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Compliments of Madmup via Flickr

If our body is overexposed to heat, our first instinct is to snatch it away. This same principle applies to people. When faced with a surge of anger our reflex is to run, or at the very least to avoid the person who emits noxious presence.

If you’re in a supervisory position, keep your eyes on the prize. Workers who are contented produce more – your propensity to “unload” thus only serves to annoy, harass, degrade or presume, creating a workforce that’s performing at subpar. Ipso facto, anything that induces animosity is tantamount to stealing from your company. If people avoid you, consider the following:

  • As the leader, you set the tone. Social learning theory suggests that people take their cue from their peers, and in particular, from those in charge. You are perceived as either a beacon – or an example of poor behavior. If there’s a contagion of dishonorable conduct in your department, you either implicitly condone it (by inaction), or model it by example.
  • Impose sanctions. The loudest, most senior voices can engender fear, and a following of those who follow suit. Sit the offender down and read them the Riot Act.  In the wake of an outburst, this one behavior signals that abuse is not something which is condoned.
  • Observe interactions. Do people keep their distance, keep their doors closed, avoid the office, and simply agree to avoid conflict? The most functional interval on the conflict resolution scale is when people feel free to voice their opinions. They can only do this when they’re treated fairly, and when they’re comfortable with your presence.
  • Acknowledge your imperfections. No one expects you to be at the top of your game 24/7. If you’re snappish when it’s undeserved (and no one is ever deserving), explain what happened. Empathy will germinate from disappointment, and you’ll appear more approachable. Nepo (2000) explains:  “…it is the unacknowledged hurt that becomes a wound; our only recourse to hurting others is to acknowledge what we’ve done and clean up the mess.”

Turn down the heat on your behavioral barometer. Personal warmth is a better substitute over hot-tempered behavior.


Nepo, M. (2000). The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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