.

Until recently, bullying has been mostly ignored by our society.  This disregard of such social hostility may provide an important clue in crowd and passer-by behavior. Are you not appalled by the apathy of on-lookers when crimes occur in public places? The acceptance of bullying as a normal part of daily life may be one of the reasons why people feel a lack of emotional sensitivity for the victim and accept such violence as a common occurrence.  When someone is bullied, it is not only the bully and victim who are becoming less sensitive to violence. It is also the friends, co-workers and classmates of the bully and the victim who are accepting and condoning this form of violence as normal.

In a landmark study, 432 gifted students in 11 states of the US were studied for bullying. More than two-thirds of academically talented eighth-graders say they have been bullied at school and nearly one-third harbored violent thoughts as a result.  Research studies estimate that bullying often creates a chain reaction where the bullied later becomes the bully. Numerous dictators and invaders throughout history have tried to justify their bullying behavior by claiming they themselves were bullied in childhood. There is no justification for bullying.

There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness including long term emotional and behavioral problems, loneliness, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and suicide.  You have only to look at recent news reports to see there is a strong link between bullying and suicide.  During this past year, we lost Phoebe Prince, Dawn-Marie Wesley, Kelly Yeomans, Jessica Haffer, Hamed Nastoh and April Himes to suicide as a result of bullying by their classmates.

On Bullying…

Bullying is a form of anger manipulation.  A bully is basically a coward.  We know this because once the intended victim confronts the bully, and fights back, the bullying behavior toward the intended victim immediately ceases.

In his mind, the bully has created a little drama with himself in the starring role.  The drama is entitled I am bigger, more powerful, better, smarter, stronger, more popular (pick one) than you.  If you are the person being bullied, you have the co-starring role in the drama.  Your role is called target or victim.  What you have to do is show the bully that you are not an appropriate co-star.

Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying. This is especially true when it comes to school bullying where those less gifted bully their brighter and smarter classmates.  While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, others use bullying as a tool to conceal their own shame or anxiety over what they themselves lack.  They attempt to boost their own self-esteem by demeaning others.  In this way, the bully feels empowered.

The bully personality includes such behaviors as:

●quickness to anger and rage,

●a fondness for using threats and force,

●addiction to aggressive activities,

● misinterpreting the actions of others as hostile,

●concern with preserving one’s self image, and

●engaging in obsessive or rigid actions.

It is often suggested that bullying behavior has its origin in childhood. As a person who is inclined to act as a bully matures, his related behavior patterns will also mature. Schoolyard taunting develops into a more subtle, yet equally effective adult level of hostility such as administrative end-runs, well orchestrated attempts at character assassination, and various forms of coercion.

Bullying involves repeated acts of aggressive behavior which attempt to create or enforce one person’s power over another.  Bullying may include subtle methods of coercion and intimidation. Bullying types of behavior are often rooted in a hostile home life where the bully himself is a target or victim of this kind of abuse.  The bully may be striking out as a means of retaliation against his own victimization.  Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse




Bullying ranges from simple one on one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more lieutenants who may assist the primary bully in his bullying activities. Bullying actions are designed to intentionally inflict physical injury or mental discomfort upon the target.  Bullying behavior may include name calling, verbal or written abuse, exclusion from activities, exclusion from social situations, physical abuse or coercion.  Bullies may behave this way to be perceived as popular or tough or to get attention. They may bully out of jealousy or be acting out because they themselves are bullied.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the two types of bullying…