Something bad has happened at work. Maybe Darryl made you miss a deadline because Darryl can’t seem to file his TPS reports correctly. Maybe your boss didn’t take your advice and now YOU have to stay late to clean up the mess that YOU warned him about. Maybe Ellen ate your special gluten-free lunch AGAIN.
Regardless of the generic workplace malady, you can begin to feel your blood boil. You want to scream and hiss and spit at the offender, but you know that you can’t really make a huge scene about it. Or can you? Here is my advice about how you, as a bright-eyed young professional, should handle tense workplace situations.
Tip #1: Just do it.
If you’re in a situation and you’re clearly not going to get your way, just make a complete scene. You have nothing to lose. You are already losing. Ellen already ate your lunch, and now that bitch is going to get it.
Tip #2: Announce that your scene is on its way.
Nothing says “I”m making a scene,” like announcing to the group that you are, in fact, “about to make a scene.” Once that’s out of the way proceed to pound your fists, snarl, and yell obscenities in your most guttural howl at everyone in the room.
This way everyone knows that you know you’re making a scene, and you know that everyone knows that you know. It’s important to impress upon your audience that the scene that they’re witnessing was not an accident.
Tip #3 Be specific.
Just because you’re throwing a fit does not mean your content shouldn’t be relevant to the group. Making a scene is merely a method for delivering content. It is NOT content itself. So as you scream invectives make sure that they’re germane to the general discussion that was taking place. If the reason you’re making a scene is because Bob’s presentation is garbage, then make sure that information finds its way into your performance. Gesticulate wildly in the powerpoint’s general direction while you gnash your teeth and bark, “Fucking Bob! Not again!” Let everyone know that Bob’s shitty presentation is the reason why molten lava is flowing out of your ears.
Tip#4: Don’t be the cheese that stands alone
If you’re going to throw an atomic-level tantrum, like where you froth at the mouth, make sure its about something that other people are also really angry about. Make sure your scene is just an over-sized response to a real problem. The best possible circumstances under which you should make a scene are ones where everyone else is seething with rage just below the surface. This way, after you’ve just laid waste to Bob’s presentation everyone will quietly come up to you and whisper, “thank god someone finally said something.”
Tip #5: Making a scene can be prophylactic
If you make a scene often enough, you’ll become known for it. People will actively avoid you, if at all possible. But if they can’t avoid you, they are going to walk on eggshells to make sure you don’t explode venom all of their faces. The specter of your temper will loom large over everything, and you’ll never have to make an actual scene ever again.
Sure you’ll seem a little bit crazy, but let’s face it you probably are. I mean you did just call that guy from HR a “human tapeworm” in front of your boss. But if you’re going to be a little bit crazy, you might as well get something out of it.
Tip #6: Don’t punch outside your weight class
If you’re hanging out with a bunch of 35-year-old white tax accountants from Peoria, you can literally get everything you want just by speaking in declarative sentences. However, let’s say that you work at underground dog fighting ring and your boss, Michael Vick, just told you that he isn’t going to get you all the receipts in time to do this month’s reconciliation. You’ve had it up to here with his less than fastidious bookkeeping. You know that the auditors are just going to rip you to shreds over these weak internal controls. I get it. You’re pretty steamed. But, maybe, in this case, put a lid on it. Count to 10, or whatever it takes to calm down. Just this once, don’t resist arrest.
Making a scene only works if you are the scariest one in the room. If you’re going to make a scene you need to be aware of what you’re up against. It might be that your opposition is having NONE of it right now. Recognize the likelihood of this possibility and maybe find another venue to air your grievances; like by calmly and respectfully expressing your discontent with an emphasis on how to improve, or by slipping a laxative into Ellen’s coffee when no one is looking.
Tip #7: Culturally, you might be bad at it
Italians and other swarthy Mediterranean-types have been making a scene for centuries. They’re really good at it. Back in 1494, Portugal threw a fit because Spain (which at the time was merely the unified crowns of Castille and Aragon) was sneaking into North America. It was such a scene that the Pope had to intercede and relegate their empires to separate hemispheres (the Medieval equivalent of PULLING THIS CAR OVER RIGHT NOW!). If a world leader has not had to use the Prime Meridian to ameliorate you and/or limit the fallout from the scene you’ve just made, you might not be ready to take your act abroad.
Canadians, on the other hand, will totally cave if you just flare your nostrils.
This is the converse of Tip #5 which advised at being aware of your surroundings. Tip #6 is about understanding your own cultural baggage and how that impacts what it means when you fling a crock pot of month-old chili across your office’s communal space.
Let’s face it, you’ve most likely been relegated to a miserable, gray, sea of cubicles from which you will never emerge. You can choose to spend the next 40 years quietly dying inside until you’re barely a shade of the bright, hilarious young person you once were; or you can choose to go down kicking and screaming until you’re barely a shade of the bright, hilarious young person you once were. The choice is yours.
This kind of advice is especially relevant for females trying to navigate the workplace. You see if you’re a woman , men will always try to dismiss your concerns AND slough their work off on you. They’re going to act like it’s no big deal; that it’s part the natural order of things in a very ho-hum sort of way. The idea that women are volatile is also part of this fictional natural order that they proscribe to, so use that to your advantage. Let their prophesy be a self-fulfilling one. Just FYI, the first few times you do make a scene, these men going to assume it has to do with you getting your period. We all know that your period has nothing to do with whatever rage you might be feeling. The reason your screaming at Stan has nothing to do with menstruation and everything to do with Stan’s complete inability to bill his time to the appropriate project code. Prove to Stan that his gender-based assumptions are wrong by waiting until it’s “that time of the month” and then spraying your period blood in his face, a la Alien. As you walk away say, ” Mark your fucking calendar, Stan. If I’m mad and it’s not this time of the month, it’s you. If I’m mad and it is this time of the month, it’s still you.”