Taming the Roar

In the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, some villagers practice a unique form of logging. If a tree is too large to be felled with an ax, the natives cut it down by yelling at it.  Woodsmen with special powers creep up on a tree at dawn and suddenly scream at it at the top of their lungs. They continue this for thirty days. The tree dies and falls over. The theory is that the hollering kills the spirit of the tree. According to the villagers, this practice always works.

Naïve villagers! Screaming at trees, indeed! Rational minds like ours can’t relate to such primitive beliefs. We never yell at trees. We only yell at humans. That too, selectively. We yell only at those we can get away yelling at. At work place, it is generally the subordinates. At home? Well, the equation varies depending on who wears the pants.

Regardless of the venue, one thing is for sure; the noble art of venting out has nicely evolved with times. The new-age yellers have a heart of gold, one that doesn’t carry any grudges. Once done with the yelling part, we are back to normal in a jiffy. Like a soda bottle. A few moments of escaping fizz, and then back to peaceful waters. And all is well that ends in peace, isn’t it?

Except one hitch. For every roaring golden heart, there is someone at the receiving side who has a fragile heart. And each time the two soda bottles violently click, the recipient’s cork also loosens a bit. Difference—the recipient’s fizz carries more than ‘anger’; it is a cocktail of human emotions oscillating between humiliation, helplessness, and sadness. And as that human ‘spirit’ keeps losing fizz, the soda keeps getting flatter—useless and tasteless. Unfortunately, many of us in the senior positions—preoccupied with our own stresses—grossly underestimate our thundering power to deflate the spirits of our subordinates.

It’s important to remember that poor attitude and complacency are not the only primary reasons for the inefficiencies of a subordinate. As the popular saying goes, ‘treat the cause, not the symptom.’ The person being yelled at might be just a poor victim of adverse external influences such as wrong instructions (inadequate processes), insufficient mentoring (poor grooming), substandard IQ (hiring mistake), low morale (cultural vacuum), expectation gap (wrong promotion), role mismatch (allocation goof-up). A simple diagnosis would reveal that many times the issues converge straight up to either a) the unprofessionalism of the boss; or b) the organizational immaturity at large.

CEOs are no exception. In fact, often it’s the CEO desks that get banged the most as the converging business pressures make it difficult for them to maintain their self-control. So much so, that sometimes they forget that the frequency of their bangs is directly proportionate to their own inadequacies. Too much of the banging, and they won’t have a desk left to bang on!

Adapted, Composure, Leader, Style


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Taming the Roar - Arun Nathani Blog