At your small company, the buck stops with you. So how can you handle an angry employee's complaint and resolve his or her problem without adding more stress to your day?
Use the following six A's to deflect anger without taking the blame:
1. Abstain from interrupting. Allow the other person his or her say. Eventually, the person will take a breath.
2. Agree to the extent that you can. It's not necessary to agree on who's right and who's wrong, but you can agree that a problem exists or at least that the person is upset.
3. Acknowledge the problem. Even if you think the person is overreacting, it's important to validate his or her perception of the situation. Show your empathy and concern by saying "I would be angry, too, if that happened to me."
4. Apologize to the extent that you can. Know the difference between accepting responsibility and offering a sincere but blame-free apology. For example, it's not your fault that the insurance company denied the claim, but you can still express your regret.
5. Act within your authority. If you can solve the problem, promise that you will ... and follow through. In other situations, the power to change anything isn't yours. But you can choose to offer your understanding, empathy and support if appropriate.
6. Assess the outcome. Take time later to reflect on the confrontation. Was the person calmer when you finished, or more upset? What did you say or do that helped the situation or made matters worse? Reflecting on the outcome will help make you more effective next time.
—Adapted from an article by Jean Gatz (www.jeangatz.com), author and keynote speaker, in The HR Specialist.