Anger Management: How to Handle an Angry UE

No matter what form workplace anger takes—from abusive language to sexual harassment to physical violence—anger creates an untenable atmosphere for everyone.

While many organizations take the early signs of anger (and related behaviors like bullying, retaliation or rudeness) seriously, others take a “wait and see” attitude, to their peril.

Things Won’t “Take Care of Themselves”

Whether your organization is big or small, it’s important to note every instance of angry behavior, and take action before things escalate into a full-blown crisis.  Here are some of the MTU techniques that will help you manage an angry employee:

  • Adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards angry behavior, and make that policy explicit.  Put it in your employee manual, if your organization has one.  Write it down and circulate it.  Use different communications channels (email, voice announcements, etc.) to reinforce the message at least six times.
  • Build and encourage an environment that promotes creativity, freedom of speech, and openness.
  • If appropriate, create alternative ways for employees to vent their frustrations, such as town hall meetings.
  • When dealing with a known UE, document his or her behavior before you attempt to talk with them about it (that’s Step 2 of The 5Cs, Communicate).

Your Safety Comes First

Remember that your objective in dealing with an angry employee is not to change his or her personality, but to ensure that your UE does not act out their anger at work.  And, as we note in Managing the Unmanageable, don’t EVER put yourself at physical risk.  If you have the slightest doubt about confronting (or even speaking to) an angry UE, heed your instincts and pass this problem to HR, your higher-ups, or security.

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