How to Diffuse an Anger Bomb in the Workplace

Dealing with rage from one of your co workers or employees? Handling rage in the workplace will require you to let go of any impulsive instincts that you may sense crawling up your spine, and to use your emotional intelligence. The problem is that we differ greatly from each other, not only in how we address conflict but in when we prefer to address it. Our first reaction to any situation is generally emotional. In times of conflict, this emotional reaction can take over and control the process. What's more, there's an instinctive "fight or flight" physical response to escalating stress, but we can use these emotional, instinctive reactions to our benefit if we use them with intelligence.

Our emotional intelligence describes our ability to understand our emotions and the emotions of others, and to recognize those emotions as they surface. The goal is to use that increased awareness to more effectively manage our interactions with others, especially in stressful situations.

A situation where intense anger is involved, whether regarding a specific instance or on an ongoing basis, could be described as a bomb -- and like all bombs, it needs diffusing! Just like in the battlefield, a good soldier diffuses bombs because they realize their potential devastating damage - and of course, they don't want to be blown up with it!

But how do you diffuse a bomb in the workplace?

There are four main principles to diffusing a bomb in the workplace. Remember, your goal in diffusing the bomb is bring people together instead of blowing them apart. By sticking to the following principles, you should reach that goal:

1. Timing
When diffusing the bomb, the rule of thumb is Don't Touch the Pot When It's Hot! In other words, never diffuse a bomb when someone is super mad - it'll only make things worse. Let them cool off while sending them messages that indicate empathy and collaboration. Then carefully pick your time to talk to them. Don't do it in the hallway, and not when they are under stress. If your timing is off, the bomb will explode and you will go down with it!

2. Empathy

Angry people react poorly when they feel criticized or teamed up against, but they react really well when they feel empathized with. Empathy goes a long way in diffusing bombs because people feel positively towards those who understand them and as a result, they become more collaborative and engaged in the interaction. Empathy also has a soothing effect and goes a long way in diffusing problematic, anger-based situations.

3. Externalization
Don't forget to externalize the issue and separate the person from the problem. Avoid shaming and blaming. Instead, define the external problem and team up with the angry person to think how, together, you can tackle it. You can blame the changes in the company, you can blame the new policies, you can blame the weather- but you will never say to the other person that the problem is them. It is always better to put the blame in some external factor and then think together how to work collaboratively to tackle it. This allows people to save face and increases collaboration and engagement in finding a solution.

4. Collaboration
Remember, you're a team! You're on the same side, not opposing sides. Simply saying that is not enough, so show it. Include the other person in the thinking process and show them that you're with them not against them. Understand where they're coming from and then together, come up with solutions about how things can be done differently. In other words, work with them even before they work with you. Don't judge, don't shame, and don't blame. Diffusing an anger bomb can only happen using genuine empathy and being perceived as non-threatening.

Good luck!

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