Response by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Do you ever get mad? … OK, some of you may say that you “don’t get mad, you get even.” Some of you may say that you don’t get mad, you “get angry.” Ok, good for you (sarcasm intended). You can play around with the words or phrases, but most people, at least occasionally, get mad.

When under stress or pressure many (most?) of us get mad (along with a host of other emotions). When things don’t go our way, we get mad. When others don’t understand us, we get mad. When we get embarrassed, we get mad. When we lose, we get mad. When someone says something “mean” and hurts our feelings, we get mad.

There are many situations in which we get mad: When our boss doesn’t value or understand our work. When the corporate headquarters tells a satellite location what to do. When our parents continue to treat us as kids even when we’re adults. When our children misbehave and act crazy. When we’re not recognized for our contribution. When we’re rejected. Some of you may get mad because I write my weekly article without “proper” grammar (e.g. fragments). Well, to tell the truth, it’s intentional. Sorry it made you mad – kinda.

It sometimes seems as if many people go around mad. Ever hear of “road rage” or “going postal”? I don’t know about you, but I encounter a lot of angry people as I work, play, and serve in organizations around the world. This is not a phenomenon that’s unique to a region or country. It’s everywhere. …Yes, there are some minor exceptions, but that’s for another day.

The night dive was full of creatures. Snakes, octopus, nudis, lionfish, crabs, fish, and all the normal cast of marine life characters. Yet, this guy caught my eye. He was big and wearning a pink “cape.” My minor research indicates he’s a sponge crab. But if one of you has more specific information, please let me know. The sponge was attached to his back and he was moving quickly down the “wall.” Maybe he was avoiding the bright light from my torch (my flashlight). Whatever the case, I was clearly disturbing his night with my presence, my light, and the flash from my small, compact underwater camera.

As I was chasing him downward, I noticed that I’d dropped 10 meters in less than a minute. I took one last picture and headed up a few meters to conserve air and watch the underwater nighttime show in Mactan (Cebu, Philippines). Later, I played with this photo for a couple minutes using an app on my iPad called Snapseed until I got the effect I was after.

Some may like the shot, some may not. Some like realistic photos and do not care much for those that have been “doctored” as a result of major or minor surgery. In my case, I made the sponge crab darker and blurred the outer edges a bit. To me, it communicates perfectly – anger. Focused anger. He was angry at me. In reality, this crab probably always looks like this, but you get my drift. He looks mad. He looks grumpy. He looks annoyed. He’s giving me “the look.” … You ever give or receive “the look?”

The question is, do you get mad at others? Do you show your frustration? Do you allow it to control your thoughts, if only momentarily?

It is important to control our behavior during trying circumstances. While the initial stimulus or action is often beyond our control, we fully own our response. People watch how we respond. The world-class leader knows that others are watching and evaluating his response. The world-class leader knows that the initial response often sets the stage for how the organization, as a whole, will respond.

Yes, it ok to have emotions. Yet as a leader, you must be aware of your response on others. If you respond in anger, who will your organization respond? If you get mad at another (person or organization), will others follow suit?

In sum, work to be in control. Don’t let circumstances or words or actions make you mad. Yes, there are times it’s ok to demonstrate a “righteous anger”, but more often than not, we get angry at petty “things” and let our emotions take over our rationale self. Our co-workers, boss, employees and external stakeholders are watching. How did she respond? What was his reaction? Don’t allow others or their actions to control you. Develop perspective. Develop maturity. Develop the ability to see the big picture. Demonstrate disclipine.

What is the most trying situation you’ve experienced as a leader? How did you respond? What did you learn?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

3 thoughts on “Response

  1. Robert,

    A related issue is whether you KNOW you’re getting mad (or irritated or anxious or frustrated) and if you’re aware of the “tells” of that emotion. I had a meeting with two senior executives this morning. We were discussing the problem that some people have that when they are getting angry they might not be aware of it initially AND that they almost always have a “tell” that others see.

    I remember a client who would get visibly upset in meetings, but he thought he was hiding it. He wasn’t aware of the impact he was having on the meeting. He thought his emotions were private — his body language was quite public.

    Your point is valid that we need to have our emotions under control, but the first step is to be aware of them.

    By the way, that IS an angry looking crab! 🙂

    • Hi. I agree and reflected about the facts in this article. It is indeed very important to learn to control our reactions to undesirable situations/instances that makes us mad.

      Just very recently, a colleague of mine approached me and expressed his anger/frustrations about a fellow from other section, citing the unexpected response and disrespectful comments to a problem to whom he expected a solution. I can see the anger inside him that he could almost choke the person to death by his “imaginary” words. Ü

      As I listened carefully, i reflected to myself and assess whether i would react similarly or differently… I then silently told myself, “It is a matter of choice”.

      Many times in my life, I encountered some difficult situations that would really make a human being to feel and be mad. There are times when we react so quickly without having a careful thought and regret the moment after for doing such.

      Conflict happens when there is misunderstanding.

      There are choices.
      It is a choice to understand or to be mad.
      It is a choice to force our ideals or accept the views of others.
      It is a choice to learn from – experience, “the greatest teacher” and apply.

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