Home >

How Can I Respond to an Angry Employee?

The worst thing you can do when confronted with an angry employee is to try to "smooth over" the anger or simply tell the person to "calm down." That may cause a momentary lull, but it won’t help to solve any underlying problems and may cause important information to be overlooked.

Sending the right message involves maintaining self-control, objectivity, and a willingness to remain reasonable. Active listening can be hard to do in the heat of the moment, but it can immediately bring the decibel level and the argument to manageable levels.

Tell Me More

The first step in calming down the excited employee is to announce your recognition of his or her feelings—show that you understand that the person is angry. Becoming angry yourself will only hurt your relationship with the employee further. Wait until the yelling subsides and then let the angry person know you understand his or her version of the story. "Let me see if I’ve got this straight. …" The closer you are to the person’s words, the better. This, again, encourages the individual to confirm, correct, or add to your understanding of the problem.

Now you might want to suggest that you and the employee find a private place to talk further. You don’t want to be seen being berated by another person, no matter who that person is. In a private setting where people can sit down (it’s harder, by the way, to continue an outburst in a sitting position), you can move beyond the outburst to solving the problem behind the outburst.

Look at the anger objectively. Too many people make the mistake of taking confrontations personally. Separate the person from the incident—put as much emotional distance between the two as possible. This will keep you from getting defensive and enable you to focus on the source of the diatribe and on finding a solution that is satisfactory to you and the other party.