Dealing with anger in the workplace - Part 2By Bianca Keys | Mar 30, 12 08:45 AM
We all react to anger in different ways. Learn some tips to effectively deal with anger in your workplace.
You can create clear guidelines and provide the opportunity for training in complaints handling so that staff feel empowered rather than lost when confronted with volatility.
Guidelines or a framework might look something like this,
1/ Encourage expression
This in no way refers to rolling up your sleeves and encouraging the fight. What it does refer to is the notion that anger is a surface emotion and we need to find out what is driving it. Ask WHY someone is angry. Use an open-ended question that invites further information.
2/ Actively listen
It takes a lot of strength and sometimes composure to sit and listen when someone is angry. It is a big ask to try to remove yourself from the battlefield and exist as an observer. However, it is worth remembering the saying “This is not about you, it is about them”. Giving someone the opportunity to express their frustration gives you the opportunity to learn more about what they need to achieve and may have the unintended additional benefit of creating a calmer environment by exhausting the anger!
3/ Acknowledge what you have heard
Many people confuse acknowledgement with concession or apology, but there is a clear distinction to be made. To acknowledge what someone has said shows that you have heard them and gives the other person an opportunity to hear what they have said and to confirm it or clarify their meaning. A good way to do this is to summarise what you have heard, attributing the dialogue to the other person rather than to yourself (For example, “ You say that you are feeling frustrated because….”).
4/ Assert yourself
Assertion and aggression are very different responses and in this context assertion is not about blame, righteousness or discipline. It is an opportunity to respond to what you have heard, once the other party feels listened to and understood. Only then will they be ready to hear what you have to say. If they do not appear ready, then steps 1-3 have not been adequately attempted and must be revisited. To respond effectively at this stage, your language will be very important. Avoid blame statements that will create defence barriers, such as “You” statements. Instead, try using “I”, “Me” or “My”, beginning sentences with something like “My concern with this is….”
While this seems a simplistic structure, it has proven itself effective time and time again. Frameworks like this one give structure and security to staff dealing with front line complaints. For employers, managers and HR consultants these steps provide tools and boundaries for dealing with staff issues and communication of needs during contract and other negotiations.
As an employer you can go beyond the provision of training and structure for staff and also seek to provide balance in the tasks assigned so that there is opportunity for those dealing with others’ anger to have their own “time out”.
Investing this time now can save you much frustration later. This is your opportunity to break the staff turnover cycle and create a supportive, structured and efficient team.
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Bianca is a mediator and facilitator of commercial and workplace issues. She also designs and delivers targeted training modules for businesses so that they can manage the “people machine” in a constructive rather than destructive manner. Her tailored training courses cover areas such as effective communication skills, complaints handling, team management, conflict prevention, negotiation and mediation skills.