Most of the time it’s fairly obvious when someone is angry. And most CEO’s understand there will be people and situations throughout each day that will test their patients and self control. So, for the most part, they’re ready for most anything.
However, sometimes an employee will unintentionally get their CEO hot under the collar and have no idea they have done so. It may be the way they answer the phone, eat snacks, make copies, talk loud, laugh loud, pick their nose, or clear their throat every few minutes.
On the other hand it may be something the employee did that destroyed a deal, caused an expensive miscommunication with another company, accidentally stopped an important delivery, or caused a long time customer to be embarrassed. Those are the big things. And outside of those, it’s the small things that aren’t addressed right away that usually build to the big blow up.
What are you looking for in an angry CEO? (Or an angry anyone else for that matter?) How do you spot the cues that tell you something’s up and needs to be addressed post haste?
Let’s say the CEO is frustrated with you and they feel addressing the cause of the frustration would make them seem petty or spiteful. Let’s say that frustration has been building up for a few weeks. And now, the frustrated CEO is angry.
When you speak to them, you’ll see their eyebrows go way up, their lips will tighten, and in some cases almost disappear as the outsides of the mouth widen toward the ears into a weird looking almost-smile.
The chin is the last thing to show you they’re angry as it juts toward you and their head tilts back just a touch. You might also see the head slightly nod up and down. There’s so much going on with their limbic system right now.
They’re lips tightened because of the stress. (Stress mouth from the Lance Armstrong documentary “LieStrong“) The eyebrows go up and the weird smile comes on because they’re not really trying very hard to hide an angry face. They want you to know they’re angry, and that’s the face that initiates questions from the one it’s shown to.
Other signs of true anger are flared nostrils. Another good one is an asymmetrical smile. That shows contempt. You see that when one side of the mouth rises up almost into a snarl. It’s best to quickly excuse yourself until things calm down if you see that.
Clenched teeth are a classic sign of anger. Sometimes you won’t realize you’re seeing that unless you notice the muscles on the side of the CEO’s mouth moving. Quick little pops in the jaw area will show you the muscles clenching.
Squinted eyes along with a frown suggest frustration. But anger doesn’t show unless you can see the whites around the eyes as they squint hard. Take a look in the mirror and squint your eyes as you try hard to keep them open. See how the whites of the eyes are visible even though you’re squinting?
Now, keep making that face in the mirror, and smile just a little. Then slowly bring your chin almost to your chest without losing eye contact with yourself in the mirror.
If your CEO does that, it’s too late. Just start screaming and running.