“These stupid fucks messed shit up again…”
I don’t say it out loud. But this thought pops up in my head once in a while. Why can’t people just do their part well? Why don’t they read my project description more thoroughly? It has all the information they need. What about Google? That thing has blueprints to building lunar landers, accessible in a few seconds at zero cost. Can’t you just look shit up?
I get angry at my team from time to time. I don’t shout at people, insult or fire them on the spot. I just get pissed off. I get stressed out. Eventually, my energy level plummets. Then I feel a bit shitty about feeling shitty. Not ideal.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my team. They are like my kids in many ways. I do my best to take care of them and help them grow. And they do the same for me. But like with kids, sometimes I want to strangle them.
Is it normal for managers to feel angry when things don’t go the way they want them to?
It sucks to be an angry manager. Not only does it make my own life quite frustrating, but also it projects frustrations onto others and the mission as a whole.
Anger serves no one in the long term, even if the added stress leads to successful outcomes in the short term.
There is another way. To lead in an empowering way. To lead in a way your team strengthens with every setback, not crumbles.
At the end of the day, it’s the leader’s responsibility to kick out that angry manager out of your company and his life as a whole.
This article explores how to reframe your mind, turn stronger with every setback and become a more grounded leader.
Manager’s Fundamental Role
Manager’s core responsibility is to guide the team to accomplish the project’s objectives. Good managers often help break down complex tasks into the smaller ones and assign those to individuals most fitted for the job.
No plan survives the contact with the enemy.
- Military wisdom
By default, managers are guaranteed problems. Their job is emotionally challenging.
Although planning is fundamental, this is where manager’s job just begins. No matter how hard you plan, there will always be unforeseen events and roadblocks.
The core job of a manager is to be a resource for his team. When people get confused, the manager is there to bring clarity. When they get stuck, the manager is to find solutions. When they need more man power, the manager is to find it.
If you beat people up for requesting your help or unintentionally messing things up, you implicitly discourage them to use you as a resource. Next time they get stuck, they will stay stuck. Their motivation will decrease because they won’t have the clarity they need. Your entire project will be jeopardized.
Your job as a manager is to be useful. Getting angry at people for asking for your help implies that you deny your key job function. Angry managers don’t fully understand their job function. Don’t be one of them.
Frustrations happens when your expectations are not met. If you feel angry, it’s your responsibility to uncover the triggers behind the emotion.
What assumptions did you make about the situation that made you angry? What did you expect to happen and what actually happened? Do you think your people put their best effort or did they deliberately sabotaged the project?
Did you deliver on what your team expects of YOU as a manager?
- your guidance
- your trust
- your care for them
- your expertise
It’s delusional to expect things to be perfect. It’s unreasonable for people to deliver exactly what you want. They can’t read your mind.
Good employees often do their best given their skills and the information available. Did your people do the best they could? Did you make sure they have all the information needed to execute successfully? Did you hire the best people for the job?
You are angry because the reality did not meet your expectations.You should take anger as a signal. It will show that you might have gotten the wrong people. That your guidance was not good enough. That your own understanding of the situation was limited. That your team morale is low, etc. In any case, anger signals about your gaps!
Your desire to succeed is great. Your ambition to deliver the best quality work is fantastic. Expecting the best from yourself and others is powerful! You should not accept anything less than greatness.
But greatness does not happen the instance you decide to be the best. Greatness comes from grind and continuous improvement. You need to earn it.
Imagine you’ve start boxing. You fall in love with the sport so much so that you decide to be the greatest boxer in the world. Now would you expect yourself to beat Mike Tyson in his prime with your lousy couple month of training? I really hope you do. It’d be hilarious to watch. :)
You can be the world’s best. And you should work for it like the world’s bests do. But you can’t expect yourself to have it right away before you even put in the work required.
Don’t expect yourself or your team to get everything perfect from day one. Expect your team to do better than yesterday. Manage your & your team’s expectations proactively.
Emotions, Fear & Identity
Emotions are powerful signals. They can and should be your friend! They are there to tell you that you are either doing something wrong or are on the right path.
Only by looking inwards can you understand those signals.
When I get angry at my team, here is what else comes up subconsciously:
- I don’t feel in control (even claustrofobic)
- I am afraid to fail
- I feel insecure of my professional abilities
- My self-identity is challenged
It takes lots of guts to go into your darkest places and explore the subconscious. The only way to fix your internal game is by discovering, accepting and working on your shortcomings.
I may not feel in control over the outcomes that I am responsible for as a manager. All of the hard work I put into something heavily depends on others. I don’t get to determine if they are going to deliver. If my team fails, I fail. What will failure say about me as a professional? Does it tell me that I can’t be one of the best in the world anymore? This way of thinking implies that other people can influence my self identity.
You can see how your mind can tell a disempowering story. Your job is to change that story, that internal monologue.
Anger is a protective mechanism that arises from other emotions and fears that you experience. Uncovering and addressing those is paramount to kick the angry manager out of your life.
Maybe it’s me who is a “stupid fuck who can’t do his job right” after all. Anger is just a signal that points to something much deeper. Use this pointer wisely. Be a resource to your team. Manage expectations as carefully as you manage processes. Explore the core of your emotions and choose to tell yourself an empowering story. And remember it’s always YOU who is to blame for everything good or bad that happens.