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Respond to hotheads with a shrug of indifference

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

When an employee's temper flares, remember the law of inverse proportion. Respond with the opposite volume—a soft, gentle tone—and you direct the conversation down a more civil road. Resist the urge to say, "Just calm down." Agitated people tend to get more worked up when given commands.

Your first priority is to herd the hothead behind closed doors. You don't want a tantrum to distract the rest of the team.

Then strike a pose of unflappable attentiveness. Let the person rant for a few minutes without interrupting. Maintain a neutral expression—a poker face. Don't nod sympathetically the whole time or you'll make the worker think, "Oh, good, my boss is on my side. I'm just getting warmed up!"

If the speaker makes an offensive or hurtful comment, wait for a pause in the tirade and say in a firm, authoritative voice, "Please stop for a moment." Wait for the employee to comply. Then add slowly, "I realize you're upset, but I cannot accept what you just said."

Stay silent. Ideally, you want to hear an apology or at least an acknowledgment that the remark was inappropriate.

If the hothead fails to take responsibility for the offensive comment, you may need to issue a reprimand. Just watch your timing. If you sense it's the wrong time to dish out discipline, wait for a calmer moment later.

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