Pointless Cycles: Fueling Anger, Feeding Bitterness


Pointless Cycles: Fueling Anger, Feeding Bitterness

Have you ever run across an executive or a team of executives locked in a cycle of pointless anger or bitterness? VIM Executive Coaching has certainly witnessed this phenomenon on more than one occasion.

Don’t Trust Them

We well remember the first time we heard “the cycle,” and it was quite by accident. It was in a manufacturing company where we arrived early for an appointment in the marketing department. The senior vice president of marketing was venting to his staff from the other side of a three-quarter conference room wall. In order to relay his words, we had better clean up the salty language just a bit:

“I don’t trust any of those ---- in production. They ---- us over any chance they get, and they have for years. They know ---- well we’re on deadline and what’s at stake here. I’m tempted to go to “A” (the CEO) and fire the whole ---- bunch of them!”

Not surprising, when we had the chance to speak with the senior vice president of production, she ripped into the marketing team with language that would make a sailor blush. She confided that the only way she would talk to marketing was through the COO or the CEO.

When we caught up to both the COO and the CEO and told them of the antagonism, believe it or not they thought it was funny. As we recall, it was the COO who said:

“They do their best work when they’re angry as heck with each other.”


There have been schools of thought that relish the idea of pitting people and departments against each other, rather than to seek cooperative and common ground. However, the philosophy of setting departments or executives or even team units as rivals rarely works. Whether we are talking pharmaceutical production, a university board of regents or a football team that pits offense against defense, for the best long-term results, cooperative efforts always exceed antagonism. This is especially true in the modern workplace where units remotely work from city to city or even country to country.

The fact that the CEO and the COO in this example seemed to enjoy seeing departments in an endless cycle of antagonism was a major concern. The cycle of bitterness or anger is always caused by reaction and never by responsive and thoughtful action. Despite their glee at viewing the cycle, the truth of the matter is (and not all that surprising) we coached some of their ex-employees and they shared that the stress caused by the high turnover rates and daily antagonism was too much to deal with.

Not surprising either is that as the years passed the board and shareholders demanded both the resignations of CEO and COO due to a lack of innovation and product failures. In short, because marketing and manufacturing failed to work together, the performance of the products were affected by poor marketing and manufacturing. In struggling against one another, both departments failed to produce results and again, not surprising, the vice presidents of both departments were replaced as well.


Whether a single service station or a conglomerate that services the needs of a thousand businesses, developing a culture where executives and workers respond rather than react to one another is always the best way to go. Response comes out of mindfulness, and mindfulness leads to authenticity.

If executive leaders in a corporation or association always react in an endless cycle of anger, bitterness and distrust, the organization is headed for disaster.

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Bruce Wolk