Temper out of control? Take a tip from the pros

Maintenance Supervisor Joe Farnum had just about had it with Harriett Bailey. Tightlipped and seething, he was fighting for control. Unfortunately for him, it was a losing battle.


Maintenance Supervisor Joe Farnum had just about had it with Harriett Bailey. Tightlipped and seething, he was fighting for control. Unfortunately for him, it was a losing battle. The middle-aged stockroom attendant acted like her wishes and requirements overrode those of anyone else, not to mention departmental needs and priorities. Farnum's attempts to reason with her was like talking to a deaf mute.

"My sister is visiting on July 15," Bailey proclaimed. "It's the only time I can take my vacation."

Farnum had tried to explain that her absence at that time would leave the stockroom uncovered, a problem which couldn't have mattered less to her.

"Get Ellen to change her vacation," Bailey had replied.

"I keep telling you she can't do that. For one thing, she has plane tickets that can't be changed. For another, she has seniority and is entitled to first choice."

"Then get someone else," Bailey fumed.

"There is no one else."

The rock refused to budge. "I'm sorry, July 15 is the only time I can take."

Farnum had endured the situation just about as long as he could. When his patience finally gave out, he let loose a stream of invective that would have done a longshoreman proud and accelerated like the 1812 Overture. Bailey, a prim church-going woman, reeled in shock. She started to cry, then clutched a hand to her chest and began to shake. Afraid she might be having a heart attack, Farnum called the medical office.

Bailey was rushed to the hospital, where a heart attack was ruled out. Although her medical bill was covered, when she returned to work 3 days later she informed Farnum of her intention to sue both him and the company for "having wantonly and insensitively inflicted mental anguish and physical injury."

Question: If Bailey follows through with her threat, how do you think she will fare?

Russo's verdict: Plant Engineer Phil Russo heaved a long weary sigh in response to Farnum's rundown of the incident.

"I could say, I suppose, that this should be a lesson on the importance of keeping one's temper in check no matter what," he told Farnum.

"On the other hand, everyone has his breaking point, and you're no less human than Harriett Bailey. You had no intention to inflict either emotional damage or physical injury, and no real harm was done. Although an uncontrolled temper and crude language are uncalled for under any circumstances, at worst this incident was for Bailey an unpleasant experience brought about through her own doing. I might concede her an apology for the distress she apparently suffered, but nothing more."

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