Can you ever imagine that in this day and age there is a “prima donna” in our company? People in our office, and this includes me, tolerate her abrasive behaviors—shouting and yelling at people when she is angry or frustrated. People in our company talk against her behind her back but nobody, not even her boss and our President, can talk to her about her temper outbursts. The President of our company, a kind gentleman, just smiles and shakes his head.
She thinks she is our company’s most valuable asset because she is a genius in marketing. Our company is also losing other assets, particularly some of our sales supervisors who left our company because of her. In fact, two of my productive sales supervisors had resigned because she yelled at them in front of their sales representatives and store personnel. I report to her sales counterpart and we implement her and her group’s marketing strategies.
I don’t want to leave the company because of her. But I just don’t know how to deal with her. I’m angry at myself for putting up with her but I don’t know how else to react in the situations when I was the victim of her fury. It frustrates me no end that she just gets her way by being abrasive.
By the way, she is still single at 38 yrs. of age.
Your and others’ silence only serves to reinforce her temper outbursts and abrasive behaviors. She doesn’t seem to notice what your silence means, nor does she care about how others feel because of the way they are treated. Does she know that she caused the resignation of some sales supervisors including your own? Is she referred to as a “most valuable asset” or is that how she perceives herself because she can get away with her aggressive behaviors? Should you continue to ignore her abrasive behaviors and pretend you are not bothered by it? This is what all of you have been doing.
Your “by the way”, indicates that she must be suffering from “emotional deficit” i.e., feeling rejected and unloved. But we are not here to delve into her past. What’s important is what you can do to influence her to stop her aggressive behaviors towards you, since you are bothered enough to seek help.
A few years ago, the president of a company referred to me for executive coaching a member of his management team, a woman who was head of one department and directly reporting to him. The impetus was the result of a 3800 feedback survey which shocked the lady boss. She couldn’t believe the low ratings and comments she received from her own boss (the president himself), her peers, her subordinates and some external customers. Her self-image was shattered. So when she was asked if she needed help in handling her emotions and behaviors, she was open to it. I worked with her for almost two months and involved the president, some of her peers, and direct reports in the change process. The project was successful because she was willing to change and to ask help.
You appear helpless in handling your working relationship with her. You can, however, do two things proactively so that you shall have done some things that might yield a positive result, rather than doing nothing and agonizing about your helplessness. If the present condition persists, you will continue to suffer; this will affect your mental and emotional health and eventually your physical health.
I would suggest for you to use a combination of both direct and indirect approaches:
- Direct approach. I believe in prayer since only God can change people. So pray first. Make an appointment and talk to her one-on-one. Describe her behaviors to you in specific situations and how you felt. Do not speak about how others feel and react. Just speak for yourself.
In coaching seminars that I conduct to address performance deficiencies, I introduce a method of giving constructive feedback. It follows the acronym DESC.
D – escribe the negative behavior of the person to you and in what situation. Do not judge or evaluate the person.
E – express how you felt about this negative behavior
S – pecify how the person could have behaved instead
C – ite the positive consequences to you and to the person of the latter had behaved as in S above
As an example – say the following to her in as calm a manner as you can:
D – “In our meeting this morning you asked me for the source of my data. When I could not immediately reply, you raised your voice and said “There you go again! You are never prepared with your source. Could you be inventing only what you are telling us?”
E – “I felt so humiliated! That was only the second time that I couldn’t cite my source as soon as you asked for it. And for you to say that I could be inventing only what I was telling you was even more humiliating. I do have my source but couldn’t immediately recall it as fast as you wanted it. To tell you the truth, I feel nervous and tense when you raise your voice at me.”
S – “I wish you would avoid shouting at me during meetings and accusing me of inventing my data.”
C – “If you had expressed your disappointment to me in private, I would not have been embarrassed and it would have been easy for me to accept my shortcoming and apologized for it. In this way, I would feel that you respect me.”
The DESC should be given in this sequence and as soon as possible. It must be given in private
To be able to say the above DESC requires self-control of your emotions. Writing down a script of what you will say enables you to collect your thoughts, edit what you have written and feel emotionally relieved after you’ve written it.
If she interrupts you while you are delivering it, stop and listen to her. Then you continue your delivery until you finish your C. Thank her for listening to you. Then leave her office quietly. Give yourself a pat on your back for having told her what was in your heart.
- Indirect approach. Talk to her boss and describe your experience with her and your observation of her behaviors to you and to the others in your sales team. Cite specific instances of what made your two direct reports resign from the company because of her.
The company has spent a big sum of money in recruiting qualified people, developing and training them, only to lose them because of the way they are treated.
The boss is the only one who has authority over her. If her boss does not do anything but continues to tolerate her, then you just have to manage your “pain” if you choose to stay in the company. Its just like a terminal illness where no medicine can remove the pain of the patient. The patient’s doctor just prescribes pain management.
May God bless your efforts to become His agent of change.
Josie O. Santamaria is a professional psychologist, a certified life coach, a career coach and management consultant. She is the president of Career Systems, Inc., a management and human resource training and consulting company, operating for the past 29 years. For more information about her and Career Systems, Inc., log on to www.careersystems.com.ph. She can be reached for work/career issues thru her email address firstname.lastname@example.org