A passage from Al-Anon text reads, “Let me reflect how much damage I may have done, and may still do, by saying the first thing that comes to mind. Let me realize that the worst reaction of unbridled anger falls upon me. What I say in a single moment of uncontrolled rage can have inconceivable long-range consequences.” Reading this in the morning, and then again a few hours later, the words began to sink in.
I might add that while these sentences are not necessary intended for the workplace, there is certainly an ability to apply them so. While it is less likely people come from a place of rage at work, they certainly do come from a place of “saying the first thing that comes to mind.” Throughout my career, I’ve come across employees who have no inside filter. These employees are very expressive, and have no problem blurting out their immediate thoughts. Unfortunately, I have found these employees are not self-aware, nor understand the dynamic of how to successfully navigate through the politics of an organization. Most of the time, these immediate thoughts are negative in nature. These employees do not realize the impressions they leave with coworkers with their words, and are often times, are toxic to building a cohesive team. These employees are also referred to as the pessimists.
There are employees who also instigate and bully. These employees do come from a place of anger. The instigators pit people against each other, thrive on drama and unrest, and use anger and negativity to get what they want. The bully is the most toxic employee there is. They often belittle and insult others with their words and actions; the bully is loud and negative. Very often, when confronted about these behaviors, these employees will want to blame and point fingers, as of course, it is everyone else’s fault.
Feedback I’ve received from colleagues working with pessimists, instigators, and bullies, reads very common to those you would find from living with a full-blown alcoholic. Some verbatim comments include such things like, “I try not to provoke her,” “If I stop asking so many questions, maybe he will not lash out at me,” “I am beginning to question my ability to do my job,” “I am losing sleep over this. I fear what my next interaction with her will be like,” “She yelled at me in front of a group of colleagues. It made me feel like I had no worth. I was mortified.” And there are many other statements I could list. As I hear of these bad working situations, I hear a theme of self-blame, and a need to shape behavior so not to “poke the bear,” so to speak.
Given that our pessimists, instigators, and bullies are often not in a recovery program to fix the error of their ways, there is some advice I would recommend to their victims. This advice is to take care of yourself first. By learning to focus on ourselves, our attitudes and well-being will improve. From Al-Anon literature, it states, “We learn not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people. We learn not to allow ourselves to be used or abused by others.” Again, words not meant for the workplace, but absolutely applicable to our workplace.
“Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the truth of man worketh not the righteousness of God” – General Epistle of James
- Richard Finger has worked in Human Resources for over 20 years and has worked with small, private organizations, global corporations, and most currently, a healthcare organization. Richard has worked abroad a number of years in England as well as The Netherlands, where he acquired a great appreciation for cultural awareness. He currently holds three Human Resource Certifications (SHRM-SCP, SPHR, SPHRi), and is also teaching the SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP preparation course at Howard County Community College. Richard earned his Bachelor Degree in Psychology at University of Central Florida, and Master Degree in Human Resources Management & Labor Relations at New York Institute of Technology. Richard has been writing for Baltimore Outloud for a number of years, contributing articles about his Human Resources experiences, as well as moonlighting as the author of Finger's Food restaurant reviews. Richard has enjoyed writing for the paper, and looks forward to many more opportunities to do so.