Having been in that environment early in my career I cannot think of a more demotivating scenario where leadership is based on anger and outbursts that put fear and insecurity into people. With this kind of fear people have no idea how to react, how to respond and in fact become immobilized from taking any action.
Some may argue to simply ignore the “bark” and decide not to follow up once the anger fit is over tossing it up to “the bark is bigger than the bite.” That solves nothing.
What’s really going on here when a leader lashes out at others and how do those being lashed out handle this sort of thing?
My first reaction is to get yourself out of that kind of environment if you know this is a common practice. Nothing good can come from being constantly berated, insulted and shown little respect other than learning that it is not the sort of behavior you ever want to repeat onto others.
Having said that, there are workarounds with this sort of abusive person first by being brave enough to respond in a manner that doesn’t threaten but “confronts” –but does not get into confrontation.
You see, the “barker” needs to feed his ego and insecurities though tantrums. It feels good to the barker to berate others, which borders on insane behavior. Really though, the barker is often a poor communicator. The barker forgets that words carry weight and bad words and behavior influence what employees think about themselves, each other, the company and their customers.
In order to reduce or halt this sort of behavior one needs to be smarter and braver than the barker and convey that a lack of respect will not be tolerated; that you are perfectly willing to help solve whatever issues are present, but that a mutually respectful relationship is required to do that. You will either get fired at this point, but the more likely scenario is that you will “calm the beast.” Only then can things move into productive conversations and actions.
Additionally, the one predictable characteristic of the barker is that after the lashing has been dealt is that they typically run. They run away from the person or people they just killed with words. Those still standing are left in bewilderment.
When this would happen to me, I would follow the exiting barker and ask what is truly at the heart of the matter. I would show respect and a sincere interest to help solve the barking boss in whatever the issue was. I can’t say that I was successful 100% of the time, but what I will tell you is that creating logical conversation to an illogical and angry person is one of the greatest skills a positive leader can achieve.
It takes patience. It takes being humble (but you don’t allow people to walk all over you). You allow the barker time to speak without putting him or her on the defensive. That takes understanding and compassion.
For my own behavior I’ve always kept in mind that whatever problems or grief I might have in my personal or business life, when I am with other people in a leadership role or in personal life interactions, I simply cannot allow those extraneous factors to come into play. You cannot allow yourself to project “self-issues” towards others.
While we’ve all lashed out at others during some point in our lives for reasons that have nothing to do with them, it really is an awfully poor trait to display.
Smart bosses do not shoot from the hip and they do not shoot from the lip. When ones bark is bigger than the bite, people lose respect and “believability” especially those in a leadership role.
That’s when people will bite back –and that’s when you lose peoples respect and lose good employees.