As the pandemic drags on, the power of positive thinking is not working for managers. In fact, as a manager, you may be struggling to control your temper more than usual these days. How can you tell when it’s time to take serious action to improve the situation? Madeleine at Blanchard LeaderChat has a few tips on this touchy topic.
The Truth About Denial and Toleration
Managers often tell themselves that a specific problem doesn’t bother them very much. They’ll decide that an employee who always misses a deadline is doing their best. And they’ll rationalize that they can make up the difference by doing the work themselves because managers are supposed to help out. Over time, if you engage in enough of that kind of thinking, you’ll start feeling stretched as you spend your time covering for your employees. Sooner or later, you’ll resent that, especially if you’re also feeling stressed about a family member’s health or another personal crisis. That’s when the sharp edge is likely to creep into your voice or when you'll cut someone off who’s complaining about the same problem for what sounds like the tenth time.
Madeleine also points out that tiny irritations tend to build up over time. You know you need to take care of the office phone system, for example, in order to improve customer service. Ironically, you’ll have to sit on hold forever before you can speak with someone to find out why calls keep getting dropped. It’s enough to make you want to rip the phone cord out of the wall. These kinds of tense responses are a warning not to keep ignoring what's bothering you.
You don’t want your employees to hesitate to come to you. And you don’t want them gossiping behind your back. A proactive approach will serve you well.
Managing Your To-Do List
The best proactive approach is to create a list of items that are nagging at you, along with ideas about how to resolve them. In a recent Manage Smarter podcast, one of our guests discussed how to value items on your to-do list. People often attend to the emergency items but never get to the important items. Dr. Evans, a psychiatrist, has another way to classify the to-do list. He describes the easy routine tasks on any list as “blue.” These items don’t require emotional commitment. They can be done without heavy thinking and complex interaction with other people. We put these “blue” items on the list because we feel good when we cross them off as complete. Once you commit to getting the phone system fixed and spend the required amount of time on it, that irritation disappears.
Struggling to Control Your Temper
Too often, managers find a way to avoid the “red” items on their list. The longer they postpone addressing these items, the more danger they are in of losing their temper. When that employee continues to deliver the report a few days late, you may be curt with them or someone else in the department.
If you want to make a real change in your daily stress level, Evans suggests that you come to terms with one “red” item on your list every day. Usually, the solution will involve a one-on-one conversation with your employee. Yes, these conversations will be uncomfortable. There may even be tears. When you meet with an employee who’s really having trouble completing a task, take the time to go through the workflow to figure out where the stumbling blocks are. At that point, you’re in a good position to suggest improvements to their workflow.
Over time, these actions will also reduce your stress levels.