The other day I was reading an interview with a successful businesswoman. She was asked if she felt that female leaders had to be tougher or more aggressive to succeed, like the Miranda Priestly character in The Devil Wears Prada. No, she said. While it was important to speak up and be confident, being a boss didn’t necessarily mean one had to be nasty or unpleasant. Ultimately, she pointed out, people want to work with those they like and feel comfortable with.
I was thinking about this when a friend shared that she had worked with a new colleague on a project. The colleague was sweet as pie, and even suggested they grab a drink once the project was over. Everything went well and the project was a success—or so my friend thought. After the presentation she got a blistering email from the colleague, who demanded that some minor thing be changed. If it wasn’t, the woman would complain to her higher-up.
Needless to say, my friend was shocked. If the woman wanted the change made, all she had to do was ask. It really was no big deal. But by immediately resorting to nasty tactics and dramatic threats, she appeared emotionally unstable, untrustworthy, and not someone my friend would like to team up with ever again. My friend bit her tongue, made the change, and emailed back to let the woman know. She was tempted to write, “You catch more flies with honey,” but decided to leave it at that.
Overreacting, being extremely demanding and difficult, or causing drama can isolate you at the workplace. Even Steve Jobs, a notoriously difficult man to work with, was once shown the door at Apple when his behavior got to be too much. People don’t want to work with unbearable people. If you feel like you are going to lose your temper, take a moment to calm down and get some perspective. Lashing out often isn’t the answer, especially when you’ll get better results by being firm yet polite.