Momentum Podcast: 494

Avoiding Team Tantrums

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

This episode is for anyone who’s had team members throw a tantrum. The kind of tantrum where they blow up and act unacceptable. They completely shock you with their behavior and perform out of the ordinary from how they have previously been. In the future, here’s how to prevent them from torching the place on the way out.   

It may be hard to hear, but these tantrums could be a result of something you are doing. It’s important to not blame the person for being crazy or assume there’s something wrong with them. When there’s incongruency in a business’s leadership, you can trigger childhood feelings and rebellion against authority. 

A leader can trigger these childhood behavioral patterns by being incongruent or having miscommunication. These patterns can show in the forms of unhealthy competitions, meltdowns, playing managers, and ultimately acting just like a child. Tantrums can be avoided by creating clarity, dividing responsibilities, documenting, and having transparency with your team. 

Full Audio Transcript

This podcast is for anyone who's ever had team members blow up, act completely incongruently, shock you with their behavior, and otherwise act in a way that would previously have felt completely out of ordinary for how that person has been. When you have a team member go sideways, go crazy, get out of control and torch the place on the way out, it's challenging, but I want to present to you how it might be something you're doing that's causing it.

I'm Alex Charfen and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat, because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world, because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive human evolution, and we always will be.

This is actually a difficult podcast for me to do, because in my almost 30 years of having team members and employing people, there have been far too many times where I've had a previously solid team member blow up. When I say blow up, I mean blow up in an epic way where it caused major issues and challenges, and they torched the place on the way out. And here's what I mean by that. They said bad things. They left bad reviews. They told other people on the team how frustrated and upset they were. They made it so that on the way out, they caused as much havoc as they possibly could. And in my career, my early career especially, my way of dealing with this was to blame the person for being crazy, to blame them for incongruencies in their life, to look at them and say, "There's something wrong with them that is making this happen." And that actually made me feel pretty complaceent, pretty okay for a lot of my career, until this just kept happening, and I didn't want to accept that I didn't have control over this. So I kept asking the question, "Why is this happening? Why does this keep going on? What is it that I could possibly be doing?"

And as a result of that question in many others that make up the larger question, "How do you make business grow, and how do you make business keep growing, and how do you grow people so they can grow business?" Here's the answer that finally came out around this issue of having people kind of act in a way that would previously seem unhinged on their way out of the building. Here's why I think this happens. I think this happens because in a business, when there's incongruency in leadership, you actually trigger childhood feelings and childhood rebellion against authority in your team. In fact, when there's incongruencies in leadership and incongruencies in the communication from leadership, you actually go right back to when that person was dealing with either their parents or the authority figure they had as a child and felt that incongruency, and we triggered childhood behavioral patterns in our team members.

In fact, I want you to take a moment right now and think of the last person, or think of a person that did act incongruently or kind of lose it on the way out of your company, or leave without notice, or leave in a way that damaged things, or leave in a way where they purposely damage things, and I want you to think about that person, and then ask yourself, "What would they act like at about five to seven years old?" You probably saw that behavior on the way out of their company. I can remember one that was epic. Cadey and I had a team member who had been with us for awhile. Her position with us was one of her first jobs in her career, and she worked with us for a long, long time, and when she decided to quit, she actually downloaded all of her work product off of our computers, off of our servers, put it on a thumb drive, and on her last day told us she was going to be leaving with it because it was her work product and she wasn't going to leave anything behind.

I remember walking into the HR office and having her tell me this, and thinking to myself just how incredibly challenging this was, and at the time I hadn't figured out why this was happening. I just couldn't get it. I didn't get it, and I remember having to sit down with her, take a couple deep breaths, and explain, "As we sit here right now, given what you've told us, you've already committed grand larceny. It is a crime, and I think we could prove it's a federal crime, because what you've downloaded off our servers is worth well more than the dollar volume to meet a federal crime statute, and so you have a choice. You can either give us back all the information, make sure it gets back onto our drives before you leave the building, or I can call the police right now. They'll come out, and they'll arrest you." And that was a very sobering conversation for the person I was talking to. It was also a very difficult conversation for me to have. I don't ever want to be threatening somebody who I've worked with, who I've helped grow, who I've achieved with, who I've accomplished with, threatening them with the police. I can remember sitting there and thinking, "How did it come to this? This is horrible." It felt terrible. I felt like I was failing on every level because of what was happening.

And here's what I know now. If I look back at that situation, that individual was put in a situation where, between Cadey and I, not on purpose, but inadvertently, there was enough incongruent communication, there was enough challenging miscommunication that we put her in that situation of feeling like mom and dad aren't giving clear information, and that triggers people like crazy. And here's what happens. When you trigger childhood patterns, these are the types of things that you see. You see unhealthy competition between team members where they're stepping on each other. It becomes political to win. You see meltdowns, big time meltdowns where people just flip out and get upset, and can't handle it, and kind of break psychologically and even physiologically sometimes. You see your team members playing one manager or one leader against another. If you see them playing you against someone else or asking one person for something and then another person for something, what you can automatically assume as you have triggered childhood behaviors in that person, and they are probably in a place where they're not very stable right now. They're in pain. They're challenged. Actually, they're running kind of almost protocols that run on their own. It's almost automatic.

One of the other things you see is you see people taking sides, and if there isn't a side to take, they start trying to create sides, and you start feeling like you have a mutiny in your company because somebody that was previously stable, somebody that was previously in the right place is now acting like a child. Taking sides, unhealthy competition, melting down, playing managers against each other. All of those happen when you trigger childhood behaviors, childhood patterns through incongruency in leadership.

This took me over 20 years to figure out. In fact, it's just been the past few years that I really have, and you know, it's been a challenge to admit to myself that so many of the challenges we've had, so many of the issues we've had with people have actually been issues with leadership, with the way we've been doing things. Here's why this is so important. When you work in a business, you hear people say, "Oh, this feels like a family." Here's what they're really saying. "It feels like I wanted my family to feel." All you have to do is go to the holidays at somebody's house to know that you do not want your business to feel like family, because there's incongruencies, there's infighting, there's challenging communication, there's things that remain unsaid. What your team is actually saying is, "This is what I want family to feel like." It's not, "Feels like family with all the incongruencies." It's, "I want the stability. I want this to feel like family should have."

Why this is important is, blowups create massive instability. When a team member implodes or blows up or gets frustrated or upset, or starts going through unhealthy competition, or meltdowns, or playing people against each other, or taking sides, it creates instability in the entire organization, in the entire team, even if they're not directly related to that person. That's how important this is. You do not want to de-leverage your entire team, and this is important because you as a leader can be a force of stabilization and strength in somebody's life, or you can be a force of chaos and insecurity in somebodies life, and the more congruent you are, the more consistent you are, the more you show up in the right way, the more you stay in that place where you are a source of stability, and every leader should stay in that place as long as we possibly can.

Here's how you do that. Here's how you make it so you trigger your team less. Now, I want you to know something. This is crucial. This is important for every person in leadership to know. Anyone in your team is at risk of getting triggered by you, because you're already in a position of authority. Let me say that again. Anyone on your team is at risk of being triggered by you because you are in a position of authority. A lot of human beings in the world are triggered by authority. They're triggered by just having someone who is above them. They're triggered by having someone in that mom and dad position. So I want you to know you're never going to be able to release all this. You're never going to be able to just fix this. You're never going to be able to make it all go away, but you can fix a lot and you can avoid a lot of team tantrums by doing the following.

Number one, make sure you have clear roles and responsibilities in leadership. And here's what I mean by "clear roles and responsibilities." You know what a leader does, and just as importantly, you know what they don't do. Here's a challenge in leadership teams. Leaders answer questions for each other trying to be helpful, trying to be supportive, but the challenge is, is if you answer a question that is directed at another leader on your team, you trigger your team's insecurities. They want to know they're getting the right answer from the right person. They don't want to know Dad said one thing and Mom said another, or the two of them didn't really agree. Why? Because when we are children, that put us in this massive place of insecurity of not knowing where to go next.

Number two: Make sure that when you figure out what you do, you put up massive walls around it. Here's what Cadey and I did not use to do. This is the mistake she and I would make constantly. We've run businesses together for 15 years, and I would have somebody come up to me and asked me a question about events or about logistics or about one of the things that Cadey was doing, and in order to be quote-unquote "helpful," I would answer the question and give the person information. I thought I was being helpful. You know what I was really being, is incongruent, because I was answering for Cadey and I shouldn't have. I was answering a body of knowledge that I knew, and maybe I was right, but I really should have let Cadey answer those questions, and because I answered it once, I was actually encouraging that person to come back to me over and over again and just trying to be helpful, I created team instability and could have created team tantrums.

And then the last one is, make sure you divide responsibilities. Keep it that way, document it, and share it with your team. Everyone on your team should have access to a written summary of your responsibilities and every other leader's responsibilities on your team so that it's clear, so that you're not stepping out of where you should be, so that you're not doing the wrong thing, so that you're not creating massive insecurities. Divide responsibilities, make it clear, and keep it that way.

Now, I want you to know something. It doesn't matter what you do as an employer. As someone who hires people, you are going to deal with people issues. Here's the constant. As long as you are hiring and working with people on a day to day basis, there will be issues. People are random variables. People have all kinds of stuff going on in their lives. People run into challenges and issues. They have crisis on their side of the table, and so you will always have people issues. However, you as an entrepreneur should do everything you can to minimize them because people issues are some of the most expensive, the most emotionally challenging, the most difficult for leadership, and the most destabilizing for the team.

So this is something you should focus on. Create clarity around each leader, and make sure that they're not answering each questions. Divide responsibilities, document it, show the team and keep it that way. And here's the result you will have. Your team will have the three Cs when it comes to leadership. They'll have clarity as to what each of you is doing. Clarity gives a team member momentum. It takes away fear. It removes ambiguity. It shows them the path forward. You will also also have commitment. When you work in a way where you are making things clear and you're not making things complicated for your team members, and they know where they're going, their commitment to the position will go up, and when you have clarity and commitment, you get a ton of confidence, and here's what happens. You have the three C's, clarity, confidence, and commitment in your business, and your investment on every person in the business will go up.

Did you hear what I just said? That means you don't have to pay anything more on payroll. You just get more return on your investment by creating clarity, confidence, and commitment. This changes everything in a business. When your team feels clarity, they go forward fast. When they're more confident, they feel like they can do more, and when they have a higher level of commitment, you get discretionary efforts. You get them excited about the business. They start feeling like they are in momentum, and they lean in even harder. That is how business grows at breakneck speeds, faster than you thought possible, because your entire team is there with you forging forward and helping you clear a path ahead. Avoiding team tantrums is not impossible. It just takes some effort. Create clarity, make sure each person knows their place, document it like crazy and distribute it to your team, and you see momentum go through the roof.

If you're ready to do this and you want some help, you don't have to do it on your own. In fact, we have entrepreneurs around the world that are growing teams, building their businesses, and making a massive impact. If you're ready for help, go to, answer a few questions from my team, set up a call where we will help you discover where it is you really want your business to go with clarity you probably never have had. Where your business is today, and an understanding of what you need next in addition to what may be in the way. What are the bottlenecks, the challenges, the roadblocks you are facing? Let us help you get more clarity than you've ever had and show you how we can help you. Go to, answer a few questions from my team, sign up for a call, and let's help you avoid team tantrums as you create massive clarity, increase your team's commitment, and create confidence across the board.

Thank You For Listening!

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