Why are you yelling at me?? (does anger work @ work?)

wpid-2014-08-06-21.08.15.jpg.jpegFacing someone who is angry at you – outright yelling-and-screaming angry – is a scenario that comes up when people are trading work horror stories.

I haven’t found a lot out there about how to deal with it well – just lots of “can you believe s/he did that?” 

I remember the first time I listened to my boss yell at someone for a solid ten minutes behind closed doors (his and mine!) before he fired her. My stomach churned like I was twelve years old and about to be grounded. Not exactly how we want to feel at work.

We spend our entire lives developing our personal reaction to anger and those life-long habits are strong ones. They’re our go-to survival techniques. We may avoid situations that may result in anger. We may try to get in with the first punch. Dealing with anger can take a lot of practice if someone yelling at you isn’t in your comfort zone.

If you’re conflict-adverse, it’s helpful to remember that anger isn’t all bad. When it provides the fuel to make a change, it can really help you. We all hear stories about the “I’m not going to take it any more” moment when people stand up for themselves and they get the respect, attention, or result they’re seeking.

That’s not the kind of anger I’m thinking about here. I’m thinking about the situation when anger is a weapon to tear people down, intimidate, and cause fear, it’s destructive. It’s bullying. It’s the feeling in the pit of your stomach that something suddenly went wrong and you’re being attacked.

And it usually makes you….angry.

It’s not feeling angry that’s a problem. It’s the doing. What are they – or you – doing with that anger?

I certainly don’t have all the answers to this one, but I suspect there are a lot of answer out there from your experiences.

I’m happy to share a few ways I’ve been able to deal with these situations better in recent years than I did in the past. I’m really hoping you’ll share some of your experiences too.

What has been working better for me?

1. Ask: Are they really yelling?

If you’re sensitive to criticsm, hard on yourself, or not a fan of anger, it’s easy to misconstrue someone else as “yelling” when they’re frustrated, anxious, or upset.

If you feel like people are yelling at you all the time, you might want to figure out if they really are, or if your perception is playing into the situation. Maybe you need to hear what they’re saying instead of focusing on how they’re delivering the message.

But, sometimes, they really are yelling…..what then?

2. Walk away

There is great power in the polite exit. “I can see you’re upset. I’m going to take five minutes to gather my thoughts.”

It’s okay to leave. Especially if you can feel your emotions rising to meet theirs. The only thing worse than one really angry person is two.

3. Regroup

Take a break. Find a way to get your thoughts out. For me, writing them down helps a lot. For others, it may be physical activity, talking to someone about the situation, but whatever it is, if it helps you group your thoughts or prepare mentally to deal with the situation, do it.

4. Deal with it

This is the kicker, right? Sometimes, we want to just lash out and then not deal with it. Or we want to just pretend “it” didn’t happen. Not dealing with the situation or the person is not good. It’s like the time you got a terrible report card and hid it from your parents. But you knew it was there. Lurking. And when you least expected it, the reality of having to deal with it would come popping up, spreading that dread all over your bright world of denial.

You’ve got to deal with it, or you’ll be sabotaging your way forward.

Dealing with it can take lots of forms. Maybe you can use some of the ideas in this post, or maybe you have other ways of having difficult conversations. That’s another topic.

But what’s the goal of this topic? Dealing with the initial outburst. Whatever your technique, I wonder if our ultimate goals is to not let their anger trigger the same emotion in you.

Can you do it?




Is your inability to delegate holding you (and everyone else) back?


You know who you are. You can’t let go. You won’t let anyone else do the work because they never get it right. You’re buried in a pile of obligations, sweating every deadline and working into the wee hours while you wonder why your  no-good co-workers and ineffective staff can’t just step up.

Been there?

Maybe you’re the boss, maybe you’re the employee, and maybe it’s not be as bad as all that, but if you have any perfectionist tendencies (guilty as charged!) you may be having a hard time with the D word. Delegation. And, by extension, maybe your staff is, too.

Delegation opens so many opportunities for things to go well or awry. Delegation is not bossing them into doing it our way. Much of our success at work comes from completing projects in a way that is valued by others. Considering delegation in this light provides some interesting insights.

Does the person you’re handing off to know what you value?

Unless you’re working with someone you have a long established relationship with and you’ve undergone some sort of mind-meld, it’s likely that you need to spend some time explaining the task, the expectations, and how you’ll communicate along the way.

For instance: “I have a project I’d like to assign to you. It’s going to have a tight deadline and some high expectations. Can we find some time today to make sure we have a shared understanding of the milestones and how I will know you’re making progress?”


To: Employee.

From: Uncommunicative supervisor

Date: Tuesday at 6:30 PM


Hey! I really need to you to get the report pulled together for finance by friday. Ok?”


Perfection is the enemy of the good

We’ve all heard this one. And it’s true. It’s so much easier to just do it yourself instead of taking the time to show someone else how to do it, answer questions, and potentially see them fail.

But how much worse is it to stifle your staff because you won’t let them learn?  Remember when you had a supervisor who wouldn’t let you take on the projects you were eager to do?  Don’t be that supervisor.

Employees? This goes both ways. If it’s your first assignment, you want to get it right and you will have questions (you should  have questions!) Don’t hang onto that work until it’s perfect. Missing a deadline because you’re trying to polish something to perfection is not a good choice. How do you approach your boss?


“I know this project is important to you and I didn’t want to work too long in one direction without being sure we were still aligned. Can we check in for 5 minutes?”

And when you have that check in? Be prepared. Have focused questions then listen carefully for new information.

Remember, you’re both working at this together, if you supervisor forgot to tell you something the first time around, don’t roll your eyes and say “I can’t do this work if the direction is going to totally change every time I ask you a question!” (You get my point). They need to know you’re going to be able to work with some independence but you’ll come back to them along the way. The need for check-ins may diminish as you work together more, but even with people I’ve spent a long time working with, the check-in is essential. Things change, schedules shift, priorities rearrange – you will rarely have a complicated project that is assigned and completed exactly the way it was initially described and those are the ones worth learning.

How’re things looking from another point of view?

If you have an employee who has been offered help only to brush it aside…no, no, I got it….and they’re weary, ring-eyed, and intent on doing it themselves, you may be working with a delegation-challenged-perfectionist.

Perhaps an honest conversation about how their reluctance to delegate is impacting others will help them see their situation differently. Appeal to their better self, the one that wants to motivate and encourage others. Acknowledge that they’re drowning in deadlines and assignments and that’s not a sign of success. Ask them to help someone else grow to their level of skills.

Then listen closely. They may be able to point out areas for improvement. Together you might identify people who can help find success.

I have a mentor who regularly asked “who’s your support team?” when I talked about new projects or initiatives. It’s a life-saver of a question, worth internalizing and sharing.

Are you the perfectionist or do you work for one?

How have you met this challenge?



Tear Down the Argument to Build Agreement



We had a department store in our town that is being converted into a new movie theater and shops. I drove by today and all that was left of the old store were piles of debris and the metal structure sticking out in the 90* heat.  I could still imagine where the door had been, the shoes, the connection to the rest of the mall, but it looked so different that I could also imagine big theater screens, new seating, and openings to restaurants where there had been blank walls.

I love this stage of renovation, when you’re freed up from what you used to know about a space or a place, and your mind begins to see the possibilities.

In the middle of an argument or conflict, it can feel like you’re dealing with a lot of “knowns” but, if you can get down to the structure of the situation, there are usually more possibilities than we first see.

The metal framework is the essential area for discussion. The bricks, doors, windows, wires, tiles – they’re all extra. They shape the final form and function of the space, turning a two-story box into a department store, a theater, or something else altogether.

Usually, when we walk into a negotiation of any sort, we come with our building. We know what we want from the interaction and how the agreement should look when we come out.

What’s difficult is to engage with an open mind about what the other person sees, to work with them to tear down their building (and yours!), and construct something together that works for everyone.

At the heart of this approach is listening to understand. Since we’re not mind readers, we have to ask questions. Lots of questions.

I deal with a lot of situations that appear to be black-and-white at first. “We can’t do that, can’t approve that, it has to be like this, that’s impossible, can’t be done, this is the only way….etc.” These are position statements.

Usually, there’s a very good purpose behind the initial statement. Finding out what they’re concerned about (safety? cost? management? precedent?) and sharing your interest (and don’t slip a position in here – be genuine about what’s important to you) gives you an opportunity to ask my favorite question: “Is there a way for us to meet both our needs here?”

This approach takes time and a willingness to remain calm, keep asking and digging, and listening for the interests and concerns behind the words.

“How do we both win?” It’s the golden question that, when coupled with really hearing what the other person needs are, can help move us into constructing a shared solution.