By Jeanette Arnold, MSW, LCSW, ACSW
When it comes to the workplace, the tongue can be a wand or a weapon. Whether it is used to help or hurt, both can have long-lasting effects.
There's nothing good about anger in the workplace. The list of problems it causes can be unending: absenteeism, decline in quality of work and productivity, personality changes, disruptive behavior, changes in work habits, overreaction to minor issues, lack of cooperation with coworkers and supervisors and, worst of all, workplace violence.
Dealing with the issue is confusing for both the person experiencing the anger and the people around the person. They may use denial, isolation or ineffective solutions made under the wrong emotional conditions. The person with anger issues can even create an explosive situation by avoiding conflicts and bottling up feelings.
Anger and the Work Place, by Jerry Medol and Rusty Fleischer writing for the Network of Care website, discusses anger-related behavior. The authors say this behavior is often related to personal stress issues and challenges the employee is facing. There are no limits to the ways stress can affect an employee's behavior, whether its source is personal, family, health, marital, financial or a work-related fear or conflict. Anger-related behavior also has a direct effect on the performance and productivity of the employee and his or her work environment. It is essential to have a good prevention policy and strategies to dissipate negative energy and avoid possible violence.
According to Medol and Fleischer, here are effective ways to deal with an angry employee:
- Stay calm and don't react. Remember that anger is not danger. Anger means that something is not all right. It is likely that your employee is in an agitated and defensive state, so you need to slow down, take a deep breath and be open to hearing and caring about what that person is saying to you.
- Demonstrate respect by showing that you care. Take an honest interest in the situation. An employee who does not feel cared about can become more alienated and isolated.
- Listen, encourage and support. This person wants to feel safe and cared about. Share opinions and feelings to discover the real problem. Try to help find a creative solution. You don't have to agree with your employee.
- Leave fault-finding out of the conversation. Blame puts people on the defensive. Don't focus on what is wrong. Focus on what is needed.
If the above tips do not resolve the issue, contact BJC EAP. Our experienced consultants can help with strategies for corporate and individual communication, interventions and protocols for dealing with troubled employees.