10 Ways to Manage Angry Employees

May 31, 2023

Ever found yourself in a situation where you're dealing with an angry employee and you're not quite sure how to handle it? Well today, we're going to delve into this very challenging yet crucial aspect of management - handling employee anger.

We'll start by unraveling the roots of employee anger, then move on to mastering the art of anger management with seven key tactics that you can employ in your day-to-day, starting today. But we won't stop there. We'll also explore proactive leadership strategies to minimize employee anger in the first place.

So, if you're ready to transform your leadership approach and create a more harmonious work environment, this post is for you. You'll not only learn how to manage angry employees but also how to prevent anger from escalating, fostering a positive and productive work environment.

But be warned, this isn't your typical management advice. We're going to challenge some of the conventional wisdom out there and delve a little into the human psyche. Let's get started.

Unraveling the Roots of Employee Anger

As a new manager, it's crucial to understand that anger in the workplace doesn't materialize out of thin air. It's often a response to specific triggers, and identifying these can be the first step towards effective management.

  1. Organizational Changes:  Major shifts such as layoffs or salary reductions can stir up feelings of insecurity and resentment among your team members. These changes can create a sense of instability, leading to heightened emotions and the potential for anger.
  2. Perceived Injustice: Employees may feel anger when they perceive unfair treatment. This could stem from an uneven workload distribution, favoritism, or a perceived lack of recognition for their efforts.
  3. Lack of Empathy from Leadership: One of the most potent triggers of employee anger is a perceived lack of empathy from those in charge. When employees feel their concerns are unheard or dismissed, it can lead to frustration and anger.

Understanding triggers like these is the first step in managing employee anger. As we move forward, we'll explore how to address these issues head-on, fostering a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Mastering the Art of Anger Management: Seven Key Tactics

As a new manager, you're not just a leader; you're also a mediator, a counselor, and a problem-solver. When it comes to managing employee anger, there are seven key tactics that can help you navigate these challenging waters.

1. The Power of Gratitude: Thanking the Employee for Their Feedback

When an employee comes to you with a concern, it's a sign of trust. They believe in your ability to listen and act. Start by expressing gratitude for their feedback. This simple act of appreciation can diffuse tension and create a safe space for dialogue. Remember, feedback—positive or negative—is a gift that can help you improve your team's dynamics and performance.

2. The Art of Empathy: Understanding the Employee's Frustration

Empathy is a powerful tool in your managerial toolkit. When an employee is angry, they want to be heard and understood. Show them that you genuinely care about their feelings. You don't have to agree with them, but acknowledging their frustration can go a long way in building trust and opening lines of communication. Remember, empathy is not about solving problems; it's about understanding them.

3. The Importance of Details: Asking About the Situation

Once you've acknowledged their feelings, it's time to delve into the details. Ask open-ended questions to understand the root cause of their anger. This isn't an interrogation; it's an exploration. Your goal is to understand their perspective fully. The more information you have, the better equipped you'll be to address the issue effectively.

4. The Healing Touch: Apologising for Their Frustration

Apologising doesn't mean accepting blame; it's about acknowledging their distress. An honest, heartfelt apology can help soothe their anger and reaffirm their value to the team. Remember, your apology should focus on their feelings, not the specifics of the situation. You're sorry they're upset, not necessarily sorry for what caused it.

5. The Path Forward: Taking Action to Address the Issue

After understanding their perspective, it's time to act. Discuss potential solutions and involve them in the decision-making process. This collaborative approach not only empowers them but also shows your commitment to resolving the issue. Remember, actions speak louder than words. Your response to their anger will be a testament to your leadership.

6. The Follow-Up: Ensuring the Issue Has Been Resolved

Resolving the issue isn't the end; it's the beginning of rebuilding trust. Follow up with the employee to ensure the solution is working and their anger has subsided. This shows your ongoing commitment to their well-being and can help prevent future outbursts. Remember, consistency is key. Your follow-up actions will reinforce your words.

7. The Self-Check: Managing Your Own Anger

As a leader, your emotions can significantly impact your team's dynamics. It's natural to feel frustrated or angry in certain situations, but how you handle your emotions can set the tone for your team. Practice mindfulness, or even other methods like meditation, to manage your anger effectively. Remember, you're a role model for your team. Your ability to handle your anger can inspire them to do the same.

These seven tactics are not just strategies; they're steps towards creating a positive, productive, and harmonious work environment. As a new manager, mastering these tactics can help you turn challenges into opportunities for growth and improvement for your people.

Proactive Leadership: Three Strategies to Minimise Employee Anger

While managing anger is crucial, preventing it from escalating in the first place is even more beneficial. As a new manager, you can adopt some proactive strategies to minimise the chances of employee anger. Let's delve into three such strategies.

1. The Art of Active Listening

Listening is more than just hearing words; it's about understanding the emotions and intentions behind them. As a manager, active listening can be one of your most powerful tools. It shows your team that their opinions matter and that their voices are heard. 

Start by creating an open and non-judgmental space where your employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns. Encourage open dialogue and ask probing questions to understand their perspectives better. Remember, the goal is not to respond but to understand. 

Active listening can help you identify potential issues before they escalate into major problems. It can also foster a culture of trust and respect, where employees feel valued and appreciated. 

2. The Power of Clear and Frequent Communication

Communication is the lifeblood of any team. As a manager, it's your responsibility to ensure that information flows smoothly and transparently within your team. Regular updates about the company's status, changes in policies, or any other relevant information can help alleviate anxiety and uncertainty.

But communication is not just about disseminating information; it's also about creating a two-way dialogue. Encourage feedback and be open to suggestions. Make sure your team knows that their opinions are valued and considered.

Moreover, clarity is crucial. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings, which can fuel frustration and anger. Be clear and concise in your communication to avoid any confusion. 

3. The Flexibility Factor: Adapting to Employee Needs

Particularly today (although, perhaps it's always been the case), flexibility is not just a perk; it's a necessity. Where possible, offering benefits like flexible work hours can be a powerful way to show empathy towards your employees. It acknowledges the fact that they have lives outside of work and that a healthy work-life balance is essential for their overall well-being.

Flexibility can take many forms. It could be allowing employees to start their day earlier or later, letting them take time off for personal matters, or even offering some remote work options. The key is to understand the unique needs of your employees and adapt your policies accordingly.

Remember, a happiest employees are usually your most productive employees. By injecting avenues for flexibility, you're not just minimising the chances of anger; you're also boosting morale, improving job satisfaction, and ultimately, enhancing productivity.

Steering the Ship: The Power of Effective Anger Management

As we navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of management, it's clear that understanding and addressing employee anger is a vital part of our journey. We've explored the roots of this anger, delving into triggers such as organizational changes, perceived injustice, and a lack of empathy from leadership. 

We've also discovered the power of seven key tactics in managing this anger. From expressing gratitude for feedback and empathizing with frustration, to asking for details, apologizing, taking action, following up, and managing our own emotions, each step is a crucial part of the process.

But our journey doesn't stop there. We've also looked at the importance of proactive strategies. Active listening, clear and frequent communication, and flexibility are not just strategies; they're pillars of a positive and harmonious work environment.

The benefits of effectively managing employee anger are many. It's not just about diffusing tension or resolving conflicts on the spot; it's about building a happier, more efficient team. It's about fostering a culture of trust, respect, and open dialogue. As new managers, mastering these skills is not just an asset; it's a necessity. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity for growth. And every angry employee is a potential engaged, productive team member.

And that's a wrap. Keep learning, keep growing, and we'll speak again soon.




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