I had a moment recently that I’m not very proud about. A newly purchased piece of equipment in my house has been malfunctioning for weeks. I’ve been back and forth with the customer service team to get this equipment to work. After weeks of effort, it was determined a replacement would be shipped.
The replacement requires uninstalling and reinstalling by an expert technician. But there’s no known expert technician in my area. I would have to seek an expert to complete the process independently. When the customer service agent informed me of this final information, that straw broke the camel’s back.
I let loose on the agent, questioning the information she was giving me. I asked to speak with a manager; my demeanor was aggressive and dismissive. As you might expect, it resolved nothing. I still have no expert, and the faulty equipment remains in my house.
As I reflected on the exchange several hours later, I was ashamed of my behavior. I coach leaders daily to override their emotional instincts and instead bring a learned leadership response to the situation. I was all emotions and zero leadership – I brought my less-than-best. And I was no better off for it. I still had the problem, except now, I also had the shame associated with it.
It made me pause to think how often similar behavior appears in the workplace. A colleague’s actions anger us, so we immediately fire off an email or seek out their boss to share negative feedback. We act from our emotions, failing to consider the impacts of such decision-making. We forget that leadership is about others and prioritize our needs instead. We alienate rather than inspire.
If you’ve made it to this part of the story, perhaps you have shown up with less than best behavior in the workplace or otherwise. Here are my lessons learned for a better way forward:
Don’t hide behind the computer or phone. The customer service agent I was speaking with was out of Tennessee. I didn’t know her or her family, and she didn’t know me or mine. The mystery of the connection made it much easier to bring my less-than-best behavior to the call. I doubt I would have acted the same way if I knew her or if she had been standing before me. People are still people – computers, phones, or otherwise. We shouldn’t change our behavior because we’re on social media or speaking by phone. Bringing your best leadership means bringing your best everywhere. Don’t hide behind technology as an excuse for bad behavior.
When your emotions are getting the best of you, step away. When she informed me that I would have to seek an expert technician, my emotions got the best of me. I leaned in rather than stepping away from the call – a horrible decision. Instead, I should have asked my husband to take over or decided to call back. If you can’t get control over your emotions, you don’t need to have the conversation until you can.
If you need to vent, find a trusted person. Sometimes, we need to be heard, and that’s OK. I encourage you to find a tiny handful of people in your life who are trusted confidantes. In times of extreme frustration, seek them out. They can be an excellent outlet for frustration, allowing you to recollect your thoughts and look for a better way forward. It’s perfectly fine to be frustrated. It’s not perfectly fine to take out your frustration on others.
I’m embarrassed by this Leadership Moment, but that’s precisely why I’m writing it. This is my accountability mechanism to improve next time a frustrating situation arises. Many thanks to this community of leaders for welcoming better.