Temper tantrums are never cute. They are not cute among children and they are certainly not cute among adults. (My husband’s relative had a temper tantrum in our home when he was way too old for such a violent outburst, resulting in my having to repair and re-paint the wall he repeatedly kicked, such that I am somewhat scarred by this experience!) When the adult having the temper tantrum happens to be an attorney who is my client, I ask myself, “Why did I choose this occupation?” as I try to control his outburst. (So far, none of my female clients have had a temper tantrum; thus, I will say “he” throughout this post.) Usually, the client’s temper tantrum is a response to something that has gone wrong, and is in the process of being fixed. Common causes of temper tantrums I have witnessed among my clients include: (1) the video camera malfunctioned, resulting in temporary loss of video, audio, or both; (2) the television used for closed circuit viewing of the mock jury deliberations broke; (3) the air conditioning is broken, or set too high, or set too low, or is blowing their hair; (4) my flight was delayed or cancelled, or my rental car broke down on the side of the interstate, or something bad happened to me, such that I was late arriving at the research site; (5) one of my employees didn’t jump high enough or fast enough when being screamed at; etc. The most extreme example of a client’s temper tantrum happened long ago (although it seems like yesterday!) and resulted from a video camera malfunction. My employees, all of whom are experts in operating video cameras, were trying to correct the problem, but were doing so too slowly for my client, who began jumping up and down, flailing his arms, with his tie hitting his chin every time his feet left the ground, all the while screaming, in full view and hearing range of everyone in attendance, “I regret the day I hired your company!”. Needless to say, his antics, although somewhat entertaining, did not help my employees fix the video camera any faster; in fact, their job was impeded by all of the jumping and screaming. Pretty soon, the camera was working again and all of us who witnessed this temper tantrum, including the mock jurors, were eager to be finished with our work. Guess what we told this client the next time he wanted to retain us to work for him?
Our work in the trial consulting arena necessitates the use of technologies that are not perfect. And, we work in unfamiliar places, with rented equipment like televisions, all of which lead to problems with some regularity. This is one of those areas where, in our work, “ it happens.” But, we are almost always able, because of our trained and resourceful team, to, as we’ve said in another post, Improvise, Adapt and Overcome! It just takes time to test and make adjustments. We know our clients are under tremendous pressure; there is much at stake in litigation. But, that is no excuse for some of the juvenile behavior we have observed on, fortunately, only a few, but extreme, occasions. Again, this behavior is inappropriate in any work setting (probably any setting of anything). But, no one can perform his or her job appropriately when a “mad man” is screaming and making the situation worse. In addition, that mad man cannot perform his job appropriately if he has “lost it” to this extent. Not unexpectedly this client’s mock trial results were not as he would have liked. Surprise, surprise. And, what was most surprising, or maybe not, this mad, crazy, bouncing attorney, was a psychiatrist before he went to law school!