A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were staying in Port Elliott, our favourite place in the world.
It was a wet and cold weekend but we somehow missed the rain every time we went for a walk.
On one of our walks we noticed a family and their dog near a pond in the local park. All of a sudden there was a lot of noise and yelling. We looked over to see the father yelling aggressively at the dog who had decided to go for a bit of a paddle in the water.
The dog was as obedient as our dogs and he kept paddling in the water despite the man’s desperate attempt to get him to come out of the water.
Eventually the father dragged the drenched dog out of the water, getting soaked in the meantime. He then cruelly picked up the dog by his collar, basically choking the dog and then hit the dog hard.
Suddenly the man noticed that he was being watched and he stopped his cruel punishment of the dog.
The man was furious. Furious that the dog was disobedient. Furious that the dog was now wet and would make his car both wet and smelly. He was furious that the dog was so disrespectful to him.
But on some level I anticipate that he was furious with himself. Furious that he had not invested the time and energy into training the dog. Furious that he had, in some way, contributed to this mess of a situation. And embarrassed. Embarrassed that he had lost his cool. Embarrassed that he had been seen by strangers behaving in a manner that was totally unacceptable.
In that moment, that man was so stressed and agitated by the situation that he became so self absorbed that he didn’t even notice that there were other people around.
I do not condone his behaviour but I can relate to it. I know that there have been times, particularly with my children, when I have behaved totally inappropriately. Where I have yelled and screamed because I didn’t feel respected; I had lost control of the situation.
I have not generally behaved like that at work. Somehow I can restrain myself from yelling and screaming at work. However I have been heard to swear at work.
I have worked with a number of leaders who struggle to hold it together at work. Who do lose their cool. Who are known yellers. It’s very hard for their staff to respect them; when they are unable to behave appropriately in the workplace.
These leaders lash out. They blame, They attack. They don’t take responsibility for the mistakes that have been made, the lack of adequate training, the mess that they have set up. They blame their staff.
And the more they blame, the more they attack their team, the less they are respected and the more stressed they become. A recipe for disaster.
The buck stops with the leader. Always. So the leader needs to calmly take responsibility for whatever is going on and learn from each situation; so that it is less likely to happen again.