I had a heck of a day at work yesterday. A guy with a huge reputation for losing his shit turned a 5 minute conversation about coaching one of his employees on project management skills into a 45 minute discussion into which he interjected (as soon as I finished explaining the issue) how disappointed he was in me for [insert 29 completely unrelated reasons], reassuring me how "deliberate" he was in using that word "disappointed." Sadly, he did not use air quotes to underscore that disappointment.
It took me 30 of the 45 minutes just to drag the conversation back around to the original issue. What I dislike about people who employ this blitz tactic of avoiding the original topic is that the employee in question - whom, it turns out, we both care about - remains at issue. The manager spent so much of his time trying to deflect any criticism of this person he was completely missing an opportunity to build a relationship with me, his ally, and missing an opportunity to hear valuable feedback about his employee, someone we both would like to develop.
Admittedly, he has a reputation for doing this stuff. He has such a bad reputation among his peers and direct reports that he does not get much feedback about anything, and I told him, "I know that's what you're doing, you're encouraging me not to approach you with feedback in the future." He was on a tirade for a long time after that, unable to stop his own emotions from escalating. I stopped him twice in the 45 minutes to suggest that, until he could get his feelings under control and go back to a calmer state, we postpone the conversation altogether.
It's interesting, when you do not let someone emotionally hijack you, that is take your emotions out for a spin, you can actually hear what's happening quite clearly in the conversation, and because you're not joining in with the ultra-spun-up reaction, you might pick out something going on with their personal life.
For example, he brought up reading the 5 Languages of Love. He was trying to put this big, corporate spin on it, a point totally lost on me because all I could think about when he said that was: his wife has made him read this book because she is out of options for dealing with his bullish rage. I've read that book, too, because I know where I have had gigantic gaps in my relationship skills. I know you do not go grab that book for no reason.
That made me feel some compassion for a guy who does not have much in the way of relationships with anyone in the office, which is bad because he's a senior level employee in charge of a lot of operations. And we could stand to have a set of people skills when dealing with a large team and a lot of responsibility, because, let's face it, these people will not perform out of fear. They will not be forced.
I eventually got home, child in tow, and we three carved pumpkins, and my mind was able to rest from the tumult of the day. Part of me knows this is how life in a competitive environment goes - it is very kill-or-be-killed. I know at times most people are hoping you go away, you quit, throw your hands in the air and say, "I can't." When I was scraping the insides of my pumpkin out, I felt that way. I just can't keep doing this every day. It was really relaxing to take my time and carve away, to spend some time with people who are not trying to shove in the spear.
Whatever I do in my weekly tasks, I try to include not doing the bad behavior I observe. That occurs in every work environment, at every job. There are hosts of people lining up to show off their least desirable personal qualities. Sometimes, work is the only place they can go hog wild with their roguish bullshit. Certainly someone can't get away with it at home anymore, because his wife is going to whip out the 5 Languages of Love and remind him what screaming at her will get him.
It is raining today, which sucks for the kids, but handing out candy will happen. Kids will come outside for candy, rain or shine. I am taking a page out of their book today, I am going to revive my childlike wonder, adults can suck it! I am going to remember that children bring us back home to where things are simple, where things are straightforward and easy to understand. That is the place to be!