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“Our Project Manager, Ramesh is in a very bad mood just now” said Krishna, a software developer to his colleague.” I saw him coming out of his boss’s office after a hour or so. He was looking very tense and annoyed”.

Within minutes, Krishna was called in to Ramesh’s cubicle. Without losing any time, Ramesh began to scold Krishna about the delays in the project, quality problems, lack of commitment to time deadlines etc.

It so happened that Krishna  did not have any subordinates. If he had, he would most probably have passed on the heat to them.

What we have seen is something we see everyday. People using the defence mechanism of “displacement”. We see it at home too. The elder son returns home after being scolded at school by his teacher. His kid sister waits eagerly to welcome him home. The boy not only spurns her but goes on to blame her for something she is not remotely responsible for.

It’s the age old story. A man is annoyed. He takes out his anger on his dog by giving it a kick. The dog in turn bites the cat and the cat bites a rat. The poor rat being at the bottom of the chain  has no one to bite. In the corporate world, thank God, one might not get kicked but one does get a shelling from the boss from time to time.

The famous psychologist Sigmund Freud was the first to write about defence mechanisms – the ways we act to cope with reality and maintain our self- image.

Displacement is the process by which we transfer our anger against others- more often than not, those  “weaker” than us.

As managers, we do face stress and strain but it is important for us and our teams that we develop the capability of handling that pressure ourselves without resorting to displacement.

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This is the 150 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success