Have you ever been in a meeting when an employee just “lost” it and either went on a tirade or got up and slammed out of the room?
If you ever have encountered an employee who has a burst of anger at work, you understand the impact of those behaviors and the ripple effect it has on the entire organization.
Employees tiptoe around these people to avoid these uncomfortable incidents.
There can be a fine line between someone being angry and showing strong emotions; someone crossing the line and potentially causing harm to another person.
Employees need to understand that everyone is expected to act and communicate in a professional, nonthreatening way.
As employers, we are responsible to provide a safe work environment, influence the behaviors of our employees, and teach them how to respond if they encounter belligerence in the workplace.
6 Tips For Dealing With Anger in the Workplace
Here are some simple things you can do to ensure you are prepared to respond to belligerence in the workplace.
1. Create a Professional Culture
I’ve worked places where belligerent employees were tolerated and I’ve also worked places where the culture would not allow that type of behavior. I preferred the latter.
Unless you want a workplace where you have a mud pit in the back where employees can wrestle out their issues, it is your responsibility to create a culture that encourages employees to communicate and interact with each other in a professional manner.
This involves helping employees understand the cultural norms of “how we do things around here”.
Specifically, spending the time and energy to train employees on the dos and don’ts of interacting and communicating in the workplace.
This should include training in professional communication, conflict resolution, and negotiation skills.
2. Set Expectations and Train Employees
We all come from different backgrounds and view the world through the lens of our own experiences.
Some people have never learned how to communicate appropriately so it is our responsibility to set the expectations, demonstrate the desired behaviors, and train employees on how to communicate with others when emotions are high. This involves learning some basics of emotional intelligence.
Once you train employees, make sure you have a signed document acknowledging the training to place in the employee file.
3. Response Training
Often employees don’t know how to respond to an angry employee.
They are caught off guard and struggle with what to say or do.
Teach them how to communicate, respond, and what to do if they feel threatened.
Help them understand when to speak up and who to go to for help.
This includes understanding the process to report an incident – so that the situation will get resolved.
4. Confront Inappropriate and Threatening Behavior
We have all seen the news reports of violence in the workplace which is often the culmination of several events.
Managers often make the mistake of ignoring conflict situations because we think it is a one-time event.
However, nipping this kind of behavior in the bud is critical and must be done quickly to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to zero tolerance.
Oftentimes when you confront an employee about inappropriate behaviors, it can become a coaching moment and an opportune time to explain what is and what is not acceptable behavior at work.
Give the employee the benefit of the doubt and assume they lack the life experience to understand the consequences of their behavior.
If an employee does not respond to coaching it may be necessary to initiate progressive discipline – which may lead to their termination.
5. Document the Incident
When an employee acts inappropriately and is confronted about their behavior, it is important to document the incident.
Include documenting the date, time of the incident, persons involved, persons present, and a brief description of the scenario that led up to the incident. Add a summary of the incident and details of how it was resolved.
This history could be vital if there becomes a need to take additional action or terminate the employee.
6. Have A Zero Tolerance Policy
There should be no excuse and no exception for any employee doing physical harm to another.
A zero-tolerance policy that is communicated through the employee orientation process and training, allows you to quickly terminate the relationship and remove the employee from the organization.
Consult an attorney or utilize an HR professional to help you navigate through this process.
Important things to think about
- If employees don’t feel safe at work, they will be distracted and less productive.
- When an employee acts out and is not confronted, they are being sent a message that the behavior is OK – and will probably do it again.
- Act on your gut instincts and get professional help with difficult situations.
- Intervention with an anger management counselor is sometimes helpful for employees you feel are worth saving.
- Decisions to terminate a belligerent employee should be made for the good of all employees and this type of decision can be particularly difficult with people who you might have a relationship with.
Employees come to work with the intention of doing a good job and have the expectation of a work environment that is safe and free from hostility.
It is management’s responsibility to create the culture, set the expectation, and provide the training for appropriate interactions in the workplace. Employees who do not comply should be removed from the organization – quickly.