When I was a little girl my two sisters and I were spending the night at my grandparents house when we pushed my grandfather to the brink.
My grandfather, who we called Papu, was a quiet, reserved man, who never raised his voice and was rarely mad at anyone. But on this particular evening the three of us were jumping on the beds, blasting the little clock radio and screaming at the top of our lungs. My grandmother tried to quiet us to no avail.
Finally Papu threw open the door yelled some curse in Turkish and spat at us.
In an instant we all were in our beds under the covers, shaking in disbelief. “We made Papu spit,” my older sister whispered to me in shock after the lights were out.
This was how he showed his anger. When I told my American friends the story they thought my Papu was insane and laughed about it. But it was culturally acceptable for him to spit in that way when he grew up in Istanbul.
I thought about this when I watched an Iraqi reporter throw his shoe in anger at President Bush this weekend.
For the past few years, there’s been a growing anger towards Bush in this country over the war, the economy, etc. But no one has thrown anything at the man. That’s just not the way we show our outrage in this country.
It is in Iraq. This from the Washington Post:
Throwing a shoe at someone is considered the worst possible insult in Iraq and is meant to show extreme disrespect and contempt. When U.S. forces helped topple a statue of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein after rolling into Baghdad in April 2003, jubilant Iraqis beat the statue’s face with their shoes.
“This is a farewell kiss!” the man, identified as Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter with the Cairo-based al-Baghdadia television network, yelled in Arabic as he threw the first shoe.
Most American’s aren’t this overt about their anger. They tend to seethe over things, let it eat them up inside.
I see this a lot with workers. Bosses treat them like crap, they fire them for little reason, they yell at them, undermine them, play favorites, but the employees often become paralyzed by both fear and anger.
During this time of uncertainty and mass layoffs, there’s a lot of anger percolating out there against the managers making all the decisions.
Will throwing your shoe at your boss after he or she tells you to clean out your desk and has your escorted out of the building by security guards make you feel better?
Unfortunately, if you throw your shoe that’s probably what everyone will focus on, the shoe, not the actions that caused the anger, says management consultant Jenny Schade, a trained counseling psychologist and president of JRS Consulting.
“The best thing to do is take a deep breath and then take another one,” says Schade. “Don’t react to the anger.”
She has no problem with an employee approaching a boss or former boss to discuss what is causing the anger, but that means having a conversation with a manager and having a specific goal in mind. Maybe you want to extend your health insurance, or make sure you get your vacation pay. These are all valid reasons to have a civil discussion with a manager. But intimidation or angry confrontations won’t work, and may even come back to hurt your career if you make a big enough rage rant.
If you are escorted out of the building but still want to know why you were fired and others weren’t, Schade suggests writing an email, or making a phone call to your former boss to find out why. But again, don’t leave angry messages. This is where it helps to get an unemotional friend or colleague to take a look at your message before you leave it or send it.
Taking these level-headed approaches won’t guarantee you’ll get satisfaction. Your boss may be too stupid or just be too chicken to return the email or phone call. In this case you’ll have to release steam in other ways, Schade says. Maybe go to the gym or bitch to your friends.
I know, I know, a stiletto to a boss’ head sounds so much more fulfilling. But in this age of cyber socializing you don’t want that to end up on Facebook or YouTube.
Unlike Iraq where some people are hailing the shoe-throwing journalist as a hero, in America you’ll probably end up “the insane shoe thrower” no one wants to hire.