Thursday, October 25, 2012

Real Talk With Rachel: Steaming and Frothing

by Rachel Kurzius

Last week brought in a flurry of thoughtful responses from readers. and I’d like to start today’s column by sharing a few of them. One reader offered some first-hand advice for In Charge But Not In Control, the boss of a small company who recently fired an employee and found that the rest of his employees were none too pleased.

"The writer didn't mention whether, in the lead up to the firing, they had followed protocol in providing the employee with warnings.  I run that same size company and over 26 years, have fired eight employees. It is traumatic and you and of course the employee will likely never forget it. They may apply for Workers' Compensation, which you end up paying. They can apply for this and receive considerable moneys if you don't have the proof in your files that you found fault, that they were warned, and sign that they received the warning. They should receive formal, written, warnings and an opportunity to discuss the warnings with you before the final hammer comes down. There's lots of online information on this.

"Yes, it is the employer's right to fire an employee, but fairness, hurt feelings, friendships, resentment and financial burdens are all part of the mix that come from being an employer. The owner should read basic manuals on human resources. Owners still have to perform the functions of a larger company until we are large enough to pay someone to do them.  And even then we are still responsible for all the functions being carried out properly.”

Another reader asked an important question “What are the legal implications of telling someone’s ex-co-workers why that person had been fired?”

I’m going to turn the tables here and ask you, All Life Is Local readers, if you have any insight on this question? Would the boss face any legal ramifications from explaining why he fired a person?

Just to clarify, I never suggested that Not In Control give the nitty-gritty as to why he let his employee go, but just to explain in broad strokes that the position no longer fit. The conversation I wanted Not In Control to have at length was a discussion over his lack of transparency in dealing with the firing.

For the second letter from last week, about a young man who was fearful his uncles would pressure him to drink at a family occasion because they didn’t know he was an alcoholic, some questioned whether he needed to disclose his membership at AA.

Wrote one reader, “I don't think he needs to tell anyone that he is a member of AA.  That's why attendance is anonymous, so you don't have to let everyone know.  I think that all he needs to tell his uncles is 'Thank you! I'm very flattered that you want to buy me drinks, but I don't drink.  I don't drink because it doesn't agree with me at all.  So, how about a great meal out instead?  I love a great gourmet dinner.' That's all that needs to be said and he can keep his AA meetings to himself. Oh, and if they persist, all he has to do after that first explanation is to say 'Remember, I don't drink ... not at all.  Thank you.'"

Thanks, as always, to all who took the time to introduce your ideas. You keep this an ever-fascinating endeavor. And now, to the advice...

Dear Rachel,

My wife was married once before. Though we have custody of the children for the majority of the time, when they come back from trips with their father, they are less able to manage their anger. He lives in Nevada now, so they only see him a few times a year.

When the kids were younger, we thought that the transition between the houses was what gave them temper tantrums. Now, they are 12 and 14 and they still are angrier when they come home -- more likely to erupt if things don’t go the way that they want them to and just more rage in general.

My wife has noticed this too. She thinks that it’s because her ex-husband has difficulty controlling his anger. It never resulted in anything violent, and we know he would never lay a hand on his kids, but he just doesn’t deal well with his anger.

It takes weeks for the kids to get back to normal when they get back from his visits. He’s not doing anything wrong technically, though, and he loves his kids. What can we do?

Ready to Erupt

Dear Ready to Erupt,

Most people I know think that they’ve developed the best way to deal with anger and frustration. However, some of it --screaming profanities and punching walls-- might be difficult to watch. And punching walls might end up as an expensive and alienating way to go through life.

Your wife’s ex-husband has his own way of dealing with anger. And his kids, when they spend time with him, seem to adopt it. Is it because they think it’s cool? Do they want to be like Dad? The best way to find out is to ask them.

They’re old enough now that they could probably explain why they rage once they get back from their trips with Dad. That could be a worthwhile conversation, because it can lead to you and your wife explaining your techniques for cooling off when you get upset. Dealing with anger is key -- the kids will face situations that test their calm throughout their lives. Finding effective ways to manage themselves in those instances will keep them healthier in their minds and bodies.

Maybe your wife should speak to her former husband, as well. In that conversation, she could tell him that the kids seem to have “more rage” when they return from his visits. He might have some insight as to why that is. In particular, he could attempt to curb some of his outbursts if he thinks that it’s rubbing off on his children.

Based on the tone of your letter, it doesn’t seem like the ex-husband is a threat in any way. However, if the mood swings when the kids get back are really pronounced, it might be time to reevaluate whether the visitation system currently in place still makes sense.



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or email her at advice @

1 comment:

  1. Just a rebuttal on yesterday's advice concerning kids coming home from dad's with some rage and behavioral problems. I like how the wife is quick to blame the ex-husband! No one seems to be considering that they may be acting out because they miss their dad and have such limited contact with him. Add being teenagers to the mix and you have a recipe for some pretty hot tempers and big drama. I'd say this kind of behavior is very typical among kids of divorced parents. Just my two cents!