Don’t Get Mad
Early in my career, I was in a meeting about an all too familiar topic, whether the device was a door, a drawer, or a shelf. This argument only makes sense to four people on the planet, so I will provide an equivalent argument. It is called the Internet, the internet, the world wide web, the innerweb, the information super highway or something else? All these answers are mostly valid, but the internet (lowercase) is the most universal. Yet… the innerweb sounds fun. Also, the World Wide Web sounds classic and proper. Internet should always be capitalized. The information super highway? Who could argue against that mighty name? Nobody!
Who cares? Pick one! I am sure that this is what you are thinking. However, that was the problem. We had picked the device type, and then it got changed and changed again. This re-decision messed up documentation, drawings, programming, databases, and training. People were going crazy with changes, and the arguments became more and more heated.
Where was the change coming from? There were three sources. The first was disagreements between the database team and the programmer. The second was that the programmer had an arrogant streak. The third was that we did not (I never understood why) invite a database representative to these meetings.
The programmer thrived in this angry environment and argued something new every week. It all came to a head (for me) in one meeting, and I started yelling to choose one and be done with the arguing. The meeting ended without a decision. Later, my boss pulled me aside and said, “Don’t get mad. Never get mad.” I immediately understood what he was saying, and no further words were necessary.
I remained pleasant during the many follow-up meetings and used logic to state my position. In total, there were at least five meetings of this type.
I have often applied my boss’s sage wisdom many times. It probably saved my job at least once and improved the work environment. Of course, inside, I was screaming mad and desperately wanted to do something violent.
Why do workplace arguments get so heated? A mix of personality, pride, incompetence, turf protection, immaturity, and arrogance. We are human, and humans have limitations, flaws, and problems.
Have I ever broken my cool since that fateful day? I recall three instances. In one, an incompetent coworker was being… Well, an idiot. I ended the meeting with, “We’re done,” and stormed away. Another time, an incompetent coworker did his best to make me the scapegoat of his incompetence (his only ability), and I (calmly) called him out during a meeting. He yelled back all kinds of wild accusations. Did I lose my cool? Sort of. Here was the strange part. His boss backed him up because management blamed their department, and he needed to save face. The actual work was not difficult (basic documentation of a test), and it would have been much easier to remedy the entire situation with cooperation.
The third instance involved a coworker who refused to let a topic go. After we decided something trivial, he would go back to it and back to it. I knew I would lose it if I had one more meeting with him. So, I asked my boss to change me to another project. If he had not done this, one of two things would have occurred. I would have punched his lights out, or I (most likely) would have left the company.
What happened with the door, drawer, or shelf argument? That’s a funny story. Two years after the decision (drawer), we had another re-decide meeting. I no longer cared about the issue and presented my data without fanfare. But the programmer got under my boss’s skin, and he detonated. Swear words flew, the threats were real, and threatening body language nearly became physical.
Now, you know what happened next. After the meeting, I pulled my boss aside and provided sage advice, “Don’t get mad. Never get mad. You told me this.” He had forgotten about my original incident and his excellent advice.
When this programmer was in a good mood, we got along well and did fantastic work. But he had a twisted streak. One day (years after I left the company), he told a coworker she had to have a relationship with him, or he would fire her. Human Resources got involved, and he got disciplined.
For some reason, men/managers had protection at that company. In another instance, I had several meetings/conversations with an ultra-chauvinistic vice president at the same company. His comments about the women were so bad that I feared for my job because of my presence during these incidents. What did upper management do? They gave him his own company.
I believe the pinnacle of human development is to learn from other people’s mistakes. So, it is good advice never to get angry at your workplace. Let the fools yell, scream, and curse. Your peers and managers will respect your silence and professional attitude. Want another piece of sage wisdom? When it is icy, always use the handrails. Guess how I know that?

You’re the best -Bill
October 11, 2023
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