This week I am coaching at an event in London. It’s a great crowd. But I was reminded of the last time I was coaching at a similar event and there was a very angry man in the crowd. We will call him Bob. Now Bob had a problem. And it wasn’t the problem he thought he had.
The problem he thought he had was that he was not being listened to. And he made that very clear to the staff at the venue, the coaches and his fellow delegates. He was rude to the staff, shouted at people and complained to everyone who was in earshot about everything he could possibly complain about.
His real problem was that he was a person who had some challenges to deal with and did not have the skills to deal with them. He needed help and had no idea how to ask for it. He was like a naughty child wanting attention, and getting the wrong sort.
The problem really was that he wanted help but wasn’t ready to receive help. And so he was blaming everyone else for everything else, rather than taking responsibility for his own life and his own decisions.
And sometimes you come across those people at work.
You are a new manager in a company, taking over an established team, who have a few problems. One of those problems is Nick, or as the team nicknamed him ‘Mr Angry’. Nick was constantly late for work – and would arrive shouting the odds against the bus driver, the weather, the traffic. Nick’s projects recently were consistently missing deadlines, and that would be accompanied by associated shouting the odds about the lack of time he had been given to complete the project (managements fault), another department not providing information on time (other peoples fault), or the unrealistic nature of the original project plan (back to his managers fault again).
This was a real situation for one of my clients. And he rang me in despair. The conversation went something like this:-
Me – “How’s the new job going?” Him, “Well Julie – I was sooo looking forward to this but it’s already turning into a nightmare. One of my team Nick, is very unproductive and he also has anger issues. He is very confrontational, and I really don’t know how to handle it. I am thinking of getting HR involved and going down a disciplinary route. I’ve had lots of complaints about him. Thing is – he has been here years, and previously did really well. I’d like to help him and talk to him and I HAVE tried, but he just gets defensive”.
After some coaching on how to handle this situation, my client managed to get Nick into a situation where he opened up about what was really going on. His wife was quite seriously ill, and Nick was struggling to cope with looking after her, sorting out youngish teenage children, and a severe lack of sleep and concern for his wife and the future was leaving him stressed and angry.
He hadn’t ever had to ask for help before and didn’t really know how to, and was aware he was underperforming and was scared about losing his job, which was the one thing that was keeping his head above water. He was screaming out for help, but unable to articulate that for fear of looking weak, or unable to cope (which was the exact truth).
After the conversation, my client was able to put in place measures to help Nick – from flexible hours to assigning him some admin support and buddying him up with another member of staff. Nick was lucky – he had a manager who wanted to help. And he got back on track work wise, which was one less thing for him to worry about.
If you have someone in your organisation who is attracting the WRONG kind of attention and you want to know more about my conversation with the client about how to get someone out of anger and into conversation, drop me an email to [email protected]
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Julie Hutchison is co-Director with Jan Sargent of Transforming Performance, a consultancy which provides businesses with expert support in Leadership Coaching, Team Development and Performance Coaching, Executive Coaching, Mentoring, Training and Behavioural Profiling and help in getting the best from you and your people. If you’d like to have a chat and a coffee to discuss how we can help you, we’d love to talk. Call us on:
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