Bullied as Child Finds Himself Accused of Bullying at Work
anonymous Asks ...
I was bullied for being overweight when I was in middle school and I also lived with a lot of emotional abuse and teasing at home from my mother my entire life so anyway I know how badly being bullied feels. I am a supervisor of 28 people in a call center environment. I just had an HR review meeting because of accusations from more than one person that I was bullying my staff. I am shocked. I do not consider myself a bully but I am very quick to get angry when people fail to meet my expectations and I take meeting performance goals very seriously. Obviously I need to change my management style but I get so angry when people slack off or screw up and I don’t know how to keep that hidden. How can I learn to repress my anger?
David Johnson Says ...
Here is a wake up call for someone who is listening. I congratulate you for recognizing the fit. The way you talk about your anger as a means to hold your employees accountable makes it appear to be a valid complaint. Anger is never a means to an end in the context of any sort of relationship.
The solution is not repressing or suppressing your anger. First, you need to recognize it for what it is. Anger is a message from your body that someone has been disrespectful or crossed your boundaries. The problem is that supervision is not about respect. It's about coaching, encouraging, mutually setting goals and helping your employees problem solve how to get there. It seems pretty clear that you have a sense of ownership about job outcomes. At one level, that is a good thing, you likely will be held accountable for your employees' performance. On another level, you need to retain objectivity when working as a supervisor in order to plan and execute the appropriate strategy. Your anger is preventing you from doing so.
The fact is, you can choose to use your anger to do whatever you want. With practice and time you can learn to take your anger and use it to listen to your employee politely. You can also use your anger as a barometer for your boundary issue with your employees and motivation to persist at discovering the problem.
If you doubt your control of your anger, remember the last time you avoided an ugly and risky conflict with someone by gritting your teeth and smiling to cover your anger, or seeming to ignore the combatant and walking away silently grumbling? Anger is most often misused in the context of a power imbalance. A bully intimidates his victim, a husband intimidates his wife or vice versa, or an employer intimidates his employee. Seldom will a bully take on an equal or certainly not a superior. You have identified with your childhood tormentors and find yourself in an uncomfortable position.
In addition, it appears that your experience with anger has way too much influence on your behavior. Anger doesn't make anyone act angry, you have to make the choice to do so. But, it sounds like you may have never learned this. Your experience with anger is that it was a dangerous emotion that lead to your abuse. It also appears that you attributed your abuser's behavior to their anger. So, to you, being angry IS behaving like a bully. Breaking this habit will take some time. You will need counseling and anger management training to learn a new way of responding to your anger.
What is this anger about? Do you take personally your relationship with your employees? Is their performance a reflection of your performance? Then you are set up to be either miserable on the job or making your employees miserable. It looks like it is the latter. Suppressing your anger will make you miserable. You have an issue with respecting your employees. You are crossing their boundaries. They are responsible for their performance, your job is to maximize their performance. You undermine your role and your job by being openly angry at them. If they screw up, it's not your screw up. You just have some more work to do. Are you worried about how your performance will be seen by your supervisor? I think you just got the message about how your performance is interpreted from HR. Congratulations on getting the message right, now get some help to adjust your boundaries and redirect your anger.