Keep Calm…Deep Emotions at Work are Complex, but Navigable

Business is business, right? What do you do when someone finally breaks down and tells what is really behind their behavior? Here's what to do so you can sleep peacefully at night.

There’s a bit of a morality play that goes on at work behind the scenes. It takes place in sales, in marketing, and believe it or not, even in IT.

It’s the people part of working together that is often ignored. Sometimes people are great at hiding their pain and other times it sits right on the surface, just waiting for you, yes you, to say something that might help.

I have been coaching a CEO of a company that is known for its fabulous line of sports equipment. It’s a respected and prosperous company. People love to work there and the average tenure is over 10 years.

That lead to our strategy session yesterday.

We had to table what we were planning to talk about and instead look at the strategy to handle a valued employee of 15 years.

Carl was a district manager and had over 300 people reporting to him. Until about a year ago, he was good, kind, smart, and efficient.

Something happened.

Carl had a company car with the store logo on the side. You couldn’t miss it. I said, you couldn’t miss it. That’s the first clue.

Weeks ago, a staff member reported to HR that they saw a company car outside of a massage parlor in the lower part of town. Not a place to get shiatsu, an honest to goodness, happy place parlor.

You’re right. The license plate was Carl’s.

Sounded like Carl really wanted to get caught. Not sure why, just knew he was smart enough to cover his tracks. So, why didn’t he?

I told the CEO I believed that Carl wanted to get caught. He was overtly asking for help and didn’t know how.

Now, the rest of the story.

His GPS showed that he had been at this place during company time well over 20 times in the past four months.

Stop a minute and answer this question: What would you do if you were the CEO?

My client, head of HR and the VP of Operations, met and decided that Carl had to go.

NO, not because of his extended lunch breaks, but because he had become a lousy boss – yelling and cursing and blaming his direct reports. The visits to the local happy place were a secondary issue in terms of work retention.

It was so clear that Carl was in deep trouble and didn’t have the skills to ask for help…at least not yet.

Here is a key point to remember: Many of us hide behind our emotional hurts and are not willing to search inside ourselves. And when that happens, we sabotage situations, just waiting to get caught.

That’s what happened to Carl.

He wanted to be fired. He was smart enough to park his car somewhere else. This was merely the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. He was fired because his performance improvement plan didn’t show any improvement.

Here’s where it gets more interesting on the human level.

Two days later he called the head of HR and the CEO to apologize. In this call, he broke down and said, “I’m in trouble.” He told them he now had nothing to lose in telling the truth. He had an addiction and kept hoping it would go away. It didn’t.

When something is ready to burst open and be handled, it shows up in many ways.

Next, enter Carl’s wife. Just happened that when she told her best friend Carl had been fired for being belligerent to employees, she said, “I wonder what else is going on?”

Her best friend then called another friend who was close with the CEO’s wife asking how to help.

See how it works? Everything is connected.

The CEO and the head of HR decided to offer (not the normal company policy) some extra out of pocket counseling for the couple.

That’s how you can find peace of mind and a good night’s sleep. When someone is in deep water throw them a safety net, rather than judge them and throw them on the garbage heap.

NO, you don’t have to keep an employee with major problems. One of the things I teach in my programs is that “Work Is Not a Rehab Facility.”

However, extending a hand to help does work.


What would you have done in this situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Originally published at Inc