5 Tips for Dealing with Angry Employees

Angry employees can quickly sink the work ship, filtering negativity, hostility, bad attitudes, unproductive behaviors, and unfair workloads to other employees and possibly taking out their anger directly on customers, coworkers, and supervisors. As disastrous as having an angry employee is all around, work environments are often inevitably Petri dishes for growing anger and frustration due to the high demand and stresses of most jobs today. From nurses and sandwich artisans to cosmetologists and salespeople, no one seems to be immune from becoming an angry employee.

The demands and stresses may not necessarily be amendable, but employers can take measures to deescalate and diffuse angry employee situations so that the work ship can be righted. Let’s look at five tips to productively handle angry employees.

1. Managers Can’t Get Sucked Into The Vortex Of Negativity 

Mangers, supervisors, and HR are the first responders when it comes to angry employees. As such they must approach the situation with a healing mindset and skill set. An article by Forbes offers some key manger skills to keep in mind:

• Listen & Understand – an employee may have a legitimate or misunderstood reason for their anger that can be solved if it’s heard and understood by supervisors. In any case, the situation will never be solved by ignoring or dismissing a problem.

• Give Feedback – frustration often arises when an employee doesn’t know what they’re doing wrong. From their perspective, they’re doing what’s been asked and not getting satisfactory results. Constructive criticism and clear feedback can eliminate such miscommunications.

• Document – whether it be as a record of a problem employee for termination purposes or to examine patterns that may be causing employee discontent, document incidences.

• Be Consistent- say what you mean and mean what you say, and don’t selectively apply rules.

• Set Concrete Consequences – outline what’s expected, in what timeframe, and what the results will be if the goal isn’t met. Employees must believe and understand that negative behavior begets negative results.

• Go By Company Policy – ensure every action, whether that be issuing a certain number of warnings or pulling the trigger on immediate termination, is inline with company policy.

• Remain Professional – don’t escalate the situation by talking about the employee with other employees, engaging in screaming matches, or otherwise stepping out of a professional role.

• Don’t Contaminate Your Mindset – mentally degrading the employee skews neutrality in giving the employee a place to be heard and receive objective feedback.

2. Hit The Pause Button To Gather Facts

To gain perspective on the employee’s behavior, it’s helpful to just observe. Look at how they interact with others, performance, attitude, and so forth throughout each work application. Some tips:

• Remember to focus on the behaviors, not the person.

• Keep the observations professional and supportive, not judgmental.

• Don’t assume malicious intent. Sometimes, employee anger can come from confusion, fear, or personal problems infiltrating work hours.

3. Make A Plan 

Develop a plan based on the facts observed. What behaviors merit guidance, redirection, training, discipline, or termination for the employee? Are there any policies and procedures that really are flawed and creating a merited employee grievance?

4. Implement The Plan With A Meeting 

LinkedIn suggests immediately scheduling an employee meeting to prevent angry employee problems from escalating and infecting other employees. Here are some key points to keep in mind when calling a meeting with a disgruntled employee:

• Collect facts and immediately set up an employee meeting.

• Do it privately, preferably a one-on-one environment.

• Open by asking the employee to explain what has them upset.

• Stick to the facts and don’t get distracted by irrelevant data.

• Encourage other employees to continue their own tasks as management works to find a solution.

5. Follow Through & Follow Up 

It’s crucial to follow through with any objectives or promises made during the initial meeting with an angry employee. If, for example, the employee had a valid complaint about a work process and supervisors said they’d look into it, then they should and schedule a follow-up meeting to explain their findings to the employee and what will be expected from that point forward. Likewise, follow up meetings should involve following through with any consequences for behaviors not rectified.

Written By Ryan Cooper