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Sales Management Therapy: Tantrum Tribulations

by Tina Cherpes, Featured Contributor

Behavior Therapy – #25

As the story escalated, Joanie’s lunchroom audience was growing and while she tried her best to maintain composure, there were definitely a few uncontained moments, “…and you could see the veins in his neck thumping and his face was turning beet red; we thought for sure he was going to blow a gasket.  So we’re all just sorta watching his meltdown and waiting for him to stop yelling when WHAM (she began a dramatic reenactment) he pushes EVERYTHING off his desk, rocks back in his chair, grabs that fancy-ass Cole Haan from his foot, fires it over our heads, nails the dry-erase board dead center, and cracks it down the middle. No lie, saleshe threw his shoe at us…it was epic”.

While they can appear in many forms and with varying degrees of severity, office temper tantrums are an all too familiar part of the workplace landscape. Whether it’s the cold-shoulder or silent treatment, sulking or pouting, passive-aggressiveness, or yes, even physical hostility, office temper tantrums have a well-earned reputation of leaving a trail of productivity, service, and sales level destruction in their wake.

Regardless of which side of the tantrum we’re on, its lingering aftermath is likely to create enough of a distraction to derail (at least temporarily) any legitimate attempts to accomplish the actual tasks we’re being paid to perform and, understanding what a temper tantrum is will help us understand how to move forward with the minimal amount of productivity impact and ideally, long-term emotional resentment.

As an adult, a temper tantrum is rarely more than a blatant act of manipulation; a series of learned behaviors that have proved successful in the past.  And success (in the eyes of the one throwing the tantrum) equates to willful compliance and/or obedience of those to whom the wrath is directed.

While some experts believe the angrier we get, the less we may actually be aware of it, there is little debate about the importance of remaining calm while the tantrum is being thrown around or toward us. If we need to respond at all during the episode, it’s best to limit our response to validating the person’s feelings (that he or she is upset) and not the damaging behavior he/she is engaged in.

From a timing standpoint, it may be helpful to wait for the person to run out of breath/steam prior to engaging (attempts to interrupt, debate, or refute are typically futile) and with a deliberate, calming demeanor begin, ‘I understand that you’re upset.  I can’t fully listen to you when you’re *throwing things* and would be ready/willing to listen to you when you’ve had a chance to calm down’. *Note: substitute throwing things with any inappropriate behavior.

At that point, we need to stop talking, maintain eye contact, and allow our tantrum thrower an opportunity to regain their composure so we can begin the process of getting back on the road to productivity.


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