The Seven Deadly Sins of Highly Effective People: Wrath

Nothing screams “I’m important!” like a man screaming “I’m important!” into his cell phone.

This line comes from a Bud Light Real Men of Genius radio commercial. It is my favorite in the current Rangers radio rotation because its rings true. Almost every time I enter a large venue filled with business people, usually an airport, I hear almost exactly that – angry folks shouting in their cell phone, demanding attention because they’re important by golly!

Along with civilization came restrictions on what people can do to each other. Assault and murder are no longer permissible forms of behavior. But anger, intimidation, and verbal abuse – well, at least in the workplace, there is virtually no rule against these things.

I’ve had a chance to observe the workings of a lot of organizations during the last twenty years. Many of them – not all of them, but a lot of them – are run by people who are angry. Angry about everything. If there’s bad news, its the person who everyone wants to avoid. When things are out of control, rage is the mechanism that is used to cope with the situation.

A few observations about commercial success and anger:
– There seems to be a relationship between competence and temperment. The more a person seems to know about what they are doing, the less likely they are to respond to things with anger. Tactics of anger and intimidation often mask a lack of confidence in one’s ability. Angry people are often those who have been over promoted, who are overlevereged, or who otherwise feel like the situation is over their head.
– I think that anger usually arises out of one of two things: (a) a sense of being “cornered” without any options or (b) a sense that one is being secretly undermined by others.
– Almost invariably, the angry, successful person is highly invested in his business or job. Tie up everything – your money, your self image, your ability have the right “friends”, and your emotional well being – into your business or career. Lose your wife and family over it. Then, watch and see what happens when it is threatened. One’s business/job literally becomes one’s life. People who are vengeful and spiteful in the workplace often act that way because they are fighting for their life. They have nothing else. Everything they had outside of their business/work has been sacrificed on the altar of the cult of success.
– Interestingly, I’ve observed that the angry person ultimately becomes a victum of his own paranoia. He understands all too well what he is capable of doing to hold onto what he has. He assumes that everyone else will be that way, too. Thus, he lives in constant fear of plots to destroy or undermine him. Fear becomes a bizarre, lonely prison. It is a miserable existence.

Deadly sin #5 for highly effective people, then, is wrath: the hatred and anger that grows out of a sense that one’s life is one’s work, and that one must therefore fight for their life.

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