I rushed to my office and dropped my bags while I tried to find the key to the door. I sighed audibly as I pushed the door open with my rain-soaked shoe. I wasn’t prepared for the morning downpour, and my shoes were ruined. I sighed loudly again as I dumped my bags and travel mug on my desk and started up my computer. Waking up late and ridiculous traffic delays because of the storm had me running behind. I worked furiously to finalize morning course prep in the time I had left while my students worked quietly in the Newsroom across the hall. It just figured that I would be delayed on a day when I had so much to do. This was not going to be a good day at all.
I felt calmer after teaching my three morning classes. The classes had gone well, despite my hurried morning. My student editor-in-chief hesitated as he walked into my office. He had a timid look on his face. This couldn’t possibly be good. He usually just strolled in and sat down, talking the entire time.
“What? What is it,” I asked.
“I’m just trying to figure out what we did,” he said.
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“You seem really mad today. We were wondering what we had done,” he said.
That’s when I realized that I’d been so focused on my crazy morning that I hadn’t stopped to consider what type of message I was sending to the staff I advise.
I’ve seen similar scenarios play out in our newsroom through the years. Student editors rush in, running late, bang things around out of their own frustration, grumble as they grab coffee, then leave the room without really even speaking to anyone else in the room. Editors sit and look at their phones during meetings, leaving the impression that they don’t care about what’s happening in the room or would rather be someplace else. Editors come in late for meeting, complaining about how all of the pizza is gone. An editor races in, shouts orders to others in the room, then talks 90 miles an hour about everything that needs to be done, not even realizing the stressful energy she brings to the room.
I’m not suggesting everyone should be in a good, calm mood all the time. I’d think that was odd if I experienced it, especially in a newsroom. But, if you’re the boss, you have to realize that you set the tone for your team. If you’re angry, upset or stressed, your team will pick up on it. Sometimes they’ll assume they’re responsible for your mood, and they’ll adjust their attitudes and behaviors accordingly.
Just being aware that I’m setting the tone, whether in the classroom or in the newsroom, has made a difference for me. I know that I need to stop and check my emotions to make sure I’m setting the desired tone of professionalism and productivity. I try to smile and greet people as I walk into the room. I prepare so as not to seem hurried or stressed, even when I am. No, I’m not perfect about this, but it’s important just to recognize that your moods are outwardly reflected. Are yours saying what you want?