Keep Your Cool! (written by Career Expert, Pete Leibman)

It was Wednesday, December 6, 2006, and my breaking point was getting closer and closer. 

In less than 48 hours, there would be nearly 3,000 students attending my Sports Careers Day event for the NBA’s Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center, and there was still a lot that needed to be done. 

Nearly half of the attendees for the event had registered after our requested deadline, and it would have been a logistical nightmare for all of those tickets to be picked up on game-day.  As a result, I still had to “fed-ex” 1,500 tickets all over the mid-Atlantic area, and it had to happen within a matter of hours.

In hindsight, the Wizards probably should have had 5 people in charge of this event, but I was doing nearly all of it on my own.  Given my very limited time and my very lengthy to-do list, I was desperate for help.

In fact, I was so desperate that I asked our lead receptionist at that time if she would “fed-ex” 25 batches of tickets for me.

It seemed like a reasonable request to me, but given this woman’s miserable attitude, I should not have been surprised by her response: “That’s not part of my job.”

That was it.  Breaking point surpassed!

It was definitely not the first time she had been rude to me or a customer (I don’t know why she was the receptionist either!), so I responded with a snide remark: “Yes, I know you are really busy answering phones.  Please excuse me for asking for help, especially when you have so much to do.” I then walked back to my cubicle (it was only about 10 feet away from her desk), and I started talking to myself out loud in an attempt to relieve some of my anger.  “I am too $#@&!% nice.  Maybe that’s my problem,” I proclaimed.

The next few minutes were a blood-boiling blur.  All I remember is the receptionist saying, “You better watch how you talk to me, or else you’re gonna have a problem,” to which I responded, “Are you threatening me?  I wasn’t even talking to you!”

After our argument subsided, I stepped outside for 10 minutes to cool down. I then came back to the office and finished the job with the help of an intern, a student who earned MAJOR points with me that day by volunteering to help however she could.

The next morning, our Vice President called me into his office to discuss the situation.  He considered firing the receptionist, but I  insisted that he did not.  We moved on as amicably as possible, and she was actually transferred to another department 1 month later. 

I acknowledged with my boss that I should not have lost my temper, and I thought the issue was forgotten.  However, my next performance review told a different story.

The year before, our Vice President had written in my review that I was the “smartest, most creative, hardest-working sales rep we have had in 15 years.”  This time, my review was complimentary, but it also stated that I needed to “improve attitude toward colleagues.”

While that incident certainly didn’t ruin my reputation, it was definitely not forgotten by senior management, and it did some damage to my image at work. 

So… what do you do when (not if) you are confronted with a situation at work that makes you feel like you are going to explode? 

You should excuse yourself and step outside for a few minutes to cool down and gather your thoughts.  Passion for your job is integral for success, but  keep that passion positive, and never let it turn into anger!  Remain in control of your emotions at all times, no matter how hard that may be.

Thanks for reading!

-Pete Leibman

-President of Idealize Enterprises

– Career Expert and College Speaker

Explore posts in the same categories: Attitude, Dealing With Difficult People, Personal Branding, Professional Relationships

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