Management Success Tip #145: Telling Your Employee to “Calm Down” Won’t Work: Compassionate Listening Will

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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.”


Management Success Tip #144: Use Targeted Questions to Get Employees Past the Fear-of-Change Boogeyman.

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Change upsets us. We grow used to a certain way of doing things, and even when it’s not terribly efficient, we’re usually more comfortable with that tried-and-true way, than we are with something new, even if it promises to be way more effective.

So it’s no big surprise that some of your employees buck that change you so desperately need them to accept.

Kevin Eikenberry offers a number of ways to approach their resistance, the first of which are:

“1. Understand the source of the reluctance. People have a reason – rational or emotional (or likely a combination of the two) – why they don’t want to make a particular change. The first mistake leaders make is assuming you know why. Even if your people have shared their reasons in the past, it is important to ask them about their concerns and reservations this time. Do this in as authentic and non-threatening way as you can. Your goal it to truly understand what they are thinking and feeling about the change. (In order to do that you must . . .)

2.  Shut up and listen. Your goal isn’t to convince them or influence them at this point. Your goal is only to listen to their responses. Respond only with follow-up questions designed to truly understand where they are in regards to the change.”

How common-sensical is that! Ask, with a genuine intent to find out what’s really going on, and then listen, again, with a genuine intent to discover the source of the resistance.

Once you address your employees’ concerns, regardless of how meaningful or absurd you believe they are, your employees will be far more willing to go along with your so ardently desired change.