Three Ways to Manage An Angry Colleague
Three Ways to Manage An Angry Colleague
May 20, 2020 5 min read

Dealing with an angry person can be a mentally and emotionally exhausting experience. It triggers a range of strong emotions like anxiety, fear, disgust, maybe hopelessness resulting in us bursting into anger ourselves!

The impact of these emotions is that they drain us of our energy and interfere in the clarity of our, thinking taking us away from our focus and performance in the workplace. The importance of emotional intelligence lies in how it enhances our relationships, decision making and well being.

My client shared her experience in which she had to face an angry senior colleague who shouted at her and the intense frustration she had experienced at the time. He was a senior so she hesitated to say anything to him.

Learning how to navigate through her own frustration as she responds and not react to his angry state is emotional intelligence.

How do we deal with our negative emotions?

My client had some options that she could have used at the time. She may choose to suppress her emotions because she feared making the situation worse if she said anything. However, if she did that, she would have been left seething inside, unable to focus on her work. Replaying the conversation in her head, over and over again, may have sounded like this - How dare he? What gives him the right to talk like that?

Had she responded with anger daring to raise her voice, it would have made the situation more volatile.

None of the above would have got her the results she wanted - to deal with the difficult situation in a calm and controlled manner while ensuring the relationship between her colleague and her remained positive.

Let us look at three ways she could have dealt with him in a responsive way and achieved her results.

Acknowledge your own emotions.

Acknowledging our emotions gives us the space to pause. For example, hearing your boss talking angrily to you, you may feel fearful. Name your emotion ie I feel fear while taking a deep breath.

Acknowledge and labelling our own emotion helps us focus our attention away from the other person's emotion. If we allow ourselves to get sucked into their anger, then we are carrying their baggage. This increases our own vulnerability and can result in angry retorts, which need to be avoided so that we navigate through the situation with emotional intelligence.

Focus On Your Response, Behavior Breeds Behaviour.

Our brain has mirror neurons that prompt us to copy behaviour. Have you noticed when somebody yawns, you yawn too!

In the same way, if we focus on staying calm and dispassionate and speak in a voice that is steady and with a neutral tone, you will find slowly the other person too will start responding to you in the same manner The intensity of anger will start coming down.

When the person has finally calmed down they will respect you for the presence you held, during the conversation and be more receptive to your viewpoint. You end up enhancing your own credibility here!

Use Empathy
Angry people are normally fearful. Be empathetic, helping them to identify what is making them angry. You can ask questions that help them engage with their own thinking so that they can draw their attention away from their volatile emotion.

For example, you could say - I can see you are very angry, what exactly are you angry about? What do you think will happen in this situation? What do you want to avoid? How can I support you? Providing a listening ear and allowing them to vent will help in diffusing the situation.

Angry people usually have unmet needs, feeling that their path is blocked. When we show them that we are not a threat to their path but a collaborator, they tend to calm down.

Shifting our perspective from looking at the situation as an unpleasant one to seeing it as an opportunity to build a relationship gives us the right mindset to move forward. Coupled with emotional intelligence skills we can deal with another person's anger successfully.

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