Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
HUMAN RESOURCES / SEP. 30, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Deal With Angry People In The Workplace

Many people have had to deal with angry people at the workplace at one time or another. This could be a supplier who was annoyed over delayed payment, a colleague who felt upset because their ideas were ignored or a customer who was not satisfied with their purchase. When confronted by an angry person, it is very easy to lose your cool and respond inappropriately, thus making a bad situation worse. However, the best way of resolving the issue is to respond in a calm, professional manner.

Many people at the workplace don’t express their anger overtly, but rather in a passive-aggressive manner. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Telling hurtful jokes
  • Spreading rumors
  • Ignoring directives
  • Avoiding personal involvement
  • Withdrawing or sulking
  • Not cooperating with others

Once you realize that you are dealing with an angry person, you need to find a way of defusing the situation. Here are some guidelines for handing the situation:

1. Don’t respond angrily

When confronted with an angry person, the natural tendency is to want to fight back. However, you need to learn how to manage your emotions. The best way of dealing with angry people is in an intelligent and calm manner. To keep yourself relaxed in tense situations, close your eyes and breathe deeply. If you can’t respond right away, politely walk away and return later when you are calmer.

2. Identify the cause

It is very important to understand why the individual in question is angry. Ask questions to get to the root of the matter. Allow the person to speak without interrupting them. As they express themselves, listen carefully and try and see the situation from their perspective. When responding, lower your vocal tone and talk calmly using friendly body language. Avoid the temptation to judge the other person’s behaviour. Instead, respect their opinion and show your intention of pursuing a solution.

3. Resolve the issue

After identifying the cause of anger, don’t make excuses for yourself or your organization. This will only make the aggrieved person more upset. Instead, think of how you can make things right. If you or your organization is wrong, the first thing you need to do is offer an unreserved apology. This will cool things down and offer the chance of restoring relationships with the offended party. The apology should then be followed by practical steps to remedy the situation.

4. Share your feelings

If you work with someone who displays frequent outbursts of anger, you need to let them know how their anger affects you and others. However, avoid using critical ‘you’ statements since the person might only become defensive. Instead, learn to communicate in a respectful but assertive manner.

5. Involve others

If you feel that the situation you are dealing with is getting out of hand, it would be advisable to involve others. For instance, if a customer is still unhappy despite your efforts to resolve the situation, you could consider involving your boss or another colleague.

If not handled properly, angry outbursts from customers and workmates can end up having a negative effect on your team’s morale and productivity. It is therefore very important to learn techniques for defusing anger before more damage is caused.

Image: George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

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