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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 08-Mar-15


Sunday 08-March-15

Displaced anger and control freakery

I watched a tv show recently that got me thinking. It was one of those ones where a business expert goes into a small, struggling business and helps them turn it around. Only this time the expert gave up in despair. You've guessed it: It wasn't the business stuff that was the trouble. She helped fix that. It was the people.

The story was about a little tea shop in Torquay run by a retired couple and their daughter. It started with the daughter wailing that she'd told her parents what the expert said about modernization, which absolutely typified a family business trap where the child stays a child and the parents keep looking backwards. They seemed to get over that, but the bigger stumbling block was the father.

The man in this triangle turned out to be something of a control freak who knew best about everything and dismissed the experts that were wheeled in as incompetents. When the place was given a free and makeover, he raged about most of it. And three months later he had replaced the elegant styling with a garish mish-mash of uncoordinated clutter.

Angry people are often angry about something they can't control, and in his case I suspect it was a disability where he had to use a walking stick. He was also shown struggling in moving tables and chairs. And when a TV crew descended on his business he clearly felt a further loss as he fought every new idea.

I've seen similar reactions in a career in business change where people who feel under threat fight back, both openly and covertly. When we feel a loss of control we get scared and frustrated, perhaps displacing the pent up anger to elsewhere in our lives.

A secret that can help is to recognize what is going on. Understanding goes a long way towards restoring our sense of control. It also gives us the means of making effective decisions rather than falling for emotional reactions that, while they grab control in the short term, have the potential to do longer-term harm.

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