Tag Archives: Anger

DeAnne’s Anger Tips

When you go to talk to someone about something they are doing which is causing you anger and hostility, be prepared to state what you want (or how the problem should be solved) several times.  You do this because most people do not listen; they are busy thinking up a obstructive response to your requested action.  Even though it will sound dumb in your own ears, keep repeating what it is you want like a broken record.  Usually repeating four times will do the trick.  At that point, the other person will finally hear you and say something like, “Okay, I’m willing to do that.”

Anger and Performance Feedback

Today’s organizations engage in practices that damage and destroy employee motivation and creativity.  The most lethal practice of all in terms of motivational slaughter is the typical performance evaluation which focuses on:

●the employee’s mistakes in the performance of the job; and

●the employee’s weaknesses.

Traditional management philosophy teaches managers to manage by exception which means to focus on problems and put out fires.  This results in an emphasis on the negative rather than on the positive.   It also encourages the ignoring of good, steady un-dramatic, reliable performance.  Employees are not appreciated for their accomplishments and for preventing problems.  All the emphasis is on putting out fires, problem-solving and covering shortcomings.

On the one hand, employees want to know how they are doing.  On the other hand, whatever performance feedback system an organization utilizes, its results have only led to anger, rage, discontent, distress, distrust, suspicion, cynicism, lawsuits and de-motivation.  In fact, many well known authorities such as Peter Drucker, Tom Peters and Edwards Deming have totally condemned the practice. “The system by which merit is appraised and rewarded is the most powerful inhibitor to quality and productivity in the Western World.  It nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork and encourages rivalry, and leaves people bitter.”

Undoubtedly there is not a more hated ritual at work than delivering and receiving performance feedback.  An appraisal actually tells you more about the appraiser than it does about the employee.  An appraisal tells you:

●how harsh a critic the boss is;

●how good a job she expected the employee to do;

●how well the two of them get along; and

●about the basic values they share.

Here are some of the major problems with conventional performance appraisal practice which cause employee rage.

●Judging people on a one – five or poor-marginal-satisfactory-good-very good- excellent rating system cannot possible tell the whole story of your 12 months of solid effort. In addition, such systems only appear to be objective.  In fact, they are totally subjective.

●receiving a rating of excellent followed by a 2.3% raise is an insult

●Comparing your results  with those of another’s is unfair.  (One employee may be very experienced while you are new.  What is difficult for one person may be easy for you.  Therefore, when a boss says something like, “Why can’t you do it like Francine?” it will cause valid rage.)

●Your manager may use the performance appraisal for suddenly declaring his or her expectations for the year just past.  (“You should have been doing dogs instead of cats.”  “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”  “Because I thought you could figure it out for yourself.”)

●Your manager may be unaware of all the extra things you are doing.  (If you are very good at your job, the boss probably ignores you and spends most of his or her time looking after the sluggards, the screw-ups and the wing nuts in the department.

●The unspoken rule seems to be: find something to criticize because that’s the purpose of the performance feedback activity. (If you are really excellent at what you do, your performance feedback might contain such critically important items as “keeps a messy desk, is often 2 or 3 minutes late from lunch.”)

●Discussions about performance do not occur often enough to allow for keeping up-to-date with changes in the marketplace, the organization’s current focus, or the environment in which the work is being done. That nmleaves you, the employee,  working on items which do not matter any more.

●Although the connection between compensation, promotion, and performance is clear in your mind, the organization’s administrative systems continually try to obscure that connection with nonsensical explanations.  The talk is about pay for performance but everyone gets the identical raise – even the screw-ups.  Promotions are made on the basis of performance excellence but somehow only go to those who have been around the longest.


The performance evaluation system has too many other considerations

mixed up with it that have no business being there.  The result is that ratings are rarely an honest reflection of the actual situation. Bosses play favorites; they try to hide the information regarding who is getting what; they blame corporate for insisting that all you can have for your outstanding effort is 2.3%.

In the performance evaluation praise is used to help you accept criticism (“You did a great job on elephant but the project was three days late.”) This makes you feel set up, manipulated and oh so angry.

      ●Appraisal systems often do not include multi-person participation in obtaining superior results.  In today’s work-world, no individual accomplishes anything by operating exclusively on their own.  Work is a collaborative effort. However, often one person gets the credit for the results of many.  (How much hostility is generated when one employee is designated as employee of the month?)

To protect yourself, keep a notebook in which you record every extra responsibility or project you take on.  Note your successes every day.  In this way, you have data to present to the boss when performance appraisal time comes around.  In addition, ask often for feedback from the boss concerning your performance so you are always working on timely (priority) issues.  This will ensure you are clear on the boss’s expectations.  Always make notes on what the boss tells you and read them back to him or her to insure full and complete understanding.

In order to prevent that old 2.3% raise for excellent work, about three months before your scheduled performance appraisal discussion, go see the boss and ask, “How am I doing?”  Hopefully the boss will say, “Just great!  I’m really pleased with your performance.”  Then, you can respond, “Good. Then I can expect a solid raise of at least 10%, right?”

It doesn’t really matter what the boss says in response, you have planted the seed that a 2.3% raise is not going to be sufficient.  That’s all you have to do.  From my experience with people using this strategy, what happens is the person gets 8% along with an apology that it was not possible for the boss to get more.

The work relationship between you and your boss should be a partnership.  If that relationship is to be successful, both of you must gain support for your respective goals from it.   You are assisting your boss to achieve the organization’s goals, making him or her look good while at the same time augmenting your own skill set and career objectives.  That is why you must insist on talking about what it is you want from your job in terms of helping you prepare for the future you want.  There is no better time for such a discussion than the performance feedback discussion.

Remember that focusing on the past (mistakes and problems) is about examining things you cannot change.  You want your boss to focus on your future and how you want this job to prepare you for your next job.

With all the downsizing, right-sizing, re-engineering and other assorted euphemisms, for cutting staff, you must realize that you have to be your own career coach. My advice is, don’t get angry, take control!

A normal working person will spend eleven thousand days of their life between the ages of 21 and 65 at work.  That is a staggering amount of time to spend at one single activity in an organization that evidences a decided lack of concern for your personal goals.  As an astute employee, you have to encourage your immediate boss to have a personal stake in your career.  Your boss needs to know that your career success helps him or her to build their own success as a manager because, truthfully, your boss will only succeed if you do.

Thursday Special

Last Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

Trudy and Jim Donavan and their kids moved into a sparsely developed…….

This true story was resolved in a very creative way.  Trudy consulted a realtor and put that neighbor’s house on the market.  When the realtor showed up at their door and told the neighbors how much their home was worth,  hey could not believe their property had appreciated that much in 25 years.  Mom looked at dad and dad looked at mom.  Dad said, “With that kind of money, I could retire immediately.”  Mom said, “We could travel.”  Both agreed that all the kids were old enough to be on their own.

They put the house on the market and within three months Trudy and Jim Donavan had new really nice neighbors.

Scenario #2

You have a neighbor whose yard looks like a garbage dump……..


This true story was resolved when the health department was asked to get involved.  These neighbors were given three weeks to get the place cleaned up or face a very heavy fine which, if they neglected to pay, would result in a lien being put on their property by the town.


Scenario #3

Your neighbor has serious drinking problem………..


This true story was resolved through the justice system.  The neighbor with the drinking problem found himself being sued for both property damage and vehicular endangerment.  The court ordered him into a nine month rehabilitation facility and revoked his driver’s license for one year to begin after he completed his rehab.  He also had to pay for all the repairs of the property damage and the medical bills for the son.



This Week’s Scenarios

Scenario #1

Abacus Software develops specialized software programs for individual companies.  Greg Howard, one of the software developers, has been working with an investment firm to develop a very complicated program designed to track various investment products.  The policy of Abacus Software is to accept changes and revisions from the clients up to the moment when the developer begins his work. Greg believes and has been assured by his boss that he has full authority and responsibility to interact with the client from concept to product delivery.  He is to make all the decisions relating to the project along the way.

Greg’s client calls every day with new ideas he wants incorporated into the software package making it impossible for Greg to get the project off his desk.  Following company policy, Greg accepted the first several changes and then told the client that since he had started on the development, no more changes would be accepted.

The client then went to Greg’s boss and pleated his case for more changes.  Greg’s boss, Weldon Deutsch told Greg that this was a valuable client and therefore an exception should be made for him.  Now Greg is unsure about the company’s policy and how it is applied.  Moreover, now, because he told the client “No more changes” and must now reverse himself on accepting those changes, he feels like a fool in the face of the client and depressed over the fact that his authority was nothing but a mirage.

If you were Greg, what would you do?

Scenario #2

It is a cold, dark Monday morning in November.  An icy mix is falling making the roads slippery and dangerous. Spencer Sportsman phones his boss and tells him it is much too dangerous for him to drive so he will not be coming in to work today.  Sam then calls his good buddy Howe Hunter and says, “Why don’t we go duck hunting today?” The men agree to meet at some specified location fifty miles away braving the dangerous roads to sit  with cold, wet feet in a freezing wet duck blind in the sleeting rain by the lake waiting for hours to shoot at some poor defenseless ducks.

Why is Spencer Sportsman putting so much more energy into his recreational activities than he does into his work?  Why is he so eager to put his body into such physically uncomfortable and dangerous situations when his work would never demand anything similar? 

Scenario #3

A high tech medical laboratory was experiencing a steady growth rate of 23% per year.  It was obvious that their present facility would not be able to contain the staff needed to sustain that growth in the coming year.  The lab’s management made a decision to buy and refurbish an existing building rather than build a new facility.  When an appropriate building was located, it was sixty miles away from the original site.

Management made the decision to split the work force; some departments would remain in the old location and others would be moved into the new quarters sixty miles away.  The employees had been told a new facility was in the works.  What they had not been told was that the new facility was 60 miles away and that half the departments would be going to the new location, half remaining at the original location.

The Vice President of Operations had already determined which departments would remain at the old location and which would move to the new location.  However, he refused to provide that information to the staff. He believed that as soon as the announcement was made, his office would be flooded with complaints by people who were dissatisfied with the decision.

On a Monday, one week before the new facility was to open,  each employee received an E-mail which stated what departments were staying and which were moving.  By Friday noon, the Vice President of Operations received 1,941 resignations from a total work force of 3,610.  “I knew this would happen,” he said.  “People really do hate change and it doesn’t make one bit of difference whether you tell them up front or at the last minute.”  What do you think?”  Was the Vice President of Operations correct in his assessment?

DeAnne’s Anger Tips

The longer a conflict goes unaddressed and unresolved the more difficult it is to resolve. When situations are left to simmer too long, the parties become polarized. Resolution then is nearly impossible. The use of a third party – a mediator – may be necessary to find a resolution.  It is always best to confront issues early on when both parties are still thinking clearly and unemotionally.

Consider how many divorces could be avoided if the parties involved would voice their dissatisfactions when they occur instead of holding them inside for years until only a lawyer can sort them out.

Fighting When Neither Party Is Wrong

Most people would rather have a root canal than attempt to resolve a conflict. In fact, instead of going through the tough work of routing out the real issue and figuring out how to confront the offending party, most people will say, “Oh, it’s just a personality conflict.”   It is never just a personality conflict. That’s an excuse.

Every person brings to each situation unique information gleaned from his or her experience, perceptions, values and goals. In any situation that involves more than one person, therefore, there are bound to be differences of opinion. Therefore, the potential for conflict exists. The conflict is not due to personality differences but because the people involved are at odds over one or more of the following items.  They :

●think differently,

●are relying on a different body of personal experience,

●are missing a vital piece of information;

●are using different sources of information,

●perceive things differently, and

●have different goals.

Let’s look in on a badly matched married couple. Sarah is a second generation American whose family practiced extreme frugality in order to provide the bare basics. Alex’s family has deep roots in the American culture, and, as a child, he never wanted for anything.  When Sarah shops, she purchases the cheapest cuts of meat; when Alex does the shopping, he buys the most expensive cuts. Sarah makes wonderful meals from leftovers. Alex hates leftovers, even when disguised as a creative casserole. When mechanical items break down, Alex throws out the broken item and replaces it with a new one. Sarah will take the broken item to be fixed. She tells him, “It’s important to save for a rainy day.  You never know what might happen”.  Alex tells Sarah, “Life is short. We only go this way once. We should enjoy all that our money can do for us right now.” Sarah thinks Alex is wasteful and reckless. Alex thinks Sarah is anal and compulsive.

Instead of acting as if the other is totally wrong, this couple should explore the reasons why each looks at the world from such a different perspective.  Based on their different perspectives, neither person is wrong;   both positions have merit. Both should seek input from a marriage counselor to find a middle ground.

Here is a work example. Suppose you are the Manager of the Design Department and your opponent is the Manager of the Accounting Department. Your goals are about designing the best, most efficient, edge-of-technology, gizmos in the market place. Your opponent’s goals are concerned with keeping the costs of manufacturing down so that the price of the gizmos is competitive in the marketplace.

You have designed a new, fantastic gizmo model. Retooling to accommodate your new design will be far more expensive than just continuing to produce last year’s standard model gizmo.  However, producing last year’s standard gizmo model renders your department unnecessary.  You might therefore conclude that the Accounting Manager dislikes you personally and is devising clever ways to get rid of you.  You might also assume that you are focusing on the future  in order to keep the company ahead of the technological curve while the Accounting  Manager is just an old fuddy duddy who wants to hang on to old ways of doing things.

Neither assessment is true. What you have here is a simple conflict over goals. It is not personal.  Moreover,  it requires that those at a higher level from both of you determine what the company should produce and bring to the marketplace in the coming year – a brand new model gizmo or more of the older model.

In this example, let’s suppose you are missing a critical piece of information. The CFO told the Accounting Manager that manufacturing expenses had to be trimmed 12 percent in the coming year. The estimated increase for retooling the manufacturing process to accommodate your new model gizmo is 16 percent. This would result in the Accounting Manager having to trim 38 percent from the manufacturing costs.  It would be impossible for him to do that. Therefore, in order to accomplish his goal of trimming 12 percent from manufacturing costs, the Accounting Manager feels forced to avoid incurring any additional manufacturing costs, including those for retooling.  Therefore, he feels forced to take a position against your new design.

Whatever the other person is doing may make no sense to you, but it does make sense to them. Therefore, you must ask yourself, “What piece of information am I missing which, if I had it, would help me understand what my opponent is attempting to accomplish?”  

Suppose, for example, a couple has a young child with a huge nose. Devaney, the mother, wants the child to undergo corrective surgery immediately. Shawn, the father, believes it would be better to wait until the child is older and can better tolerate the operation.  During her childhood, Devaney was severely teased because she was much taller than any of her classmates.  When she remembers her grade school years, the pain of the teasing comes back to her full force.  She doesn’t want her child to go through what she went through.  It could, she believes, scar him for life.  Shawn, on the other hand, was never taunted during his early school years.  Therefore, he is certain that his child will be able to successfully ignore any teasing.  Therefore, he does not want the surgery now.

This is not a matter of who is right and who is wrong. Both positions have merit. What needs to happen here is, instead of arguing, these parents need to share where their views of the situation come from.  Both need to acknowledge that each wants the best for their child.  Next, they need to consult the child’s doctor about the age and surgery-tolerance issue.  Finally, they need to examine their child’s reaction to being teased. The child’s history – not the parents’ history- should determine when and/or if such corrective surgery needs to take place now.

The key to managing conflict is to focus on the issues, not on the personalities or people involved. “What do you want as an outcome or result of the proposed action?” might be a good question to ask to clarity goals.  You want to reconcile different ideas, sources of information, experiences and perceptions so that mutually and in partnership you can move ahead.

Here are other another examples.  Barbara believes that her husband Ralph ought to spend some quality time with the children each night.  Ralph thinks that quality time refers to the weekend when he’s not so tired and out of sorts.  Barbara and Shawn decide to consult their Pastor and learn that using Sundays for family activities is just as powerful for building decent, moral, respectful and well-adjusted  kids as taking time with them in the evenings when everyone maybe tired and out of sorts.

Ralph wants to research replacement windows on the internet and in magazines such as Consumer Reports.  Barbara wants to accomplish this task more quickly.  She wants to go with the recommendation of the window expert at the Home Depot.  Once again, neither person is wrong; both positions have merit.  The couple resolved this issue by consulting a building contractor who, from his experience, was able to help them select the right replacement windows for their needs.

Your co-worker thinks your project should be accomplished one way and you believe some other way is better.  Your co-worker’s information came from a seasoned, experienced employee while yours came from the department manager who is relatively new to the organization.  Maybe your facts and information are identical but, being different individuals, you have interpreted the facts differently. Once again, we have a conflict where neither party is wrong; both positions have merit.  You both decide to approach the General Manager to gain some clarity on the situation.

In resolving a conflict with a neighbor, Barbara wants to get advice from a lawyer relative and perhaps sue the neighbor.  Ralph wants to speak with the local police department.  He thinks this is a one-time problem.  He believes that a little chat with the authorities might be all that is necessary to solve the problem.  Once again, neither person is wrong; both positions have merit.  The couple decides to approach the neighbor, share their concerns and see how he responds before deciding on other measures.

At work, a very familiar conflict may occur over values – about what is right and fair versus what is what is wrong and unacceptable. You may feel that in order to complete the project on time some margin for error is permissible. Your co-worker may believe that one should strive for a no-error, quality result and if that makes the project late, so be it.  If you try to resolve this difference on your own, there will very likely be terms flying around which will not forward the problem solving effort. These will be terms such as slipshod, compulsive, shoddy, obsessive, careless, task-oriented, expedient, over-zealous, irresponsible, inflexible, and incompetent. Once again, neither person is wrong; both positions have merit.  Only the boss can resolve the issue.  Go see the boss and find out what she wants: on-time with errors or perfection and lateness.

The resolution to these issues is relatively simple:

●first – recognize that both positions have merit.

●second – assert that neither of you is wrong.

●third – together select a person at a higher level of knowledge than either of you to help clarify the issue  (a boss or an expert on the topic).

To sum up, with these types of issues, it is not possible to find resolution at your level. You will waste time and energy trying. In addition, you will only create more hostility. The reason is, neither of you is wrong.  Both of you are working in a fog created by a lack of crucial, specific information.

Weekly Anger Tips

The emotions that surround conflict – hostility, anger and rage, are a perfectly normal occurrence between human beings.  It is not necessarily good nor is it necessarily bad. It is just a very common by-product of people working and living together.

Secondly, conflict and its accompanying hostility, anger and rage can only occur in situations where people care about what’s going on. If nobody gives a hoot about how things are done, who is doing what to whom and which things are more important than other things, there is nothing to get emotional about.  It is only when people are personally invested in what’s happening that these emotions occur.

Thirdly, the people involved in the conflict must be in an inter-dependent relationship in order for the conflict and its associated hostility, anger and rage to exist.  Perhaps this is why bystanders to hostile acts do not react.  They don’t care what’s going on and wish to remain uninvolved.

Anger and Family

The main difficulty about raising issues which cause you anger with relatives and very close friends is that the personal risks are always higher with these people than they are with strangers or with people at work. These are often the individuals who mean the most to you in your life. Once again, the tendency is to hold things inside and hope that time will somehow make the situation better. There are only two things that happen with time:

  • you become more aggravated and
  • the situation becomes worse.

Never do the problems just go away. You have to address the issues – with clarity, brevity and, above all, respect.

Most often we tell ourselves to grit our teeth and bear it.  In my book, I use the phrase suck it up.  All this does is creates more stress and anger (very unhealthy) for ourselves.  We become furious because:

●we recognize we are being taken advantage of;

●we know we should have set boundaries and have not done so;

●we feel helpless because the situation has gone on for some time;

●attempting to change the situation now might lose us their affection.

Because a person may not know what to do, they will turn their lives into a pretzel not realizing that confronting the issue head on will change the dynamics of the relationship into one of more respect and distance.  Affection and love will not be lost but the relationship will change.

It is always best to confront the issues.  If done appropriately, you will change the relationship such that the family member in question will discontinue their behavior that drives you into helpless hostility.

I think it is important to remember that family members thoughtlessly take advantage of you because they do not perceive there is a line they have crossed.  Maybe it is because we have failed to make that line clear.  Maybe it is because they recognize that line but, because of the close relationship, they cross it anyway.  Let’s look at a few examples.


Elise became a widow when her son Zack was nine years old.  She told him often that he was now the man of the house and gave him many responsibilities that would have been handled by her husband had he been there.  Elise even included Zack in many of the decisions she had to make regarding finances, insurance and major purchases.

Zack grew into a strong six foot, five inch 300 pound tough young man whom Elise could no longer control. Against her wishes, Zack dropped out of high school in his junior year and apprenticed himself to an electrician so he could make some real money.  He bought a fancy sports car and began to bring young women home. Often Zack would ask his mother to cook a meal for him and his girlfriend and then vacate the house so he and the girlfriend could use her bedroom. Elise always did as Zack asked.

When Elise’s friends found out what was going on, they advised her to throw her son out.  “I can’t do that,” Elise cried, “He’s all the family I’ve got.”  Then her friends told her she had to stand up to him. Tell Zack that this is no way to treat his mother.  “I can’t stand up to him” Elise explained.  “I’m really afraid of him.  Not only is he very big but, when crossed, he has quite a temper.”  Elise was feeling more and more angry and depressed about her situation by the day.  She knew she had to do something to turn things around.

One of Zack’s responsibilities was to mow the lawn. Whenever Elise asked Zack to take care of the lawn,  or any other household chore for that matter, he would either make some excuse or outright refuse to do it.  One day, Elise was outside mowing her lawn in the blazing hot sun.  Her anger was overwhelming.  Then she had an epiphany.

Zack’s favorite food was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  He would always have one with breakfast, take at least two of them with him to snack on at work. As soon as he came in the door at the end of the day, he would fix himself another.  If he spent the evening at home, he would fix himself yet another one before going off to bed. Being the dedicated mother that she was, Elise always made sure that her kitchen was well stocked with Zack’s favorite brand of peanut butter, his preferred flavor of jam and his favorite multigrain bread.

That evening when Zack walked through the door, Elise was ready with a prepared little speech.

Elise:  Although it is your responsibility to mow the lawn, you rarely do it.

That makes me very angry because I do everything you ask, even things that would be considered way out of line for a mother to do for her son.

I want you to mow the lawn tomorrow morning before breakfast.

If you continue to neglect your responsibilities, I will stop supplying the house with peanut butter and jelly.

The following morning, Elise awoke to the sound of Zack mowing the lawn. Although Zack remained the same big obnoxious person that he always had been, this little incident dramatically changed his relationship with his mother.  Zack recognized he had crossed a line he didn’t realize was there.   He no longer asked his mother to vacate the house when he planned to entertain a girlfriend. He rented a hotel room.  He was more responsible about the household chores as well.  Elise changed too.  She was no longer so afraid to confront her son.  An element of respect and social distance had entered their relationship.

Here is another example.

Ken and Marie were madly in love when they married and set up housekeeping in a small starter house.  Almost immediately, Ken’s mother, Doris, manipulated her way into their tiny household.  She missed her only child and convinced her son Ken that she would be an asset, helping with the cooking and cleaning.
From the very beginning, there were problems. If Ken and Marie were discussing the color scheme for the living room, Mama would get into the middle of the discussion and before long the couple would be arguing about the color of the drapes. If Ken and Marie were talking about establishing a savings program or an insurance limit on their home-owners policy, there was Mama, right in the thick of things, telling the couple what they should do. Inevitably, Ken and Marie would get into an argument over Mama’s ideas.

Dorisalso found fault with the way Marie organized things in the house and complained about it to Ken behind Marie’s back. Doristook every opportunity to lecture Marie about giving up her career.  She was insistent that Marie give up her well-paying job as a computer programmer and stay at home.

The couple realized that,  if they didn’t do something drastic, and do it soon, their once happy marriage was headed for the rocks. So, they put their little home up for sale. They explained to Mama Doris that they really could not afford a house at this time. In the process, they took a sizable loss on the house. Then they moved into a tiny apartment where there was absolutely no room for Mama Doris and barely enough room for them.

The couple lived happily in their tight quarters for two years. Then Marie discovered she was pregnant. The couple recognized there was no room in their tiny apartment for them and a baby. Once again, they went house-hunting. Now, of course, they were presented with the problem of Mama Doris wanting to move in to help with the baby.

At this point, Ken and Marie sought professional help. They explained to the psychologist that they both felt under tremendous pressure. He was contemplating moving his little family toAlaska   (Mama Doris hated cold weather).  Marie was threatening to abort the child if Mama was going to become a part of their little household.

Marie and Ken solved the problem by attending a workshop in Anger Management.  Together they developed a brief speech which Ken delivered to his mother over the telephone.

Ken:   Mother, although Marie and I appreciate your desire to live with us,

we have decided that it is not a wise decision at this time.  It makes us fee

l uncomfortable to deny your request because we both love you.

However, the stress of a new baby and all the changes that will bring plus

having another person visiting is just overwhelming right now.  We want

you to plan for a short five day visit in the future perhaps when the baby is

six months old.  How does that sound to you?

Mother Doris never realized the amount of stress she had caused Ken and Marie but she did get the message that she has crossed a line and was not going to be allowed to cross it again.  Although she argued fiercely with Ken, mother Doris finally gave up her battle to move in.  For the first time in his life, Ken finally stood up to his overbearing mother. Dorisdid not move in and agreed to wait for an invitation to visit at some time in the future.

The Relationship Of Anger To Guilt

Conventional wisdom insists that in order for us to survive successfully, it is necessary for others to like us. If you believe in this myth, then you become easy prey for manipulation through guilt. In order to secure the approval of others, you may agree to do things that are not in your own best interests, but are rather what others want you to do. As a result, you feel aggravated and angry when you do what others want and guilty and angry if you do what you want to do. It is a no-win situation.

Manipulation through guilt actually gets you to beat up on yourself.  People have also said that manipulation through guilt is like being beaten with a rubber hose because it leaves no marks.  You, however, are miserable and totally demoralized.

It is easy to see that manipulative criticism is an aggressive act. Our experience of it is that we are being attacked. What is not so easy to see is that guilt inducing comments are also an aggressive attack.  It is not so subtle attempt to control our behavior.  It is a time-honored method that mothers have been using for years.

Mom:  How come you never call?

You:    Mom, I’m on the phone right now.

Mom:  Your brother John calls me every day.

You:    Gee wiz, Mom, my job requires me to travel into different time zones and it’s not always convenient to call you. I call when I can.

Mom:  If you were really concerned about me you’d call much more often. You know, I may not be here much longer with my condition and all.

You:    Mom, the phone lines go in both directions. You can call me.

Mom:  If you’re not there, I have to talk to a machine? A fine thing! Telling your

mother to talk to a machine.  That’s not right.

You:    Just leave a message. I’ll call you right back – well, as soon as I can.

Mom:  It’s not the same. A son should call his Mother.

In the work setting, the most common form of psychological attack is criticism whereas at home, and especially with relatives and family, the more common form of attack is manipulation through guilt.

Let’s take a look at one very common form of manipulation through guilt – a request that you donate money to some cause or other.

Stan: We’d like you to make a donation to theUnited Way.

You:  Thank you, but I’m not interested in making a donation at this time.

Stan:   Do you realize that you’re the only person in the department who hasn’t

made a contribution?

You:  I wasn’t aware of that and I’m still not interested in making a donation at this time.

Stan:   But this is money to help people who cannot help themselves. Don’t you

care about the poor, the handicapped and the homeless?

You:    I do care about those people but I’m not interested in making a donation.

Stan: Everyone in the department will be aware of your lack of generosity. You are going to be very embarrassed.

You:  I’m still not interested in making a donation.

Stan: Without your contribution, we’re going to be the only department that doesn’t reach 100% participation. And it will be because of you. How can you do that to us?

You:  I’m sorry about that but I am still not interested in making a donation.

Stan: You know, you are letting everyone down in the department. All of us were counting on your participation.

You:  Sorry about that. I’m still not interested in making a donation.

Stan: You don’t have to give a lot, a few dollars will do just fine. Surely you can afford to give two dollars.

You:  Let me put it to you this way, I-am-not-interested-in-making-a-donation!

Stan: Not even two dollars?

You:  No.

Stan: Will you at least think about it?

You:  In the unlikely event I change my mind, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you did not ask me again.

The design of the manipulation is to make you feel so bad that the only way to relieve your guilt is to donate the money. If you give in and donate, you will be furious (enraged) at yourself.

The strategy for dealing with guilt inducing, manipulative criticism is to stick to your guns, repeating over and over what it is you want or don’t want to do.  Stand your ground.  Avoid explanation and justification. Not only does that strategy leave you sounding weak, it provides the critic with much too much information with which to continue the manipulation.

Common Hostility in the Workplace, Part II

Here is another true story.  Greg Gupta is taking part in a business meeting with his boss and co-workers.  There has been a monster screw-up and the boss wants to get to the bottom of the problem.  One of the co-workers, Lazy Larry Lungwort puts the reason for the screw-up squarely on Greg’s shoulders by erroneously describing what took place. If Greg says, “That’s not what happened” or “I did no such thing,” he will be taking a weak, defensive posture. Greg asks himself, “What should I do? What should I say?”

Since this takes place in front of everyone with whom Greg works, he decides to explain things privately to the boss later on. But this action does not resolve things for Greg.  He is still enraged by Larry’s false claims.  Lazy Larry has done this before.  Greg is furious and sits up half the night thinking up things he should have said or done to take back control of the situation and come off feeling good about himself. The fact that Greg did nothing at the moment of the attack leaves him feeling angry, used, abused, embarrassed and inept. He begins to consider how he might get even with Lazy Larry once and for all.

Greg comes up with a great plan. The company is one of five in a specialized technical business. All the CEO’s in these five businesses know one another and have agreed not to steal one another’s highly trained staff members. Furthermore, they have also agreed to immediately terminate any staff person at any one of the companies who seeks a position for more money at one of the other companies.

Lazy Larry keeps an updated resume on his computer. So, very early one morning, Greg sneaks into Larry’s cubicle, downloads his resume and sends it to the CEO’s of the other four companies. The cover letter Greg sends with the resume states, “I am seeking a position with greater responsibility that is commensurate with my vast experience and an increase in salary that will reflect a greater appreciation of my technical expertise.” One week later, Lazy Larry is summarily terminated. Greg feels happily justified. He leveled the playing field. Lazy Larry, however, has no idea how or why his resume got into the hands of the other organizations.

What is perplexing about passive aggressive behavior is that you may not realize you have angered a person until these strange behaviors start showing up. Passive aggressive behavior is not the way to resolve a conflict.  You have to speak up and address the situation and the aggravation immediately in a calm and respectful manner. The process can be learned.  You should never have to sacrifice your self-esteem or endure the disrespect another person. Being able to keep a composed demeanor in the face of infuriating situations will enable you to quickly move into conflict resolution. This ability will alleviate many of the daily tensions and stress which often make life so difficult. This is the key to personal power. It is also the secret to conflict resolution because it leaves no one feeling defeated and desiring reprisal.

Common Hostility in the Workplace, Part I

When you are in a conflict with someone the best thing to do is go talk to the person. You want to see if you can reach some sort of resolution with which both of you can live.

For some reason, many people believe that if someone’s actions are causing them anger and rage at work, it is dangerous to for them to address the aggravating individual.  This is especially true if that aggravating individual is your boss.  We tell ourselves, “I will grit my teeth and bear it.”  The attempt to keep the conflict hidden and hold our anger inside generally fails miserably.  The hostility is not well hidden.  It comes out in a form of behavior knows as passive aggressive behavior or don’t get mad, get even behavior.  This is by far the most common form of hostility in the work place.

Passive Aggressive behavior is a subtitle form of anger.  The hostility comes out in annoying behaviors such as forgetting to do important tasks, calling in sick at strategic times, doing exactly what the boss said in spite of knowing that whatever the boss said was not what the boss meant, making mistakes, and so on.  This type of behavior is called passive aggressive. Passive because the mistakes are common and can be easily explained away as honest errors. Aggressive because behind the annoying acts hides a hostile purpose (rage) which is to get even with the aggravating person for something they did (and  have probably forgotten about long ago) or did not do.  Dealing with passive aggressive behavior from another person is like trying to nail jelly to the wall.

Passive aggressive behavior is a popular strategy simply because it enables a person to attack without looking hostile. This is where a person who has some problem issue with you avoids addressing the issue but acts in ways that are purposefully designed to aggravate you.  Your state of exasperation (rage) levels the playing field for them and provides a small sense satisfaction. Here are a few true stories that illustrate passive aggressive behavior in action.

Alice Trent was the first female supervisor in a department of six. Whenever the manager held a staff meeting with his supervisors, he would ask Alice to go get coffee and donuts for everyone. She was furious about this and found it demeaning. This was a new promotion and really, in the scheme of things, getting coffee was a minor issue. So, rather than confront her new boss and tell him how the coffee and donuts routine made her feel, Alice said nothing. She was, however, seething inside.

One day, Alice brought a small bottle of vinegar to work and whenever her boss asked her to get coffee, she spilled a little vinegar into the cup.  The boss’s reaction was to declare at every staff meeting after Alice brought the coffee, “Gee Alice, you make one lousy cup of coffee. Perhaps you should take a cooking lesson in how to make coffee.”  Although she felt happily justified in what she was doing, her actions did not solve her problem.

William Vargas was a hard-working international peace negotiator whose travel assignments made up more than 70% of his job. His wife Maria was about to deliver twins so he asked his boss for a reduced travel schedule during her final month.  The boss reminded William that his job included a heavy travel schedule. He knew that when he was hired. The boss made it abundantly clear that she did not care what was going on in William’s private life.  The State Department was depending on him to fulfill his travel responsibilities and she was going to insure that he did so. In the final month of his wife’s pregnancy, William misplaced his passport. He had to wait three weeks for a new one to be issued. During that time, he was unable to travel so he was at home for his wife’s delivery.

Freddie Wilson was a young kid working on an assembly line. The union contract specified that overtime is voluntary. Production in the area is running well behind current needs. The foreman asks Freddie if he would be willing to work overtime on the weekend to help catch up. Freddie had other plans, so he respectfully declined the foreman’s   request.  The foreman, in front of all Freddie’s peers, manipulatively insisted that he come in by saying, “Everyone else will be here, Freddie. You know how important it is to be a team player. You’re not going to let us down, are you Freddie?”  (This verbal strategy is known as the guilt trip.).

Freddie felt exploited and angry. He mumbled his unwilling agreement. On Saturday morning, bright and early, Freddie took his place on the line, carefully making sure that everything he put together had some sort of error in it. At the end of the shift, nothing made that day passed quality control. Freddie is delighted when he hears the foreman getting chewed out by the plant manager. “You had an entire crew here at time and one-half and not one item passed quality control!  You stupid idiot!”

The target of the passive aggressive behavior, the foreman, doesn’t really understand what actually happened. Therefore, the frustration of both parties will continue. The foreman will again use manipulative tactics when requesting overtime and the kid, Freddie, will once again make junk. Freddie has not learned to stand his ground and the boss has not learned to be honest but respectful and straightforward with his crew members.

When one party attempts to stand their ground and the other party chooses to belittle or disregard the concerns of the other, retaliation often comes in the form of a don’t-get-mad-get-even reaction.