OK ladies and gents, I need your help please.
[b]First, a little framework:[/b] I’ve recently been promoted into a team lead role in a QA group– no hiring/firing/performance review responsibilities, but I am responsible for dividing up the workload, making sure we meet our deliverables, training new staff, etc. You probably won’t be surprised that I’m a high D with some I and C, pretty nonexistent S. The person hired into my old role has been training with me for 6 months now, and I’d peg her as a high S with some C. Training has been slow and painful for both of us, but the DISC podcasts have helped me immensely to slow myself down and try to communicate on her terms. Now that she is getting up to speed, I am starting to transition into the team lead role, giving her full ownership of the old role.
[b]The problem:[/b] When this person gets stressed or feels overwhelmed, her professionalism and normally kind demeanor fly out the window, and she explodes in an angry, panicky, rant. The content of the rant typically involves a lot of martyrdom, blaming everyone else involved for not taking their jobs seriously or respecting her time or need for information/deliverables, and basically consipiring to make her fail. Having been in the role myself, I know the people she is complaining about, and I know that they are some of the smartest, most dedicated and patient professionals I’ve ever worked with. I don’t really know what’s happening in her head, but I think it’s a defense mechanism where she wants to have a scapegoat lined up in case she messes up.
The first time she blew up at me was during a truly stressful period, her first time running a main deliverable on her own (with me as backup, instead of the other way around)…and I chalked it up to her being new on the job and overwhelmed. I listened, talked her down from the ledge, and the next day she acted like nothing ever happened.
A couple weeks later she blew up at me again over something else, loudly and in a public area. I convinced her to continue the conversation a conference room, and it took 45 minutes to calm her down. This time I mentioned it to our boss. He said he would have handled it the same way but that he would give her feedback about it. He doesn’t use the feedback model, and the feedback never actually got delivered.
Since then, she has about four more outbursts, sometimes at me, sometimes at others in our group, once at our boss. Each time, our boss said he would deliver feedback after she calmed down, and he has not actually done so.
On Friday I was the recipient of the most recent outburst, during which she blamed members from that other team for not being available, and threatened to escalate it to their manager. These people have always been responsive when needed, and have always gone the extra mile for us – and the situation she needed them for was not urgent. I spoke to my boss about it again, and he asked me to deliver the feedback. She has now been out of the office for two days, and I’ll need to talk with her about it when she’s back. So, this would be my first time using feedback, I’m not technically her boss, and it’s a fairly big issue. Nothing like jumping right in, huh? Here’s what I’m thinking of saying:
(Name), may I give you some feedback?
(Name), when you vent to me in a loud, angry, frustrated tone of voice about relatively small issues, and threaten to escalate them to other people’s management, here’s what happens. I get concerned about your ability to handle the stress that this role comes with. The people in the cubes around me overhear it and get stressed out over whether you’re going to blow up at them someday, and whether they can trust you to keep a level head when things get truly stressful. I worry that you will escalate small issues to management, and undermine the relationships we’ve built with these other groups, such that they won’t be as eager to go the extra mile for us when we need it. What can you do differently next time?