• Sun, Jul 8 2012

Anger In The Office: Lessons From Governor Chris Christie

Chris ChristieIt might be my Midwestern upbringing, but I’ve always seen losing your temper as a sign of weakness. The inability to control one’s emotions seems like an unprofessional move that I would feel embarrassed to display. So I’ve always found it amazing when people were respected and complimented for flipping their lid with the unsuspecting public.

Lately, however, extreme anger seems to be a sign that someone is “honest” and “courageous.” We just aren’t offended by uncontrollable attitudes like we used to be. Look at Alec Baldwin and his serious anger issues. You don’t see 30 Rock suffering for it, do you?

No exemplifies this cultural shift more than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. We’re talking about a gubernatorial politician who routinely curses the press, tells off random citizens and bloviates in interviews. While some have called him out on bullying, plenty seem to appreciate his frank and brash nature. Christie is thought to be a leading candidate for the Vice Presidency.

So how did Mr. Christie manage to turn his lack of restraint into a professional strength? Well here’s a few tips we can take from the politician on how to use our anger to our advantage. I can’t promise that I’ll try any of this tips, because it’s just not my style. But I won’t begrudge you a little self-righteous indignation.

  • Pick an unsympathetic target. Chris Christie seems to enjoy picking on reporters. People rarely feel sorry for reporters. He has to pick a target that people aren’t likely to sympathize with. It’s a lesson he should’ve taught to the Catholic Church before they decided to pick on the nuns. Pushing around the ladies who live in poverty to serve the needy looks cruel. Pushing around a nosy journalist looks confident.
  • Don’t keep talking about it. If you get angry in the moment, it’s because you’re passionate. If you keep whining about it, it’s because you enjoy being the victim. Or so the conventional wisdom goes. So you need to time your outburst and then drop the incident once it’s over.
  • Share the anger around. You need to lose your temper with a variety of people. It’s recently been noticed that Christie seems to get the most frustrated with females, which could turn into a serious issue for him. He needs to make sure that he yells at a couple men as well, showing that it’s a general character trait and not a prejudice against one group.
  • Know when to calm down. Christie has lost his cool plenty of times, but he knows when it’s important to keep a level head. Interviews with national media, on the campaign trail with Mitt Romney, these are times when the outspoken governor will be keeping a lid on it. If you can’t show even a modicum of self-control, it’ll begin to be a problem.
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  • self help

    Not making an excuse for Christie or anything (trust me, I’m not a fan) but I’ve lived my whole life in New Jersey, and we’re just angry people in general. Nobody has any patience, we drive aggressively, and we’re pissed off all of the time. Christie’s behavior doesn’t shock me at all, I deal with people like him every day.

  • Lastango

    Christie is a good stage performer, and understands the value of drama. (But no, he’s not likely a viable VP choice. Christie is a cookie-cutter northeast social liberal, and Romney needs someone who can help him hold the conservative base.)

    “We’re talking about a gubernatorial politician who routinely curses the press, tells off random citizens and bloviates in interviews. While some have called him out on bullying, plenty seem to appreciate his frank and brash nature…. So how did Mr. Christie manage to turn his lack of restraint into a professional strength?… (first) Pick an unsympathetic target.”

    The press, random citizens, nuns? To understand Christie’s rise, and why his rhetorical style has worked, those may be the wrong examples to consider. Neither does his success relate to a cultural shift towards decontextualized brashness or anger as a way of communicating.

    So what is it, then? Christie achieved his strong political showing in New Jersey specifically by going after he public sector labor unions that are bankrupting the state with their sweetheart compensation and retirement packages. But he didn’t just blovate — he presented the numbers, and the voters realized just how rich the public sector deals they were subsidizing actually were compared to what they themselves have to live on. The more the unions shouted back, the braver he appeared. Christie’s reforms are so popular because they so were so obviously necessary. That’s why they were approved by a Democrat-dominated legislature. Conservative critics of Christie’s program point out that it doesn’t go nearly far enough, and New Jersey is still deep in a fiscal hole.

    There is a cultural shift, though. The shift is that people all over the country are starting to talk about what their public sector has been getting, and whether or not the public can afford it. That’s what just happened in Wisconsin.

    “Know when to calm down. Christie has lost his cool plenty of times, but he knows when it’s important to keep a level head.”

    IMO that’s absolutely true. Visible anger should be calculated, and used selectively as a tool. Anyone who is a boss needs to be very careful about appearing unstable or indiscriminately emotional. Otherwise, the team will feel themselves on dangerous gound, and will adopt untruthful, defensive ways of communicating — while they look for another job.

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