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  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    IMO it's best to ignore tantrum behavior and focus on respecting the person and addressing whatever made them lose it, if you can.
    I agree. I assume I'm missing some critical distinction or point that's important to them. So I tune out the emotional part of the tantrum, try to hear what they're saying, and then say it back to them (calmly). Even if I can't give them what they want, it often helps if I can at least demonstrate that I'm genuinely hearing what they're saying.

  2. #12
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Default Adults throwing tantrums

    I'm going to swing slightly in the opposite direction with my experiences. Yesterday we had a interdepartmental meeting and something very interesting happened.

    My supervisor uses her emotions to intimidate people and it usually works. She regularly throws tantrums, but not the kind where she starts wailing and crying. She sputters and literally starts pulling her hair and you can tell she's beginning her routine. I don't know if she is truly unable to modulate her responses and reactions to those of the people around her or if she's authentically responding. My colleagues are so wary of her responses that ignoring her (the typical response) actually validates her response in her mind. No one says anything to her about it so she continues as she has.

    I have occasionally ventured out there to tell her her responses are unprofessional, create tension in our department, and are completely disproportionate to the problem. I have been accused of insubordination and was even told "I'm the boss! You're the employee!" I've since tried to limit my interactions with her, but it's hard cause she's my direct supervisor and we work closely together.

    But what was so interesting yesterday was we were at a meeting with IT discussing the execution of our projects. The IT manager was PURE GOLD. When my boss started her antics she told her in a very stern tone that she will not have her people subjected to her antics and that she would end the meeting immediately. My boss quieted down for about 20 minutes or so before she started up again and the IT manager shut her down. My boss said nothing for the rest of the meeting. It was pure bliss.

    Now I think what helped the IT manager is she won't have to deal with her on a daily basis. When/if my coworkers and I directly confront her about her behavior we have to deal with the nuclear fallout. I personally don't deal well with someone sulking or passively trying to punish you for any perceived wrongs you do against them, which is what my boss is famous for. In a work environment, if you don't have a strong director or whoever the head honcho is who actively mitigates conflicts between employees behavior like my boss' poisons the atmosphere and no one (or maybe it's just me) feels like they can say anything against the person who creates the toxin it creates a domino effect of other people starting to erupt because of all the pent-up frustration caused by ONE PERSON.

    So like Jennifer said, how to deal with a person who throws tantrums is really dependent upon your relationship to and with that person. In my case, it's not a family member it's my supervisor. I can't deal with them the same way I would my sister or brother or even a friend. Ignoring a family member may work, but that's not necessarily the case in a professional relationship. You shouldn't have to play counselor/therapist with someone who's there to do a job and it's not unreasonable to expect a modicum of professional behavior from an ADULT, i.e. not throw tantrums as a means of controlling your environment because people don't want to deal with it.

    OK that was a semi-rant, but I feel you. I have to deal with it on a daily basis and I'm at loss what to do myself.

  3. #13
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Proteanmix, how does she keep her job acting that way? That's horrible!
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  4. #14
    Senior Member TheLastMohican's Avatar
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    Default Clarification:

    Thank you for all the replies. You brought up some good points and distinctions.

    Consider a person who is a member of the immediate family, and whose tantrums rarely have any basis in a real complaint (in other words, just a contrived tantrum for its own sake).

    An example of such a tantrum: Said person is cooking, and opens a can. He goes to toss the empty can and its sharp lid in the recycling bag, and finds that the bag is missing, having been recently removed for pick-up. But instead of reaching about two feet away and getting a new bag in which to put the can, he puts the can in the garbage can. Then, several minutes later, he reaches into the garbage can (for an unknown reason), and (big surprise) cuts his finger on the sharp lid he had put in the garbage.
    Tantrum ensues, with the person making a huge deal about the cut (low pain tolerance), and accusing the rest of the family for the cut. His reasoning? It was the fault of whoever failed to replace the recycling bag earlier, and also the fault of whoever had not emptied the garbage can, because supposedly the fact that the garbage can was "too full" caused the can lid to be within reach of his hand.

    This is not the worst example by any means, just one of those that I remember more clearly for the extremely trivial point upon which it was based. So, any other suggestions?

  5. #15
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    That sounds less like a genuine emotional outburst and more like... well, a tantrum! I objected to the OP's characterizing an outpouring of strong emotion as a "tantrum." When I think tantrum, I think calculated, manipulative, and much more in control than they want you to believe. In fact a tantrum is an attempt to commandeer control of a situation, IMO. This is way different from somebody just losing it because they're overwhelmed.

    That IT manager was a genius, but you're right that he doesn't have to deal with her as closely or as often as you do. And the fallout from going over her head could be worse than dealing with the tantrums. DIYD, DIYD.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
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  6. #16
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cafe View Post
    Proteanmix, how does she keep her job acting that way? That's horrible!
    She keeps her job because she's smart enough to know not to show her ass around the division and deputy director. Only certain people see her behaving like this. Also she's a hard worker, will do anything the division director wants ASAP, and controls the flow of information throughout the department. She's basically placed herself in the vital position of knowing everything and if she left or was fired everything would fall apart so she is valuable.

    The director is very conflict avoidant and knows about my bosses behavior but to my knowledge doesn't do anything about it.

  7. #17
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke of York View Post
    Thank you for all the replies. You brought up some good points and distinctions.

    Consider a person who is a member of the immediate family, and whose tantrums rarely have any basis in a real complaint (in other words, just a contrived tantrum for its own sake).

    An example of such a tantrum: Said person is cooking, and opens a can. He goes to toss the empty can and its sharp lid in the recycling bag, and finds that the bag is missing, having been recently removed for pick-up. But instead of reaching about two feet away and getting a new bag in which to put the can, he puts the can in the garbage can. Then, several minutes later, he reaches into the garbage can (for an unknown reason), and (big surprise) cuts his finger on the sharp lid he had put in the garbage.
    Tantrum ensues, with the person making a huge deal about the cut (low pain tolerance), and accusing the rest of the family for the cut. His reasoning? It was the fault of whoever failed to replace the recycling bag earlier, and also the fault of whoever had not emptied the garbage can, because supposedly the fact that the garbage can was "too full" caused the can lid to be within reach of his hand.

    This is not the worst example by any means, just one of those that I remember more clearly for the extremely trivial point upon which it was based. So, any other suggestions?
    IMO, this isn't "losing control," it's a play for control.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
    -anonymous graffiti in the basilica at Pompeii

  8. #18
    Senior Member TheLastMohican's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    IMO, this isn't "losing control," it's a play for control.
    Well, yes, precisely. This is one of the fits that has nothing backing it up, but is just for the sake of throwing a fit, and perhaps providing a personal feeling of control. He usually does not start out having lost control, but soon does. He works himself into a frenzy on purpose, as if he enjoys the feeling. Does throwing tantrums provide a "rush" for some people?'

    Anyway, there are many other examples, with slightly different conclusions that could be drawn based on the varying circumstances. Some fits are based on a real grievance but blown out of proportion. Others are over a problem that was that person's own fault, but he tries to blame it on everyone else, regardless of any logic. Some fits turn out to be over nothing, or are over something that nobody else thinks is a problem.

    If you try to reason with the person, or point out why the situation was his fault to start with, he will simply yell more loudly than you are speaking so that he does not hear what you are saying. Rational arguing does not work, because he will just repeat a nonsensical statement with greater lung power, and consider his point proven.

  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    She keeps her job because she's smart enough to know not to show her ass around the division and deputy director. Only certain people see her behaving like this. Also she's a hard worker, will do anything the division director wants ASAP, and controls the flow of information throughout the department. She's basically placed herself in the vital position of knowing everything and if she left or was fired everything would fall apart so she is valuable.

    The director is very conflict avoidant and knows about my bosses behavior but to my knowledge doesn't do anything about it.
    That's more of a "bad boss" situation. The business section of newspapers or internet news regularly deals with questions or situations about "bad bosses" (bosses with a grudge, corrupt bosses, harassing bosses, etc.)

    Bottom line is that employees don't have a lot of leverage over a bad boss, especially if the boss's boss knows of the behavior and isn't doing anything about it. So you put up with it, shield yourself from it, or transfer/quit.

    Experience has made me pretty good at dealing with all kinds of bosses. When worst comes to absolute worst and the workplace really goes to hell, I'll insist on a very tight definition of my work jurisdiction, cover my ass furiously within the jurisdiction, and simply not care what happens outside the jurisdiction. I'll get all passive-aggressive about foisting off onto other people any responsibility that's not clearly defined as mine and mine alone (i.e., I'll only accept responsibility for tasks where I have total control of the outcome and hence can't be sabotaged by the boss or the poor work environment).

    But I hate doing things that way--I would rather work in a team environment where people look out for each other.

    But yeah, there's no easy or quick fix for a bad boss.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke of York View Post
    Well, yes, precisely. This is one of the fits that has nothing backing it up, but is just for the sake of throwing a fit, and perhaps providing a personal feeling of control. He usually does not start out having lost control, but soon does. He works himself into a frenzy on purpose, as if he enjoys the feeling. Does throwing tantrums provide a "rush" for some people?'

    Anyway, there are many other examples, with slightly different conclusions that could be drawn based on the varying circumstances. Some fits are based on a real grievance but blown out of proportion. Others are over a problem that was that person's own fault, but he tries to blame it on everyone else, regardless of any logic. Some fits turn out to be over nothing, or are over something that nobody else thinks is a problem.

    If you try to reason with the person, or point out why the situation was his fault to start with, he will simply yell more loudly than you are speaking so that he does not hear what you are saying. Rational arguing does not work, because he will just repeat a nonsensical statement with greater lung power, and consider his point proven.
    It's easy enough to talk down someone on a one-time or occasional basis: Show them you understand the problem by repeating it back to them, agree in principle that probably the problem could have been prevented with more foresight, and then maybe even sit down with them and discuss possible procedural changes for future references.

    But if the guy is just a drama queen and does it on a regular basis, then naturally you hate to put in a big effort coddling him every time he feels like throwing a fit. So then it gets to be a case of living or dealing with a drama queen. It's more or less like putting up with a bad boss.

    You could try shaming or joshing the fellow at the time of the fit; you could sit down with him later when he's calm and try to explain that he's overemoting a bit and a more proactive approach to problem-solving on his part would help things. But of course you can only do so much. If the guy's immature, then he's immature. Put up with it, ignore it, erect some barriers so that it doesn't affect you, cuss him out and become his enemy so that he knows his drama is wasted on you, etc.

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