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Manager as Pooper Scooper

Hotheads are a reality in organizational life.

I’m not endorsing or encouraging hotheaded behaviors.

Manager as pooper scooper:

Every manager has cleaned up the aftermath of a hothead’s outburst. The hothead moved on. Everyone else tiptoes around the road apples left behind.

Sensitive spirits feel demoralized. Timid team members won’t speak up but hope you will. Perhaps you should.

Note: Violent or threatening behaviors are grounds for dismissal.

Worth it:

Don’t expect hotheads to change.

A hotheaded symphony conductor might be worth it if they…

  1. Have a big heart. Terminate coldhearted hotheads. A big heart and generous spirit compensate for many deficiencies.
  2. Are respected by the team for their talent.
  3. Make substantial contribution to the team’s success.
  4. Are worth the time, trouble, and energy it takes to deal with the aftermath. (Discuss this concern with the team.)

A bighearted hothead might be worth the trouble.

Dealing with damage:

I don’t mind working with hotheads, but some find it unacceptable.

A reader writes, “How do you help people who feel damaged by hothead behaviors?”

  1. Don’t underestimate the drag of disengagement and low morale a hothead creates in some environments.
  2. Don’t assign gentle spirits to work with hotheads.
  3. Empower gentle spirits, but like hotheads, don’t expect gentle spirits to radically change.
    • Give gentle spirits permission to leave work when there’s a hothead episode.
    • Provide training and coaching on how to be assertive without being aggressive.
    • Don’t solve any relationship issues you aren’t willing to keep solving.
  4. Have a team meeting to discuss concerns and adopt healthy strategies. Some hotheads may reject this approach and seek employment elsewhere.
  5. Penalize undesirable behaviors financially like professional sports teams. Is this an option?


I encourage you to reflect on potential advantages. How might learning to deal with hotheads strengthen teams and develop people?

How might managers deal with the fallout of a hothead’s behaviors?


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