Outrage at Outrage Management


So we were discussing Peter Sandman’s recommendations for outrage management, which mostly have to do with how to deal with management not doing something that you’ve given them rational reasons to do, because of some emotional resistance or other. The opposite problem also occurs: they believe you; they just don’t care. Then you could use some outrage.

Alex brings up two good points in the previous comments:

I’m afraid that outside of usefulness in those communications channels, I just would hesitate to use the term "Outrage". For example, creating "Outrage" metrics sounds like you’re working in hollywood publicity for Paris Hilton, not protecting business assets. 🙂

Yes, exactly, it’s usefulness in these communications channels, that is, with management, that emotion, up to and including outrage, has to be used and managed.

Or maybe you meant in the communication channels we’re using now, such as on our blogs and at Metricon, among security and risk practitioners to discuss what needs to be done; that’s the only place we should use the term "outrage", because people might misunderstand it elsewhere.

Well, Sandman gets at that in another column:

“Outrage management” is the label I have given to the kind of risk communication you need to do when people are more upset about a risk than you think the situation justifies. It includes strategies like acknowledging the other side’s best arguments, asking people to help you manage the situation, sharing credit for your accomplishments, dwelling on your misbehaviors, and legitimizing people’s emotional reactions.

The trouble with these outrage management strategies is that they’re profoundly counterintuitive. To most senior managers they sound crazy. They sound especially crazy when, as is often the case, your senior managers are pretty outraged themselves – outraged at the people who are giving them all that trouble, and outraged at your recommendation to manage those people’s outrage more empathically.

So you end up needing to manage management’s outrage at the need to manage stakeholders’ outrage.

— The Boss’s Outrage (Part III): Managing Management’s Outrage at Outrage Management, by Peter M. Sandman, originally published in The Synergist, pp. 44-47, April 2007

His first recommendation in this column is

1. Don’t label management’s outrage. The main difference between stakeholder outrage and management outrage is that outraged stakeholders generally know they’re outraged and act outraged. Outraged corporate and (especially) government officials are likelier to suppress their outrage as unprofessional. Inevitably it leaks out as cold courtesy, as passive-aggressive insensitivity – which provokes still more stakeholder outrage. Telling your boss he’s too angry to think straight will only lead to an angry denial: “I’m not angry. I’m just right!” You’ll need to manage management’s outrage without labeling it.

Which is basically what Alex seems to be recommending.

This Sandman writes some really good stuff. I recommend reading his columns. You never know; there might be something in there you could use.


1 thought on “Outrage at Outrage Management

  1. Alex

    Yes and yes?!
    “when people are more upset about a risk than you think the situation justifies.”
    Modern American media needs outrage management. I need to hear less about celebrities and more about issues…

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