You can't help but feel for the Congolese student who asked what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's husband Bill thought of the China/Congo trade deal.
Issues of women's equality in the workplace aside, ripping out your earpiece and launching into a tirade is hardly the behaviour we expect from a leader - well most of them, anyway.
Seconds after the blow up, Secretary Clinton knew she was out of line, just as any manager does after a blow out. Not that anger is a bad thing. A stoic leader doesn't rally the troops, champion the cause, or instill a sense of fear.
But when the red button gets pushed and the blood pressure rises to an uncontrollable level, effective leadership can be seen twisting down the pan.
Abusive outbursts do two things. They put the receiver on the defensive – effectively squashing constructive dialogue – and they leave a bad taste in the mouth, resulting in hard feelings and potential future hostile encounters.
You can't really blame Hillary for blowing out. Bill's legendary extramarital adventures have surely left her with a few anger issues. Short-fused managers don't have the same excuse. So if you find yourself about to do a Hillary try the following:
- Go to time out. Leaving a situation that's turning hostile to regain one's composure might seem like full retreat but can pay big dividends. Stepping into a hallway should do the trick – two weeks in the Bahamas could help also!
- Get busy. Physical activity can release pent up frustrations. Taking a walk, run, or punching an office door will blow off some extra steam - just kidding about the door.
- Ease the pressure. Don't let emotions build to a critical mass. Engage workers in verbalizing concerns when they occur to minimize the chance of an explosion.
- Avoid confrontations. Certain situations agitate us more than others. Controlling these by manipulating personalities or settings can defuse a potentially bad situation.