One way or another, that emotional upset, if not addressed appropriately, will either fester and get worse, or explode into something worse.
This you can’t afford. When one of your employees is having an emotional meltdown, start by listening.
Practicing business psychiatrist and CEO advisor Mark Goulston suggests a number of ways to listen effectively, the first of which is to ask your employee:
“What are you most frustrated about? This is a good question because when you ask them about their feelings, it often sounds condescending. And if you start out focusing on their anger, it sounds as if you are coldly telling them to get a hold on themselves, which may work, but more often will just cause the pressure inside them to build up even more. However, asking them about their frustration is less judgmental and can have the same effect as sticking a scalpel into their abcess. Let them vent their feelings and when they finish, pick any of their words that had a lot of emotion attached. These can be words such as ‘Never,’ ‘Screwed up,’ or any other words spoken with high inflection. Then reply with, ‘Say more about “never’ (or ‘screwed up,’ etc.) That will help them drain even more.”
OK, so the image of draining an abcess isn’t pleasant, but it’s very accurate when it comes to emotional upsets. That emotion needs to be expressed before your employee can use their rational mind.
Once your employee feels that their emotion has been genuinely heard, it’s much easier for you to lead them gently to the solution phase, where you figure out together what’s the best next step.