There’s a time in all our lives when we will scream this out at the top of our voices, or at least desperately want to.  Anyone that has witnessed break point will tell you what a dark and thoroughly unpleasant place it is.  But what if you are confronted by it face to face and not by a distressed employee or boss but a supplier?

This week my PA’s company car was in for its annual service. The car took longer to repair than expected as the garage needed some extra parts that were not in stock.  However, the garage asked her twice to return her replacement car so it could be switched for another (each time she had to re-fuel the car and make a 35km round trip).  On collecting her car she calmly pointed out to the receptionist that she had found this very inconvenient. 

You can imagine her surprise when the owner of the garage appeared from behind a screen and proceeded to shout and scream at her (in front of a waiting room full of people) at the top of his voice accusing her of being a trickster and how she had personally robbed his company of 130,000EUR last year on lost replacement car costs alone?!  The verbal attack was so intense and unexpected even his reception staff disappeared leaving my PA to face the enraged manager alone.  When the coast was clear she made a rapid exit, jumped in her car and drove off in a great deal of distress.

We all know how bad the recession is effecting the motor industry and most likely my PA’s innocent comment was the last straw for the stressed out garage owner?  But what should we do if we notice a colleague or even find ourselves nearing break point? 

One thing I know is that it is vital to find a way to keep a sense of balance and proportion.  To try and see things for what they are.  But this is much easier said than done and can only happen when our adrenaline level falls back to as near as normal as possible and when our emmotional state becomes calm.

If you are confronted by someone in such a state as the garage owner, check to see if there is any immediate physical danger either to yourself or anyone else.  If you feel it is safe to do so, try and calm the person down.  Be firm and say ‘I am not going to listen to anything more from you until you calm down, stop shouting and communicate in a normal voice’ (they will probably not notice that they are shouting).  Suggest that the person leave the room and come back in again when they feel ready to communicate normally, with some dignity towards both themselves and others.  If they ignore your instructions, leave the room (closing the door quietly behind you) keep calm and contact a colleague to decide what to do next. Think about safety first.  Usually 15 minutes is long enough for someone to regain a more composed stature and begin to become calm again.

Here are my tips for those who might find themselves at break point

1.  Try and take a step back to measure how stressed (close to the edge) you might be

a) Notice if the people (employees, colleagues, bosses, friends & family) around you are acting differently towards you in any way?

b) Ask those that you can confide in, if they think that you are acting differently from usual?

If so:

2.  Seek professional help:

a) A life coach or mentor

b) A psychiatrist

c) Doctor

3.  Admit to yourself and to others that you are not your usual self and ask for their patience during your difficult time.

4.  Take some time out, even half a day to begin with

a) Delegate as many tasks as possible

b) Keep responsibility until it is clear that you are unable to maintain it

5.  Remember the graveyard is full of irreplaceable people, don’t become one of them

Have a good week,