The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 8, 2013

Your Office Coach: Worker must tame temper to succeed

By Marie G. McIntyre
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

— QUESTION: One of my employees seems to be alienating his co-workers. Several of them have complained that “Ted“ gets angry and upset very easily, so they try to avoid working with him. His moody outbursts make people uncomfortable and create tension in the group.

Because I have never seen that side of Ted, I’m not sure how to handle this. Although he seems a little high-strung, Ted does good work and always behaves appropriately around me. If I bring up these concerns, he’ll want to know who complained, which will only cause additional friction. What should I do?

ANSWER: Despite lacking firsthand knowledge, you can probably assume that these complaints are valid. One unhappy colleague might signify a personality conflict, but widespread concern almost certainly indicates trouble with Ted.

Unfortunately, difficult employees often fail to realize that satisfactory job performance involves more than producing results. Success also means working well with your boss and getting along with co-workers. Ted apparently meets two of these criteria, but is failing miserably at the third.

As the person responsible for this group, you need to have a firm and direct coaching conversation with Ted. When he demands to know who complained, remind him that he has no right to that information, then quickly return to the topic at hand.

For example: “Ted, I understand your wanting to find out who spoke with me, because that’s just human nature. But my conversations with other employees are confidential, just as my conversations with you are confidential. We need to discuss your disruptive behavior, not the people who mentioned it.“

Ted must clearly comprehend that if his fits of temper continue, serious consequences will follow. Office tantrums are completely unacceptable and should never be tolerated.

Q: My boss constantly talks about her children, her in-laws, her social life and other personal matters. She will ask if I like what’s she’s wearing, then explain why she purchased it. She also enjoys gossiping about other managers. All this unnecessary conversation is a big waste of time.

As her executive assistant, I have no way to escape these lengthy monologues because I sit outside her office. If I try to change the subject, she gets annoyed with me. I don’t want to quit my job, but I can hardly stand to spend one more day around this woman. Any suggestions?

A: Managers and assistants typically have a very close relationship, so you aren’t likely to succeed in this role unless you conquer your resentment. Since your boss’s chatty personality isn’t going to change, you must either become more tolerant or start making plans to leave.

One adaptation strategy is to view these gab sessions as just another part of your job. Make an effort to anticipate them and adjust your schedule accordingly. But if you still grind your teeth whenever your manager mentions her mother-in-law, then it’s time to move on. Remaining in this job with such a negative attitude wouldn’t be fair to either one of you.



Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.“ Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.