There are few situations managers dread more than having to deal with an emotionally charged up employee, whether that employee is frustrated out of their mind, angry, tearful or hysterical. Emotions! It’s challenging enough to have to deal with our own emotions, or those of our loved ones – dealing with somebody else’s in the workplace is downright awful.
That being said . . . there are times when you must. When an employee comes to you with something that has them significantly riled up. At which point, the most natural thing in the world, is to say “Calm down.”
Whereupon a new eruption occurs – of tears, anger, whatever. Usually immediately. Which makes perfect sense; after all, most people don’t enjoy being in an emotionally volatile state, and if they could have calmed down, they would have.
By saying “Calm down” you are denying the employee the legitimacy of their emotion. Or, perhaps more accurately put, what they perceive as the legitimacy of their emotion. Bottom line, you are denying their reality. That never goes over well.
Instead, call on your inner Zen-master, and with as much neutrality as you can muster, simply listen. Allow your employee to vent their frustration, anger, tale of woe, whatever it is. (As long as the venting is purely verbal – if you believe you or others are in danger, take whatever steps are appropriate at your company, i.e. call Security).
Only once the person has expressed their anger or angst, will they be able to calm down. And they will do so, quite naturally, on their own.
So, as unpleasant as it as, as demanding as it is, simply listen until the wave of emotion has passed. Then, a conversation can begin: “I can see that really upset you. Let’s talk about how we might be able to resolve the situation.”