Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Anger doesn’t win games

I had a colleague who was in charge of the works producing industrial items. It was a very big plant with around 3000 workers. He had long experience in the line, knew his job well, efficient in work and a no-nonsense man. The production and productivity went up steadily initially after he made some changes. There was however one chink in his armour.He had a very short temper and consequently was a poor listener. His managers and foremen were in dread of him. The daily morning meetings were one way traffic with his dominating the meeting. His subordinates were hesitant to bring up crucial problems fearing his reaction. They would defer trying to sort the issues amongst themselves. His deputies found a way out by including the problems in the daily report for discussions. My friend would yell why it was not brought up earlier and would not give a patient hearing. Very often what were minor problems assumed alarming proportions by the time they came up to his notice. Timely replacements, repairs, procurement of stores and spares or shut down for maintenance, stock outs or missing customer delivery schedule could have saved costly solutions. The works manager never listened let alone discussed personal problems of employees and waved them away. In a few of cases, he unreasonably sacked a few operatives without proper understanding of the problems. He succumbed to his basic emotion without trying to overcome it. He was not even aware that he had a serious problem. Within a couple of years, the top management became aware of the serious drawback in his style of management and its adverse impact on the production. The Chairman had a meeting with him on the subject.
It was then he came rushing to me being his close buddy and in a mood to listen patiently. I asked him whether he was really serious in exploring his problem and mending his ways if it is found he had a problem. He agreed. We had a long chat at my house that evening.
I asked him in his interactions with others and in his daily meetings whether the atmosphere was relaxed and calm where a real dialogue could take place and where people felt free to talk. He conceded it was not so and people were hesitant to contribute which made him angrier. He even got the impression that all of them had ganged up to remain inactive participants. His talks with his immediate deputies were not helpful as they never came out with real reasons.
I explained that anger was like any other basic human emotion like love, happiness, grief, depression and so long they are kept within limits they are in fact beneficial. In his case anger was not controlled and he had even failed to recognize he had a problem. I made him agree that he should admit this to himself whenever he got angry in future. This realization itself would act as a brake. He would then and there examine what words were spoken by others that made him angry. He should allow the other person to proceed to say what he wanted to say and ask others to react to the points raised as he always had his deputies with him in his rounds or meetings. He should remain calm and not give expression to his anger either in words or body language. When he felt he could discuss the issue without exploding, he could do so and if he found his anger surging while he was talking, the best thing would be to calm down. I told him that this would bring about magical change in the attitude of his people and he would win their confidence before long.
I had one more tip for him. He should start his daily meetings with a cup of tea and talk generally and pleasantly for a few five minutes before getting into brass stacks. The mood would be lightened for all and his people would look forward to the meetings daily.
To the credit of my colleague, he did practice what we had discussed initially with difficulty no doubt but soon found it easy. The morale became very high in six months reflecting in record productivity, and increased bottom lines and higher rewards to one and all.

“Anger is the most impotent of passions. It effects nothing it goes about, and hurts the one who is possessed by it more than the one against whom it is directed”

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