I remember a time many years ago when I was working with a health care group out of state. They brought me in to do an assessment of their charge capture process throughout a 2-hospital system. I’d been working on the project for about two weeks, and things had been going fairly well. Come the beginning of week three, there was an incident which almost gummed up the works.

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The principal on the project, who’d hadn’t been there the first two weeks, finally showed up on week three. It took him until Wednesday of that week to finally come visit me. He seemed like a nice enough person initially, but I sensed that the mood of the group of people I’d been working with had suddenly changed.

Everyone else worked for the company that had brought me in, but since I’m an independent, I decided to continue working on my own project, doing the work I was hired for. I work well with others, but I didn’t care to allow my mood to change just because everyone else’s had.

Late in the afternoon this man comes to my office and starts asking me questions about my part of the project. I realize early on that I don’t like his style. He would ask me a question, and while I was trying to answer it he would cut me off. He was one of those fast speaking guys, and I got the impression that he was used to being heard but wasn’t all that good of a listener. I even endured a question which I felt was a direct attack on my abilities.

I got angry, but instead of yelling or showing my anger I continued answering his questions as best I could. I also decided on a course of action where I started to continue giving my answers during those times when he was trying to cut me off. I didn’t work for this man, though I was contracted by his company, and they had flown me all the way to Texas to do a specific job that he wasn’t qualified for.

By the time I was finally establishing that I wasn’t about to back down from him or to be intimidated, he suddenly changed gears. He stated that it looked like we were on the same page, and started working his way back out of my office. He never addressed my work again… at least he didn’t to me personally, and the project manager never said anything about it.

I was irritated by what had occurred throughout the night and into the next day, but knew that I had a job I was hired to do. Some of the joy had gone out of the project, but I had stood my ground. LI eventually had a conversation with the project manager and told him about the conversation that had taken place the previous day.

I was told that they had been in a meeting for about four hours on Wednesday and that the meeting hadn’t gone well. Pressure was being put on them because of promises that had been made to the senior management of the hospital, promises that shouldn’t have been made. He said that when the meeting had ended this man was upset with how everything was going, and that’s the mood he was in when he came to talk to me. He apologized for this man’s behavior, and said he’d talk to him about it.

Transference is the act of transferring emotions from one person to another. In the above scenario, there was a transference of anger from the principal on the project being mad at others and projecting it onto me, even though I had nothing to do with his consternation. In many situations, such transference would keep passing itself from one person to another all day until, by the end of the day, the office environment is a mess.

All of us have instances when things don’t go our way. We can have some of the highest highs, and we can have some of the lowest lows; sometimes in the same day, sometimes within minutes.

From a management perspective, when you have people working for you it doesn’t help your credibility if you have wild mood swings during the course of a work day. Employees will always be on edge, wondering which emotion they’re going to have to deal with for the day. When your employees are on edge, their performance is ultimately going to fall short of your expectation because they become so fearful of making mistakes that they become hesitant to make decisions. Whenever anyone is hesitant in doing their job, they will make mistakes.

To follow up on the above scenario, after my encounter with this particular gentleman, even though I was upset, I didn’t show my angry side. I talked to every person the same way I had before the encounter. Later on, when I was meeting new people as part of my project, I treated each person as my equal and someone whose responses I valued. I did get a bit quieter for the rest of the evening and into the next day, but I refused to fall into the trap of taking out my anger on someone else.

How do we as managers, employees or people find a way to stay balanced while dealing with our emotions? Below are some things to watch out for, as well as tips you might find useful:

1. Don’t fall into the trap while the event is occurring.

Much better mood to be in

You’re allowed to feel and deal with any negative emotions while something bad is occurring. You always want to try to manage your situation because the only person you can control is yourself.

Don’t get caught up in a transference where you’re yelling at someone because they’re yelling at you; the same thing goes with your choice of language. Don’t allow anyone to treat you as less than a person at that moment either. Learn how to strike a balance between what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not from others, and figure out a way to use what you’re taking from someone else against them. In my example above, I began to keep talking while being interrupted, and he finally started listening to what I had to say.

2. Take some time to gather your thoughts together before interacting with others.

Every once in a while you may need a few moments to decompress and regain your wits. Try taking some deep breaths, or even going for a short walk. A good Reese’s peanut butter cup might make you feel better. 🙂 When you’re dealing with something like this, if you need to break your normal protocol in order to get yourself back under control, do it.

3. It’s okay if others know you’re upset.

I don’t know that I believe in ESP, but I do believe that people who work with each other can usually sense when something is out of order emotionally. I certainly felt that the mood of the people around me had changed, and I didn’t know them all that well.

Being upset with an event or a person doesn’t give you the right to take it out on others. Sometimes you might have to mention to the next person you see that you’re a bit upset without going into too many details, especially if it involves a co-worker. It’s better to say something like “I can’t deal with that issue right now; give me some time”, than it is to try to get through it if you’re not emotionally ready. People will not only be forgiving, but they’ll appreciate that you didn’t transfer your angst on them.

4. Take time to think about what transpired and learn something from it.

I don’t subscribe to the theory of forgetting something happened and moving on. When you do that, you’re liable to keep having recurrences of that type of bad behavior from someone; that’s never fun. Learning how to deal with the types of people you encounter life will help you gain an advantage when dealing with them a second time. You not only protect yourself from having that same type of emotion occur again but, as Dr. Phil likes to say, you get your opportunity to teach them how to treat you.

5. Don’t expect perfect outcomes.

You’re going to replay it in your mind later, many times. The event is over; it played out the way it did.

Don’t try to change what happened in your mind; it doesn’t work anyway. Instead, break down what you remember: when things went bad; how quickly or slowly things progressed; what type of language was used and how it was delivered; what did you do that may have worked or failed. You want to know more about who was ultimately in the right when it comes to deportment and use that as a learning tool.

6. Give yourself a break.

If you gave it your best shot, don’t beat yourself up over the outcome. You’re not perfect, the other person isn’t perfect, and hopefully after you’ve each had time to think about what occurred you’ll each make sure things don’t get to that point again. Hopefully both of you will have learned some important lessons but the only person you can control is you… as I said in point #1. 🙂

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