Working Out Wrath

In doing my research for this article, I've made a very clear, life long decision.  I will never, EVER again swim out  more than twelve feet from the shore.  Sharks slightly concerned me before.  Now, they officially freak me out.  How did I go from "slightly concerned" to "way freaked out?"  Just the facts alone.  And the pictures didn't help me out too much either.

  • Great White Sharks max at about 20 feet long (That's the length of a Winnebago!) and about 5,000 pounds.
  • They can move in peak attack bursts at about 25 miles per hour
  • They're very curious, highly intelligent ,and have shown a high level of personality development
  • They've got "counter shading" which makes them almost impossible to be seen from the top or the bottom
  • A single bite can take 31 pounds of flesh with it
  • They can detect their prey by nothing more than the faint electrical presence of a single heartbeat
  • They have a calculated attack, using ambushing techniques from the bottom or side
  • Great Whites do not survive long term in captivity as they usually refuse to be fed.  They WANT to hunt.  The longest time in captivity is 198 days.
  • They will eat each other but can go for weeks between meals
  • Females are MUCH larger than the males and much more vicious
  • Sharks bite at each other to keep everyone in line and behaving
  • When faced with a prey that is close to their own size, such as an elephant seal, the shark will first bite off the flippers and hindquarters to immobilize the prey and then let it bleed out on its own, dining only after the shark is sure the creature can't fight back

Granted, I'm no zoologist, and I don't really watch a whole lot of animal planet, but when it comes to vicious animal attacks that scare the bejeezus out of me, the shark tops the list.  Sharks are acting on instinct though, and that's the difference between their wrathful attacks and those of humans.  Wrath (Latin word ira, which is where we get the word irritate) is defined as the possession or expression of inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger.  We all have people who tick us off from time to time, but wrath goes a bit deeper than just flashing the middle finger.  Classically speaking, wrath is the only sin that's not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest.  People don't have to gain anything by acting on wrath, which is one of the reasons why when we see it in the working world, we don't always understand it.

In the property management world, we usually see wrath pop up in times of extreme stress.  I've seen it expressed in a lot of different ways - the manager screaming at his or her staff for something that normally would have only elicited a raised eyebrow, a maintenance tech throwing down his tools in the middle of a repair, severe over dropping of the F-bomb, and the ever popular slamming down of the keys on the desk and walking out.

Everyone has a little shark in them.  I've worked with people who, when they attacked, I'm pretty sure took 31 pounds of emotional flesh with them.  If you read that list of Great White Shark facts that I put up, you might see some interesting parallels between the animal and either some of the people you work with, or yourself.  Do you act super quickly when you're angry, failing to assess all outcomes before you react?  What about that social camouflage?  Does your team know what will set you off or is it a daily gamble on what's going to flip the boss out today?  If you come up against real competition, is your first motion to mortally wound and then enjoy the show while the person fails?   Worst of all, it's true that females, while not necessarily bigger than men, tend to be WAY more vicious in their attacks, and quite calculated with the emotional ambush.

In a stressful environment, it can be really hard to keep our emotions in check.  The reason for this is more biological than emotional.  When your body experiences chronic stress, and I'm sorry to say but most of us do, the body's response is to release more of the hormone cortisol.  At elevated levels, cortisol acts as a depressant in the human body.  If there's one thing I learned from going to college parties, it's that when someone starts drinking and they're depressed, they don't get happy.  Alcohol, and all other depressants for that matter, actually tend to magnify mood.  Cortisol will do the same thing.  You start out wading in the waters of stress, and you'll be drowning in no time.  As with anyone suffering depression, which elevated levels of cortisol can cause, mood swings are inevitable.

So how do we fight expressing wrath on the job?  To start with, teach your team to manage stress and make sure that you're checking in with them when they seem a bit frazzled.  Teams act in a manner that is consistent with what the leader of the team models, so if you're freaking out, they're going to be freaking out.  Next, move out of the mindset that pressure and deadlines are the enemy.  Hard deadlines can be incredibly motivating for some people, and there are those of us who cannot function without just a bit of pressure. Procrastination and poor time management, those are your enemies.  Third, learn a few anger coping mechanisms and make sure that you share them with your team.  You'd be surprised how using those pesky "i" statements can stave off a meltdown. And finally, stop bottling it up.  People who work in our field are usually fairly charismatic individuals, which means that we want people to like us and we want to make people happy.  People like that tend to hold in what they feel might be unwelcome emotional issues like frustration, anger, stress, depression, etc. until it bursts out in an massive explosion of wrath that hits everyone around them.  If you address problems as they occur, then you're a whole lot less likely to lose your temper in a loud outburst.

One more thing - if you've maybe expressed your wrath on a coworker...take a moment to apologize.  Admitting you were wrong and saying you are sorry (and meaning it!) can go a long way in repairing a relationship and restoring a good working environment.

(I'm doing this blog series to promote my new seminar on the 7Deadly Property Management Sins through BTLD Consulting!  If you're interested in booking out for the seminar for your team or apartment association, shoot me an email at

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