Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

The Successful Tantrum

How to Win by Losing It.


Lose your temper only during an argument or immediately after receiving an offending piece of information. An apology is going to be inevitable, and those are the only two situations that can adequately set one up. Telling someone “I yelled at you because I felt insulted by [situation X]” is a step down the road to mutual understanding. Likewise, go crazy only if you’re capable of affecting the situation or personal dynamic in question. If you’ve already suffered a disappointment or defeat, are not in the presence of the person who provoked you, or are taking on a clear superior, aggressive behavior only highlights your lack of status, like the vindictive cries of a child who knows, deep down, that making a scene is not actually going to increase his chances of eating Chicken McNuggets.

Physically, your actions should be intimidatingly forceful without threatening anyone else’s person or possessions. Breaking stuff, whether it belongs to a person or a company, leaves you in their debt; actual physical confrontation leaves you liable to a status-deflating retaliatory face-punch and an even more status-deflating immediate firing. Hit things that will make loud noises without breaking, or angrily sweep everything on your own desk onto the floor. Consider keeping a deactivated cell phone to smash into tiny pieces. Verbally, the same guidelines apply. Express disappointment (the “parental gambit”), confusion, or disillusionment: Screaming, “This is just so fucking sad and pathetic I want to shoot myself!” makes everyone feel bad but contains no words or phrases prohibited by company codes of conduct or hate-speech laws. The goal is to accentuate someone else’s malfeasance, not commit your own.

Unless you really do hate the people you work with, you should eventually turn your thoughts toward letting your victim save face. With this in mind, wrap things up quickly, and either get out or simmer down. An appropriately bat-shit punctuating gesture—the door-slam is, of course, time-honored—will allow the target of your tirade to look around, shrug, and earn sympathetic looks of “Wow, that sure was crazy” from everyone who witnessed the scene until you come back to say you’re sorry. Alternately, you can give him an opening to get the proverbial word in edgewise, gradually taking the intensity level down notch by notch to the point where onlookers get bored. Then you can leave for a private conversation or a cup of coffee, returning together to indicate that things are “all good.” For now …


Current Issue
Subscribe to New York

Give a Gift