Luke and I ran in a turkey trot race last week (he rode via jogging stroller, which was allowed at this race). I thought it would be adorable for him to get a race t-shirt. So, I emailed a month in advance and offered to pay extra for a small shirt. I was assured I could purchase one at registration.
Turns out that wasn’t the case. They were happy to let him “run” but no t-shirts were available for purchase. I was upset that my advance planning didn’t seem to matter and talked to three people at the race before giving up.
In retrospect, it was a stupid situation for me to get angry about. The issue was more mine than anyone else’s (certainly Luke didn’t care at 9 months of age) but the anger of feeling wronged momentarily got the better of me and clouded rational thinking.
It’s naive for leaders to think that anger doesn’t happen everyday in the workplace too. What might otherwise seem minor and insignificant can suddenly become a angry exchange between two parties in the heat of the moment.
Effective leaders don’t fight anger or pretend it’s not there. Instead, they address it proactively when it happens. Here are three steps to get people back to productivity when anger arises:
When someone feels as though they’ve been wronged, their first inclination is to blame others. Don’t play the blame game as a leader. Get the parties together and discuss the facts.
Set expectations up front that the conversation is about the facts as each party sees them, not an opportunity to blame. You’ll need to interrupt if blame starts to occur. Don’t allow opinions that aren’t supported with evidence and stay neutral until the facts are out.
What’s the goal?
Once there is more clarity on what happened, it’s important to determine the objective. Appeal to people’s nobler motives if agreement on a goal seems elusive.
For example, if the parties are arguing about the best way to proceed on a project for a customer, one goal that probably everyone can agree on is a timely and quality delivery. It’s important for you to get people refocused on the big picture.
How do we get there?
Encourage both parties to suggest action items that will work towards the goal just identified. Get agreement on actions each party will take going forward.
Depending on the nature of the conflict, this may be the point where you are a bit more directive on one or more actions items. Whatever the actions, get people dialoguing about moving forward instead of rehashing the past.
Nobody is going to prevent anger from showing up at work, but this process will address anger when it happens and help get people productive again.
What’s worked for you in addressing anger? Share your thoughts with our community in the comments section below.