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Why staying calm is important

4 min read


As a new employee, relatively fresh out of college and working at a Fortune 100 company, I had some preconceived notions about how people would behave in a professional environment. I learned quickly that people are people and that my ideas about treating others with respect — especially in the workplace — weren’t always top of mind for others.

My cubicle was in the corner of a huge square space the size of a warehouse and filled with other cubicles. White noise was piped in to keep the sounds of phones, conversations, etc., to a minimum for those who wanted some quiet to work. In the opposite corner of this large space , the vice president had an enclosed office.

My work was often interrupted when I heard this VP yelling, screaming and berating (yet another) employee all the way across the building from his office to mine. He had a reputation for tantrums, and you never knew when they would spike. He was feared.

On the other hand, I recently worked with a leader who, when her stakeholders were asked to describe the first strength that came to mind in describing her leadership, unfailingly noted her tranquility. Even in the midst of crisis, she never wavers; she is always the voice of respectful calm. She is admired.

Who do you think is the most effective leader? That isn’t a trick question. I think you know that the second leader I described is the most effective because of her ability to stay calm and respectful at all times.

Yelling, screaming and berating others is not acceptable behavior from a leader. If you have a tendency to “go off” on others, you set a bad example (people are watching you and copying your poor behavior) and make the objects of your rage feel terrible. Motivation is killed. More importantly, your employees will avoid and abandon you when you need them most to knuckle under and get the work done or to go the extra mile.

So get a grip on your temper. Understand what triggers your anger and find a way to control it because if it continues, you won’t:

Hear what you need to hear. The leaders who’ve met their downfall because they didn’t receive important information are many. One of the best ways to know what’s going on and to get truthful information is to develop relationships based on respectful listening. If you’re pushing people away with your anger, you won’t hear the things that are important to successful leadership.

Make the best decisions. Your best decisions will be made when others participate in them. If your anger is turning others away from you, eventually you end up making decisions on your own. Input from others may be the key to success. Learn to tame your anger and you will get the kind of input you seek: truthful, complete and with the organization’s best interests in mind.

Be able to count on others. Are you noticing that people are leaving you in the dust either physically or emotionally? That you can’t count on people to get the things done that they’ve committed do? Is turnover amongst those reporting to you higher than you’d like? If anyone has had the courage to come forward and tell you that your anger is destroying your organization, listen to them, thank them and do something about it.

Be a leader. If employees are avoiding or abandoning you, you lose followers; and what’s a leader without followers?

Find ways to understand and notice the triggers push you over the edge and then to avoid the tantrums that push others away, and you can continue to gain trust and respect from others in return. That is the mark of a great leader!

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 10 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive-coaching firm that manages large-scale corporate-coaching initiatives and coaches leaders to prepare them for bigger and better things.