Dealing with an ANGRY Employee During a Feedback Conversation

Dealing with an ANGRY Employee During a Feedback Conversation

The Final Blog (Part 6) in a Series of Managing Five Common Emotional Reactions

When someone becomes angry during a feedback conversation, it’s important that you manage your own emotions in order to help navigate both of you through this tricky situation. An angry reaction shows you that their brain has ‘downshifted’ into fight or flight mode so it’s important that you ensure you don’t do the same.

When you feel or see your employee becoming angry, remember to notice your own reaction. If you feel your emotions rising ask yourself a question (which engages your ‘thinking brain’, the pre-frontal cortex), “What unfair reactions, judgments or assumptions may be derailing me right now?” or, “What is the ideal outcome for this conversation?”

Don’t assume you know exactly what the other person is feeling. Often people express anger when they are feeling one or more different emotions, such as feeling hurt, scared, frustrated, inadequate, helpless, frustrated, unfairly treated or stressed.

Reflect their behavior back to them using neutral language and a calm tone. For example, “Andy, your voice has become louder and you seem agitated. I am sorry if this conversation is difficult for you. Can you tell me what exactly is causing your reaction?”  There is a chance that they do not feel you have their best interest in mind. Clarify that your intent is to help them. For example, “It is not my intent to anger you.

Don’t assume you know exactly what the other person is feeling. Often people express anger when they are feeling one or more different emotions, such as feeling hurt, scared, frustrated, inadequate, helpless, frustrated, unfairly treated or stressed.

I want to be clear and candid and my intent is to be helpful. Andy, I want to support your development in any way I can, including sharing my thoughts on your performance that sometimes may be hard to hear. I also very much want to hear your views on it. How open are you to us both sharing our perspectives and discussing them?”

If the anger subsides a little and a conversation is possible, continue with care and keep speaking your intent to help and support their learning. (See Blog 5 in this series: How to Deal with Someone Who is Offended).

If their anger does not subside continue to tend to their emotion and postpone the feedback conversation until emotions are managed. Keep asking questions to stimulate their brain to ‘upshift’ and show compassion for their reaction. For example, “Andy, what do you need right now?” Or “Andy I want to have this conversation in a positive and constructive way. What needs to happen in order for us to do that?”

AngerIf your employee doesn’t calm down it’s okay to reschedule the conversation. Be sure you do this in an unruffled and respectful manner and be clear that you need to reconvene at some point. For example, “Okay Andy, let’s take a break and continue this conversation tomorrow morning after we’ve both had a chance to reflect. What time could work for you?”

Ask them to think about openness towards future feedback. For example, “I want us to have more feedback conversations because I want to support your success here. Please think about what I can do to help you become more open to receiving feedback next time, and please also think about what you could do. Will you to take the time to do that?”

However if their anger only remains or escalates, and you feel that your safety may even be at risk, terminate the conversation immediately. People say and do things they regret when in this emotional state so stop the event and attempt to reconnect the following day. Do not tolerate abuse and do not compromise your personal safety.

This is the Last in a series of blogs to help you manage five common emotional reactions that can be triggered during feedback conversations:

  1. How to Deal with Emotional Reactions in Feedback Conversations
  2. How to Deal with Silence
  3. How to Deal with Crying
  4. How to Deal with Disagreement
  5. How to Deal with Taking Offense
  6. How to Deal with Anger

This series of blogs is adapted from our Great Feedback Workbook co-authored by Chris Jones and Lisa Scott. To learn more about our Great Feedback Training, contact us at [email protected]


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