The Bad Tempered Boss

My boss has quite the temper and the other day in the middle of a meeting he threw some papers on the floor and walked out.  He is becoming unpredictable and were concerned.  Your ideas? I'm a woman, by the way.

We all can have bouts of anger; in fact, if we allowed our emotions to be exposed in any situation, wed probably be visibly angry  or at least irritated  for part of our workday.

Someone once said that, We don't grow up: we merely learn to act in public.  While this may be amusing, it also speaks to the nature of maturity and what it means to manage our feelings.

Our temper tends to be something we can control, in contrast to, say, shyness or fear which are innate to a large extent: we don't choose to be shy or fearful.

The outward manifestations of anger can be disturbing, even shocking, but it will be important to differentiate between genuine outbursts and simulated anger which can be designed to control people.

In the case of the former  real anger  the problem becomes one of the loose cannon which unfortunately can flair up at any moment.  Pretenses of anger are also troubling because manipulation can result in people being discouraged from sharing their views.

Thinking back on the circumstances which led to his recent outburst which promoted him to throw papers on the floor can you sense there may have been a discernible motivator, something that prompted him to explode?

You imply that his anger is becoming more problematic.  This trajectory can be worrying because, although unlikely, he could become physical.  As a woman, I expect this has crossed your mind.

While it should not be seen as justification, he may be struggling with some personal matters outside the office such as a tense marriage relationship or the inability to pay a mounting pile of bills. It would not be advisable as a woman to speak with him regarding your concerns.  (Such a meeting would need to take place in private and the potential for an offensive reaction should be anticipated.)

A male colleague a best friend, if he has one – would be a better choice. He could tactfully represent the views of the office in a way that addresses the emerging issue without adding to the tension.

Further options could include direct communication with his supervisor and a more formal complaint filed with the HR department.

Outbursts of rage cannot be tolerated and I'd recommend you pursue the matter immediately.  He may have his own struggles – which contributes to his anger – but these should not be permitted to negatively affect the morale of the office Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to Simon through our contact page.