The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader


Are you frustrated at work?  If you are, what are you frustrated about?  Is the target of your frustration the right target?  We can often get ‘fed up’ with situations and end up taking our frustrations out in the wrong place.

For example, I was recently traveling from my home in the Tampa Bay area and got caught in Tropical Storm Debbie.  It wasn’t bad when I left my house, but after I arrived at the airport, got parked, and through security, the sky just opened up with a violent downpour.  Visibility out of the airport windows was less that 20 feet.  Not surprisingly, the airline decided to delay the flight.

Then they delayed it again.  And again.  People began to become frustrated and angry.

The frustration was with the weather — but the brunt of much of the ire was the airline staff.  Here we were, right in the middle of a very dangerous storm, and people were venting their frustrations on the airline staff.  It wasn’t reasonable — would they rather put their lives in danger by trying to fly in this torrential weather?

In our role as technical support professionals, we’re often in a similar situation.  We’re the target of our clients frustration with a broken device or malfunctioning software.  They don’t care that we didn’t cause the problem, or that we have no real control over the issue — we’re the face of the entire IT organization so the frustration gets dumped on us simply because the client lacks a better target.

What’s important is how we react.  We have to realize and understand that being the target of this frustration is not personal.  And if we do our best to get the problem resolved quickly we can often defuse the situation.  If the client gets too aggressively angry we can pointedly — but politely — remind them that we are there to help, and that we will do what we can to get their issue resolved as quickly as we can.  (In the rare instance where a client gets really boisterous, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell them you will escalate the issue to your boss — that’s what they get paid for!)

If you’re on the other side of the equation, the one feeling the frustration, then keep in mind that the target of your frustration may not be the cause of that frustration.  In fact, by being nice and understanding that the issue may be out of the control of the person who’s there to help may result in a better outcome.

In the case of the tropical storm, when I finally did have to go to the service desk because I was sure to miss my connecting flight I just politely asked what they might be able to do to help.  As a result they were courteous and pleasant in return and arranged to get me on a later connection.  Was it inconvenient?  Of course, but it wasn’t the airlines fault that nature decided to send a storm our way.  All things considered, it could have been much worse.

Upon arriving in Dallas, I made sure to stop and thank the pilot as I exited the aircraft. I’d much rather his priority be keeping his passengers safe — even if it’s inconvenient — rather than sticking to an arbitrary schedule set by the airline.  They were even good enough to refund the money I spent to upgrade to a ‘preferred’ seat that I lost due to the missed connection.

So next time you’re on either side of a frustrating situation, think about the cause of the frustration and don’t let it get the better of you.  Understanding why something is happening will do a lot to reduce stress.

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