Four-Step Plan for Dealing With an Angry Coworker
Tuesday morning, an alarm goes off on your phone, and you can’t help looking at the first letter in your inbox. You read the first few words and you start to worry: is your boss angry? You keep reading, and it’s true – it really boils.
This post was originally published on the Muse website .
Fortunately, there is a simple four-step plan to defeat an evil person in a simple and professional way.
Step 1. Recognize the opinion
First of all, you must be able to answer the question: how exactly does he or she feel? This is because one of the most common mistakes people make is to immediately go on the defensive. You know the habit of making excuses for why you shouldn’t be blamed, right? Do not go there.
Instead, pause and be aware that the other person is experiencing emotions. So, if you simply reject it by saying that it is not your fault, you will deprive him or her of the meaning of what he is feeling. What you want to do is demonstrate that you empathize with the situation and that his or her feelings matter.
To do this, you need to stop and visualize – imagine what it is like to be in the place of another person. Let’s say your coworker senses that you threw her under a bus in front of your boss. Ask yourself: what’s in her head? Maybe she’s still coming back from a tough performance test and feels like she’s on thin ice, or maybe she feels like her contributions are regularly ignored. When you begin to visualize someone experiencing something, you will be much better off expressing empathy sincerely.
Then use some of the emotions from the scripts you visualize to compose a message that confirms what the other person is going through. Start the sentence with “you”, not “me.” See how differently these two approaches work for similar situations:
Original Approach: “I know you are disappointed, but [insert excuse] …”
New approach: “You are probably very upset and I can see where you are from.”
The original approach: “I’m not to blame”
New approach: “You are upset, I totally understand. You probably felt it [insert scripts from visualization]. “
Step 2: add context
Now that you’ve imagined how the other person is feeling, take another step and think about why this happened.
Aside from empathy, another way to make your response less like an excuse is to add context to the situation so that the person has a higher-level understanding of why something happened. Nine times out of 10, I vote for full transparency because it helps build trust and camaraderie. Personally, this has always helped me in resolving conflicts at work.
You can choose the degree of transparency you want to establish, but the essence of this principle is to answer the question “Why did this happen?” as honestly as possible. If you give a reason, you have a better chance of getting consent.
In a classic experiment by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, subjects were asked to cut off a line in front of a copier. They checked to see if there would be any difference in explaining the reason they cut.
Here’s the result: when someone just said, “Sorry, I have five pages. Can I use a Xerox machine? »60% of people allowed her to cut their hair. But when the person said, “Sorry, I have five pages. Can I use a Xerox machine because I am in a rush? »The success rate has risen to 94%! The lesson is that when you share “because,” people are more likely to be on your side.
Think about it: “I didn’t see your changes email before the meeting” and “I didn’t see your changes email before the meeting because I was practicing presentation” are different feelings. The other person might be annoyed anyway, but by using the second option, you are letting them know that you’re not just ignoring them.
Step 3. Take responsibility
How about starting the above statement with the words “Sorry, I didn’t see the email …”
In some situations it may be worth apologizing, but it can be different. If you are clearly wrong (for example, when you are late, reject someone’s idea, or forget to do something), confess and apologize.
If there is no fault or it is ambiguous (for example, if you missed a video call because the Internet in your office building went out), then make the right call. Don’t apologize by default unless you are seriously not at fault or at fault.
Using a similar example from step 2, let’s say you missed an email with some of the PowerPoint changes you were about to present because you were so busy getting ready. It was not entirely your fault. You wanted to practice before your presentation, so you didn’t check your email an hour before. However, he is upset that his edits were not included. You could say something like:
“You are probably disappointed that your changes were not included in the presentation, and I fully understand that. But I was so focused on presenting the presentation that I didn’t check my email an hour ago since I was rehearsing. The edits you suggested were great. Next time, let’s set up a 15-minute pre-presentation meeting to make sure we’re on the same page. “
Step 4. Determine the next steps
The best way to take stock and move on is to explain how best to take the next steps to deal with what’s going on. If you’re dealing with a disgruntled customer, you can explain the steps your company is taking to avoid a repeat of the riot, or suggest an appointment. In your friend’s resume example, you can suggest other ways to help her find a job .
Completing your answer this way closes the loop. People are hungry for closure. Social psychologist Ari Kruglansky defines this as “cognitive closure,” or the need to find a hard answer and distance yourself from ambiguity.Research has shown that deadlines and ever-changing environments (such as the workplace) increase our need for “cognitive closure,” which makes it even more important to close the loop in work-related scenarios.
What if there are no tangible “next steps”? Sometimes it helps to just give people a forum to speak up or complain, so in this case you need to let them know that they have been heard. One way to do this is to offer to refer the problem to your supervisor, or, if your boss is annoyed, offer to double-check the specific complaint and make sure you made the necessary changes.
Dealing with an angry person can be really intimidating. By following this four-step process, you can empathize, take responsibility, and turn it into an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. Mistakes happen, it’s part of life. What sets trusted people apart is how they handle situations when such mistakes happen. Assuming this is not a major crisis, you will be remembered more for how you reacted than for what happened in the first place.