The hit tv show, The Office, often imitates true office culture. In one episode of The Office, Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) becomes frustrated with his coworker's, Andy Bernard (Ed Helms), need for attention. As a prank, Jim takes Andy’s cell phone and hides it above the office area in the ceiling. Andy's cell phone has the ring tone sound of himself singing all four quartet parts to the song “Rockin’ Robin”. The phone keeps getting called but Andy can’t find his phone anywhere. Andy’s anger builds more and more throughout the episode. Andy has been trying to build a closer friendship with his boss, Michael Scott (Steve Carell) but it created more of an awkwardness instead. Andy approaches Michael about hanging out together on Saturday but it back fires. Michael finally pops and says “No! Stop it! You are going to drive me crazy.” Andy is shocked and offended that Michael is rejecting his bromance love for him. Jim decides to make another call to Andy’s cell phone right after this happens. Andy hears the ring tone which causes him to lecture the entire office staff how it is not funny to mess with people’s stuff. Andy turns around, yells loudly in frustration and punches a hole through the wall with his fist. The office is stunned, and Jim hangs up the phone in disbelief of Andy’s actions. Andy tries to cover up his actions by saying “That was an overreaction. I’m going to the breakroom. Pam, do you need anything? Ok.”
I hope that no one has experienced this exact situation in the office. As a leader, you might have overreacted or you saw someone else do so. My blog title is saying that we all handle stress in different ways. Some people find crying is a way to release the tension they feel. It’s okay to cry. My wife cries when she is feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Some might laugh because the stress is heavy and it feels like more is piling up. It’s a way to say “Did this just happen?” or “Now this too?!” Again, it’s a way to release the stress. Lastly, I think some leaders need to express their stress with physicalness. This needs to be done in a controlled environment. All three must be done with boundaries and self-control. The TV episode above showed how Andy did not have self-control.
What leads to someone flipping out? I think there are several reasons but ultimately a lack of self-control is the problem. Self-control is defined by Merriam-Webster as “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” Why is self-control so important as a leader? How can we be sure we show it to our team? I am going to give some tips and explanations to why self-control is critical for a good leader.
This is a phrase that I’ve learned in Sunday School and from many counselors. It’s important to listen to the person and understand the why behind their view. It does not mean you have to agree with that person but it’s important to listen. Sometimes an overreaction will happen because of a knee jerk reaction to the moment. I’ve had plenty of these in my life and many did not make the situation better. Taking time to process the moment, holding off on saying words, can actually give you the advantage to not respond foolishly. I am not saying you can’t respond with your initial thoughts but be sure you give it time to process. Emotions are great but they need to be controlled. This is a great way for a leader to show self-control.
It’s okay to say you need time to process the situation. You can call a time out when you feel your emotions are about to take over. I do not suggest just walking out of the room. That could cause more damage to the situation. Instead, tell the person that this is a lot of information and you need some time to process. I would not let the person leave without knowing when you plan on getting back to them with a response. The key is knowing when you are feeling your emotions start to take over. You will not regret having more time to process but you will regret acting out of anger in the moment.
It’s good to take time to talk through the situation with someone that is not at your company but also a leader. This could be your spouse, a mentor, business leader, etc. Find someone that you are not gossiping with but a person who will be 100% honest with you. Be sure you aren’t finding people that will just side with you because of your friendship. I think talking through the situation with someone not at your company can help avoid a conflict of interest. This is similar to when you are taking a time out but instead of doing internal processing, you are now seeking external advice.
Handling stress is a very difficult thing for all of us. Leaders are called to be better than most because people are following our behavior. More is caught than taught. I think it’s normal to want to laugh, cry or punch a hole through the wall when things become stressful. I hope this blog gives you some encouragement and positive tips on how to navigate through stressful moments with self-control.
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