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Talking down an angry employee

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in Workplace Communication,Workplace Conflict

When one of your people is angry, how do the two of you commu­nicate and resolve the underly­ing problem? Here's some expert advice:

Don't just react—understand. Your employees may not just have opinions that are different from yours, but completely dif­ferent perspectives; through their eyes, it's truly not the same situation you see. When you react to employee anger, you're doing so from your perspective. Try to understand the situation from their point of view first.

Don't escalate. Try to underreact, not overreact. You need to approach the situa­tion with less energy and intensity than the angry employee. Remember that your tone of voice and body language do most of the communicating in episodes like these. You don't have to soft-pedal what you say; in fact, your message should be rather clear and direct. But you can tone down how you say it.

Don't wing it. If an employee's anger is completely unexpected, it's actually fairly easy to stay calm and talk things down. It's when you know that an encounter is going to get hostile or volatile—say, when you have to impose discipline—that your own tension gets in the way of a poised response. Be sure to prepare for such events emotionally. Rehearse what you need to say and what you'll do if things get ugly. Imagine in your mind how the conversation would go if you said exactly what you wanted to—as opposed to what you should say as the man­ager. This will release some of your own emotional tension and clear your mind for the actual encounter.

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