Stress Can Turn Good People Into Bad People

So, there's this guy from work who we'll call John (I'm using the name John so that I don't compromise who I'm really writing about). John is a cool guy, someone who is laid-back, funny and personable.

But a few weeks ago, an incident happened. It was near the end of my shift and I was cleaning up my section of the restaurant with another barista, who we'll call Richard (again, I'm using an alias so that I don't compromise who I'm really writing about), when, unexpectedly, our section began to flood with sewerage. Our section was damaged, it obviously stank and we couldn't finish cleaning our section.

Now, this is where John comes in. John is one of the managers of the entire restaurant and is there to fix any problems that arise. And you can imagine, John was pissed. John had to stay overtime and call a plumber to clear the drains.

But after Richard and I cleaned as much of our section as possible, John comes along and tells me that I had to dump all the sewerage out the back of the restaurant, even though I didn't know how to and John was too heated to explain to me how to dump the sewerage. And in the middle of being given an order, Richard steps forward and defends me, explaining that I didn't do anything wrong and that we shouldn't have to drain the sewerage. But John wouldn't have it and so, John and Richard got into a heated argument, staring each other down, shouting at each other and calling each other names. The argument ended with John storming off, threatening to get Richard fired.

It was not a pleasant scene, but we can learn from situations like these if we decide to learn from situations like these. And here are a couple of my takeaways.

1. Context is important.

Our temperaments change dependent on the context we're in. This was the case for John, as is the case for the rest of us. But it seems that most of us don't realize this or forget this. It seems that most of us just judge others on their first impression of them and conclude that is who they are. But our first impressions of others never capture who others are, they just give us a glimpse.

Plus, I believe, with everyone, once we spend the time with them, we'll find commonalities. Some of my closest friends are African Americans and on the surface, it'd seem as if we don't have anything in common. But we do. And I only realized how much we have in common by spending time with them.

2. Those who can remain calm in stressful situations are leaders.

Even though I understand John's frustration, I don't agree with John's decisions. He shouldn't have berated anyone and he shouldn't have gotten into an argument with anyone. Doing so only ups the cortisol, creates resistance and makes it harder to solve the problem.

Ergo, those who can remain calm during stressful situations and work with others can create effective solutions to challenges. These are the real leaders, in my opinion.

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