Recently an employee shared with me that there were two small business owners that he would never ever work for again. He began to tell me about one particular entrepreneur who yelled, cursed, and belittled employees. He described the guy as downright mean and "a little off" in his mannerisms.
I just listened without showing any emotions or agreeing with him one way or the other, but when he finished telling his story I shared with him that I haven't always been the easiest leader to follow because mental health challenges. I then shared with him that quite possibly these two individuals have their own mental health challenges that they may be unaware of. I say this because being mean, yelling, and moving from zero to 60 emotionally is not normal. It may seem normal for some entrepreneurs who are passionate, but it's not a trait that I would expect a balanced person to portray.
The yelling, throwing of objects, tantrums and so forth is the smoke, and where there is smoke there is fire. That flame may need to be put out. If you find that you are out of control when someone upsets you at work, you need to reflect on the real issue--which may not be your employee, customer, or colleague, but rather you.
I was talking to a peer who said that she worked with someone who literally yelled at clients. And, she ended with "Who does that?" I politely responded that someone with a mental health challenge will do just that because he is unable to control his emotions. If you find that your emotions are getting the best of you and the worst of your employees, here are a few things that you can do.
Have an accountability partner
Share what is going on with someone whom you trust before your temper starts brewing. Ask someone whom you trust in the workplace to be your accountability/safe partner. This is someone who you can go to when you feel the pressure rising. The person will not judge you, but rather be a calming force to help you regain your composure. You will go to that person before you have an outburst. It's almost like a trap door for a magician. Before you act out, disappear into their office until you are ready to deal with a situation in a calm and professional manner.
Realize that being a leader means controlling your emotions
A big mistake that professionals make is not realizing the importance of leadership skills in a small business. According to research from Dun & Bradstreet, small businesses go out of business not from a lack of resources, money or time, but rather managerial inadequacies. One of the most important characteristics of a good manager is one's ability to communicate, and yelling is not a go-to-style to motivate or inform. It is imperative that you control your emotions so that you can communicate appropriately. When that's not possible, retreat to a safe space such as your office or even leave the scene to pull yourself together, even if that means stopping in the middle of whatever you are doing or saying.
Recognize adults as adults
Not that it is OK to yell at children, but it is never appropriate to yell at adults or treat them with disrespect. Children often will stay and take it while adults have three options: (1) stay and take it, (2) stay and change it or (3) leave. Most professionals usually opt for the latter choice. Adults must be treated like adults and raising your voice, throwing tantrums, etc. will be your demise. It can actually land you with a lawsuit for creating a hostile environment.
See your mood for what it is
Often your anger is misdirected. Yes, the deadline was missed or a ball was dropped, but the real truth is that you were already in a foul mood for reasons that you may not even realize until the storm passes. When you can accept and acknowledge that you are angry then you can avoid confrontations by being mindful that you are already on edge. You can give yourself permission to put down the megaphone and walk away from the person who may be at the center of your attention.