The Hazmat Suit

@moffittjc (32662)
Gainesville, Florida
April 28, 2016 6:56pm CST
Today was a rough day at work. What started off this morning as a typical staff meeting disintegrated quickly into a shouting match between an employee who works under me, and my boss and I. This employee had messed up pretty badly on a situation, and we were trying to coach the employee to ensure that he learned from the situation and would take steps to make sure it didn't happen again. Without going into specific details of the issue, it could have been taken care of in a matter of minutes, but the employee felt he was being attacked personally, and that we were calling his character into question. It went downhill quickly. Sensing that it could get ugly, I ended the discussion and ordered everyone out of my office (including my boss). About an hour later, the employee stopped by my office again, still fuming. This time, his direct supervisor was in the room as well, and he took advantage of the opportunity to let us feel the wrath of his anger. More shouting and yelling ensued, and eventually I got to the point where no matter what was said, or how calmly I said it, the message wasn't getting through to this employee. After a while, I lost my cool and just completely went off on this employee, letting loose a tirade of expletives from my mouth, and letting him know in no uncertain terms that his job was on the line, and if he didn't get out of my office, I would terminate him. I don't know if it was the cursing, the shouting, the threat of termination (or a combination of all three), but I think he finally got the message of what we had been trying to communicate to him all day. And sensing that the message finally was sinking in. I sat quietly for a few minutes, apologized to him, shook his hand, and then offered to calmly talk through the issues. We then had a great conversation for about the next two hours, outlining a personal improvement plan for him to follow to correct the issue that started this whole thing off in the first place. When he left my office, we were good. About 30 minutes later, there was a knock at my office door, and when I looked up from my computer, I about had a heart attack! Standing in the doorway was a man standing in a full-body hazmat suit. I was like, "What the heck is going on?" Then through the mask, I heard the voice of the guy who works across the hall from me say, "It sounded like a bloodbath going on in your office all day today. I just came to clean up all the blood!" And then he pretended to start scrubbing my table, desk and bookshelves. His humorous action was exactly what I needed to end my stressful day, and I burst out laughing! He must have sensed the hostility in the air, and came up with a funny way to try and diffuse the situation. It worked perfectly! (I'm not sure where he got a hazmat suit though) I took a picture of the guy in his hazmat suit and sent it to the employee I had been arguing with all day, along with a quick message: "HR is here to clean up the body parts from our battle today!" He quickly responded "Is one hazmat guy enough to clean up our mess?" which told me that everything was good now, and we all could laugh at what had been a very rough day. How have you diffused tense situations at work?
16 people like this
13 responses
@JudyEv (91813)
• Bunbury, Australia
29 Apr 16
It sounds like you handled it very well. Some people really react if they think they are being attacked personally. And a little bit of humour in the right place can really help too.
4 people like this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
I did lose my cool, which is something I never do! But I guess in this situation it actually helped. because if you get right down to it, I used fire to fight fire! In the end, we were able to work through our issues and I was able to get my point across to this employee.
3 people like this
@JudyEv (91813)
• Bunbury, Australia
29 Apr 16
@moffittjc It sounds like it was quite an ordeal. I bet you felt like a dishrag at the finish.
2 people like this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
@JudyEv I definitely felt like a dishrag at the end of that ordeal!
1 person likes this
@Hatley (154558)
• Garden Grove, California
29 Apr 16
hi I never have really had any problems at work either as a nurses aide or a page in the librarybut if someone starts yelling or talking loudly to me I l,ower my voice if its a patron or patilent of even a boss and if he or she thinks I have goofed I listen then ask how could o it better but I really never had those situations in a hsoppitla yo u are all nto busy to take time to scarpaout anything
3 people like this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
This guy has a very fiery personality, so it doesn't take much to set him off. And he doesn't handle criticism well, no matter how constructive it is. He takes it as a personal attack every time. I normally don't have any issues dealing with this guy, but today he set me off. It was definitely the first time he's ever seen me lose my cool, and I'm willing to bet it scared him a little bit. But at the end of the day, it worked, and I was able to get through to this guy.
2 people like this
@Hatley (154558)
• Garden Grove, California
29 Apr 16
@moffittjc Yes there are so me people that really blow up,I h ave a quick temper myself but I did tone it down at work as I have seen some nurses blow a fuse and the boss was really not being mean at all but it did like yours til they finally got through to the furious nurse she really thought she was way above any crilticism which is silly as we all can make errors.In a hospital you just cannot make too many errors we have peoples liv es at stake
2 people like this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
@Hatley I'm in a similar situation, where I oversee all of our city's municipal swimming pools, so my staff and I are responsible for people's lives as well. That's why I have to make sure my staff are trained properly and are doing their jobs correctly. We don't have a lot of room for error when there is the potential that someone could drown at our swimming pools.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Apr 16
Sometimes you need to say some colorful words to get your point across. And, you apologized too. Some don't and that isn't a good quality for someone in a leadership position. Kudos to you Jeff. When I am at a client's house and they get a bit mouthy, I will let them know that I won't stand for them yelling at me. I tell them that I do not treat them with disrespect and expect the same from them. When they continue, I tell them I am leaving. They tell me I can't leave. I say "Watch me!" That snaps them out of it. If it doesn't, I put my coat on and proceed to leave.
2 people like this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
Good for you for standing up for yourself in those situations. People don't have a right to treat others with disrespect, not matter what the job or situation is.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Apr 16
@moffittjc I have one client that nobody wants to see. She is on my schedule more than others. I put her in her place. We get along just fine.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
@ElusiveButterfly I have to walk a thin line with all my employees. They are unionized, and since I am management, I have to be careful to follow all the union guidelines. Although for the most part I get along great with all my staff, there are a couple that I would really like to put in their place! lol
1 person likes this
@Hate2Iron (7310)
• Canada
29 Apr 16
lol... well that was interesting and nothing like what I was expecting. My daughter took training at university and had to suit up... I was hoping that it wasn't anything really serious and now I can breathe easier lol!!
2 people like this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
Well, the fact that we even have hazmat suits tells you that sometimes we deal with very volatile chemical situations! I once was involved in a gas chlorine accident that required us to evacuate a 5 square mile radius of our city!
1 person likes this
@Hate2Iron (7310)
• Canada
29 Apr 16
@moffittjc Scary world that we have to live in. I hope that neither of you ever have to deal with something like that in the future. At least we have people who know what to do in such an emergence! Stay safe!
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
@Hate2Iron The emergency we had was at a swimming pool that used gas chlorine at the time. An absolute mess to deal with! After that hazmat emergency, we switched over to liquid chlorine, and have used that ever since! Thank goodness there was support for the switch, because chlorine gas is one of the most dangerous chemicals you can work with!
@VivaLaDani13 (15940)
• Perth, Australia
14 Jun 16
@moffittjc Oh that is bloody hilarious! It's always great to have a clown around to make things seem a bit brighter. I'm glad you guys sorted things out though!
2 people like this
@Daljinder (19493)
• India
8 Feb
@VivaLaDani13 I was just thinking about digging graves. lol Hazmat suit...for cleaning blood
2 people like this
@IvySaysHi (4128)
• United States
29 Apr 16
I don't usually get involved in tense situations but if i did I would try to talk it out. If that didn't work I'd walk away. If anyone were to lay hands on me though that would make for a completely different ending. I am glad you guys were able to talk things out finally.
2 people like this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
In my line of work (government), and in my position (management), it would never be appropriate to lay hands on somebody! If I ever felt I was getting to that point, I'd have to walk away from the situation!
1 person likes this
• Jacksonville, Florida
29 Apr 16
Thank God I have never had to be in that situation. I'm sorry it was a rough day but glad it ended on a good note. I hope everything will go smoothly from now on.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
Hahaha, I've been in my position long enough to know that things can never go smoothly for too long! If it did, I'd be pretty worried! (sort of like the calm before a storm!)
1 person likes this
• Jacksonville, Florida
29 Apr 16
@moffittjc That is true, kind of like when my kids are being quiet in the rooms.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
@LovingMyBabies I remember the same thing when my two kids were little! As long as there was talking, singing, yelling, screaming, fighting, arguing, playing, banging, etc. going on, I knew everything was fine! As soon as it got quiet, I knew there was trouble of some sort! LOL
1 person likes this
@jstory07 (55834)
• Roseburg, Oregon
29 Apr 16
That had to have been very funny. I am glad that it was taken has a joke and all is ok now.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
I guess ultimately, tomorrow will be the test if the issue was fully resolved. If I come in tomorrow and he's still got steam coming out of his ears, then I know I've got a bigger problem on my hands! But I think he'll be okay.
1 person likes this
@jstory07 (55834)
• Roseburg, Oregon
29 Apr 16
@moffittjc I hope he listened to you and everything will be solved.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
29 Apr 16
@jstory07 It will be solved until the next issue comes up! This guy never really changes his behavior on a permanent basis, just on a temporary basis. It will catch up to him one of these days.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Apr 16
I taught teenagers. Such incidents are common in schools, unless the teacher is able to get through to the kids. I used a fabulous book called Personality Plus by Florence Littauer to teach them about different personalities. Later, once they understood, arguments and even fights stopped before they started. Behaviors that once made others angry, they found "cute".
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
I'll have to check out that book. Sounds interesting!
• United States
30 Apr 16
@moffittjc I think the Sean Covey book should be required reading in the seventh grade, and the Littauer book in the ninth. Would certainly make everyone's lives easier.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
@ElizabethWallace I think I would like to nominate you for the Secretary of the US Department of Education! You think you're up for the role?
1 person likes this
@mommaj (22767)
• United States
4 May 16
I love the idea of the hazmat suit! I wonder where he got it from. LOL You're a pretty decent boss. I think the worst situation I have ever been in was a man that I had worked with for several years and thought of as a friend told me I didn't like what he had to say because he was black. Well, that shocked me that he said that since we had worked so well together for so long. I turned around with my mouth still open, probably still looking utterly shocked, and looked at him and said "Oh, my God, you should have told me sooner. I had no idea". Which of course he then realized how silly that was of me and him to make such statements. He laughed and the guy in the adjoining office asked if he should call HR for us.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
4 May 16
That situation has happened to me before too, where someone has accused me of racism because they were black. I always get this complete look of shock, and then reply, "You're black? I had no idea! How come you never told me?" Most of the time it diffuses the situation. On one occasion, it landed me in the HR director's office. But everyone who knows me knows that I am the farthest thing from a racist!
1 person likes this
@mommaj (22767)
• United States
4 May 16
@moffittjc LOL. I think that is the right way to handle it, especially when you have worked with them for a while. If HR had known some of the things the three of us said we would have been fired, or called in to the bosses office to congratulate us for working together so long. LOL
1 person likes this
@pgiblett (6649)
• Canada
29 Apr 16
As a manager I have seen many such situations and hate them whenever they occur. When you first started describing the issue I was thinking this man will very soon be without a job, especially since he didn't seem to want to learn. We all make mistakes, but the important thing is how we learn, ensuring we don't do the same thing again and I am sure that was your point in the first instance. I love the inventiveness of the person to find the Hazmat suit, it sounded as if they struck the right chord. I hope that worked.
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
30 Apr 16
The hazmat suit joke worked! It helped diffuse a tense situation, gave us all a smile, and calmed us down enough that we could sit and talk to each other like adults. In the end, we worked it all out. This particular employee lets his emotions and ego get the best of him, but once he can separate that from the real issues, he's pretty good about working to find a solution.
1 person likes this
@pgiblett (6649)
• Canada
2 May 16
@moffittjc Well at least it worked out well for all in the end.
1 person likes this
@LoriAMoore (8621)
• United States
6 May 16
Never had one turn into a shouting match before. Wow-Yikes!
1 person likes this
@moffittjc (32662)
• Gainesville, Florida
6 May 16
I can't even remember the last time I had a shouting match with another employee. But it seems to have worked, at least for now....this employee has been performing well over the past week, ever since the blowup.
@shshiju (9042)
• Cochin, India
29 Apr 16
Wow that is super landing of the climax. Many of the bosses could not able to diffuse the tension in their office. When it explode it make tragic results.
1 person likes this