Dave Conrad: Unpredictable, violatile managers stress everyone
Dear Dave: I have a manager who is quite unpredictable. He is fine one moment and turns ugly and explodes the next moment. This up-and-down behavior is putting all of us on pins and needles. We would be much happier if he was more even in his behavior and temperament. Can you please write something about this problem? Hopefully he will read your column. — P
Dear P: I know what you mean. Working for a Jekyll and Hyde leader is nerve-wracking and puts you on edge, because you never know what to expect. It would almost be better if he were a constant SOB, so you knew what behaviors and attitude would be present.
Unpredictable bosses are the way they are because they cannot control their thinking and emotions. Poor, unsuspecting employees never know when it is a good time to approach this type of boss for fear they will get pounced on. Accordingly, ideas and thoughts, as well as vital news and information, do not get surfaced by employees, because nobody wants to go through the grief.
I think some managers are just not cut out to handle the stressors associated with the role. Good leaders are cool, calm and analytical about things that come their way. They take the time to assess the various challenges they face and maintain control of their composure and emotions. We all want leaders who think before they react, and we especially want leaders who stay focused on their work, and do not overreact when things might not go as planned.
A message to managers
Managers, if you suffer from exhibiting behaviors that are up and down more than a department store elevator, there is hope for you. The first thing you need to do is evaluate how you react to things and determine the extent of your problems.
This requires a very candid, honest and possibly humbling inventory of how you conduct yourself throughout the business day. Are you hot and cold and driving your staff crazy? Are you jumpy and on edge throughout the day, exploding when unpredictable events occur? Finally, can you manage your emotions and stay on an even keel when stressors are building up inside you?
If you come clean and realize you have a problem, then it is time to deal with it constructively and thoroughly. I would recommend — depending on the extent of your explosive nature — you learn emotional control techniques and therapy. If you are someone who really comes unglued in moments of challenge, it might be time to get professional counseling. If your management of stressful challenges is somewhat controlled, but could be better, it is time to be mindful about how you act before your staff.
I think we need to learn how to take a breath, step back from the stressful situation and get a clear picture of what is really going on and how we should react when dealing with a given matter. Your employees are watching you and you need to set a good example. They want to see someone who is in charge of the situations and does not fall apart under pressure. The employees just want to have a good, productive day without having to worry about their manager jumping around like a frog in a hot skillet.
I recommend volatile leaders should learn calming techniques and to start with a mantra that will help them focus. It could be as simple as a word or a phrase you say to yourself before reacting. I believe if you can give yourself a little time before reacting, you will be able to change the way you behave and come across during the stressful event.
Nobody wants to work for someone who is unpredictable and exhibits emotions that are inappropriate for a given situation. We all want strong leaders who take a good look at what is going on, devise a strategy to handle the situation and maintain emotional stability throughout the management process. That's all. We want to know how our leaders will behave.