How one leader learned to deal with an angry boss

When I wrote my book, How Did My Family Get In My Office?!  my goal was to hear from real-life leaders about how conflict was handled in their upbringing influenced the way they deal with conflict in the workplace – And what they did about it.   

One of the leaders in the book is Lee, a successful senior leader. Her family history taught her how to deal with an angry boss.

Growing up with a father who had unpredictable anger outbursts, Lee learned how to weather the storm along with her siblings through the unspoken motto of “this too shall pass.” 

The meaning behind the family motto was that even in the tense times of her father’s anger, eventually he would calm down and things in the house would be peaceful again.

As the youngest sibling, Lee often took the initiative to ease tensions in her family. Whenever her siblings wanted something, she was the one they sent to ask her father’s permission. 

Without realizing it at the time, Lee was building interpersonal skills she would use for the rest of her life, including in the workplace as a leader.

From those experiences with her father, Lee learned how to: 

  • Gauge the timing of when to approach her father with a request 
  • Address topics in a forthright, logical manner
  • Be proactive before a problem arises 
  • Ask questions so as to understand the entire situation before making a decision
  • Avoid exacerbating tense situations with knee-jerk reactions

These skills have been instrumental in Lee’s success as a leader.

What she didn’t realize was how much these skills would help her deal with having an angry boss.

Metaphorically, Lee’s father was in her office, when her boss would have angry outbursts. Her siblings were also in her office when co-workers (like her siblings) were afraid to approach their boss for fear of him lashing out at them.

Just like in her family growing up when her siblings wanted something from their father, her co-workers would elect Lee to approach their boss.

Applying the skills she learned from her role in her family growing up, Lee eased tensions with her boss just as she had done when her father was angry. 

As George Kohlriezer says in his book Care to Dare: Unleashing Astonishing Potential Through Secure Base Leadership says:

“Leadership is a culmination of life experiences and intentional development efforts. Secure Base Leaders recognize the power of their past and fully understand how the history of their beliefs, habits, and relationship patterns impact their leadership.” 

  • What are experiences from your upbringing that have shaped your leadership?
  • In what ways can you learn from the role you had in your family growing up that has impacted your leadership style? 
  • Does someone in your office behave similarly to someone in your family upbringing?

Follow the example of Lee that despite how conflict was handled in your family upbringing, gain self-awareness and grow from those experiences. 

By understanding the influence of your family upbringing, you can make informed, healthy decisions to handle conflict calmly and rationally at home and at work.

About the author 

Bonnie Artman Fox, MS, LMFT works with executive leaders who want to gain self-awareness about the impact of their words and actions and up-level their interpersonal skills. 

Drawing from decades as a psychiatric nurse and licensed family therapist, Bonnie brings a unique perspective to equip executive leaders with the roadmap to emotional intelligence that brings teams together. 

Bonnie’s leadership Turnaround coaching program has an 82% success rate in guiding leaders to replace abrasive behavior with tact, empathy, and consideration of others. The end result is a happy, healthy, and profitable workplace…sooner vs. later.

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