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Tips to Diffuse an Escallating Situation in the Workplace

When dealing with a disgruntled employee, the situation in the workplace can deteriorate rapidly.

Supervisors who find themselves with a highly emotional employee should exercise care.

Avoid doing anything that could add fuel to the fire by, for instance, embarrassing employee by admonishing him or her in front of other workers.

Keep the following thoughts in mind:

  • Do not take the behavior personally. Usually, the behavior has little to do with you, but you are used as a target in the situation.

  • Talk to the employee in private and focus 100% of your attention to the issue at hand. In other words, do not answer emails as you are trying to get to the heart of the situation with the employee.

  • Ask questions. Respectful concern and interest may demonstrate that aggression is not necessary.

  • Consider offering an apology. Even if you've done nothing wrong, an apology may calm the individual and encourage cooperation. "I'm sorry that happened. What can we do now that will solve the problem?"

  • Summarize what you hear the individual saying. Make sure you are communicating clearly. In crisis, a person feels humiliated and wants respect and attention. Your summary of the individual's concerns reflects your attention. Focus on areas of agreement to help resolve the concern.

  • If this approach does not stop the disruption, assess whether the individual seems dangerous. If in your best judgment he/she is upset but not a threat, set limits and seek assistance as necessary.

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