Too often, managers are emotional babies who can’t deal with anger issues

Ted Bauer
3 min readFeb 14, 2022

Back in June ’19, sitting in a periously-empty co-working space, I read an article about how “managers need to better understand emotion,” and subsequently wrote this article about how most managers are incapable of that. It’s actually more common in most work settings that if you’re ever emotional, it kills your career — and that’s doubly true for women as opposed to men. Sad, but reality.

Now there’s some new prima donna piece on HBR about “managing anger and resentment on your team,” which maybe — and I mean maybe — 8% of managers are capable of. The four “strategies” that the author uses include:

  • Balance your emotions
  • Learn from their anger
  • Redesign team goals together
  • Own your part

I literally ROFL’ed at this. All of it. Let me redo that list for you if you have any type of common manager, especially a middle-aged male who isn’t getting laid at home and whose kids ignore him too:

  • “Balance my emotions? Fuck you, son. I’m the boss.”
  • “Learn from their anger? I’d rather put them on a PIP for being angry at me”
  • “Redesign team goals? Cool, we’ll add a few new weekly recurring meetings.”
  • “Own my part? If they don’t like how I lead, they can go elsewhere. I hear lots of people are hiring these days.”

Managers — most of ’em, at least — are not good at the emotional side of work, because in true reality they don’t see the emotional side of work as their job. They see their jobs as deals and growth and revenue and sales and all that. Their bonus and their incentive structure is tied to those things, not “managing their emotions before they enter a conversation.” Guys like this, who are not good at the psychology of work, use hierarchy as a hammer. Basically the thinking goes, “Well, I pay you and I am your supervisor and I make more than you, so whatever I say, you must do, and if you don’t do that, that’s insubordination and you’ll be out of here pretty shortly.” When hierarchy is a hammer, there is no real room for emotion and discussion and “learning from anger” and “owning your part.” There’s just room for the blunt following of protocol and process.

This is all why emotional burnout at/from work becomes normative. And also all why emotional intelligence is hardly common in workplaces.

But so long as the incentive structure is around fiscal and tangible targets, nothing emotional will ever rise to the fore. A lot of managers thought “Eh, 2–3 days/week at home allowed is the most emotional I’ll get with these fools.” (And now they’re trying like mad to pull that back.)

So no, ignore most articles about the emotionality of work and management. Most who come to inhabit those slots where they could manage from a place of emotional Q-score have no possible clue or idea how to do it. It’s all essentially made-up bullshit.

Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.