When I think of bluster, I usually think of basketball coaches and politicians. You know, someone with a flushed face and a flapping suit coat, vehemently waving his arms around?
And then there are the basketball coaches.
Although it’s not quite so dramatic in the office, bluster does happen there, too. At most workplaces, blustering is limited to the occasional loud outburst and troubling e-mails and memos.
No matter how many public figures seem to build their careers on bluster, it’s a very limited strategy and not likely to yield any long-term benefits for anyone.
True, a bucketful of bluster is bound to get people’s attention, and may make people a bit more focused and energetic in the short run. Think of a coach walking along the sidelines, clapping his hands and saying “Defense, defense! Wake up people!”
But that only goes so far. Blustering is not likely to win you any hearts and minds and –guess what – people need to bring their hearts and minds with them when they go to work, if they’re going to do a good job.
Blustering is no way to build connections between people, whether it’s a collegial relationship or between a supervisor and staff. In fact, the only thing blustering is really good at building is resentment, but that’s the kind of toxic resin you sure don’t want accumulating around your office.
And while blustering can build resentment, it’s a great way to lose respect.
So why do people do it?
I think sometimes people start blustering when they hit a wall of some sort and are so frustrated they don’t know what to do. It’s the workplace equivalent of hitting a soda machine because it ate your change. You don’t really think hitting the machine is going to make it disgorge a soda, and you probably don’t think yelling at someone is really going to fix anything.
But the difference between the machine and a co-worker is that the machine isn’t going to harbor a grudge. A colleague will, even if they try not to.
So the next time you feel a bit of bluster coming over you, give yourself a time out. Run to the bathroom and spin on your back if you have to, but don’t let go of your anger publicly. In the long run, it will diminish your power.
There’s another kind of bluster that’s even more dangerous. That’s the bluster which arises from a desire to dominate other people, and show them who’s the boss. But 2011 isn’t shaping up to be a good year for dictators, petty or otherwise, so before you join that disgraced assembly, try to disconnect from your blustery urge.
Maybe you could go shoot some hoops or something, or run for governor of Wisconsin.
by Danielle Dresden