Tears and Anger

“I have an employee who gets very emotional whenever I let them know they’ve made an error or try to tell them how to do something better. How do I deal with someone like this?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Dealing with emotional employees is often stressful for managers. It doesn’t matter whether you’re getting tears or anger, their emotional reaction makes it harder to get your point across to the employee.

Often the employee is so wrapped up in their emotions that they have stopped listening to you. This means the problem is likely to occur again instead of being corrected. How do you get past this so you don’t end up repeating the situation time over time? There are two things that can help.

The first thing is you stand up. That’s right… when you are in a meeting where emotions have taken over, you stand up. Tell the employee “I can see you’re upset so I will give you a minute to collect yourself and then we will continue” and leave the room. When you return, act normal and continue the conversation, complete the paperwork, or whatever is needed. You, of course, are expected to be a complete professional throughout this meeting and not let your own emotions take control.

The second thing that helps is to ask the employee to send you an email or a memo that summarizes the conversation you just had, including what changes must be made. This will confirm whether the employee actually heard what you said and understood it. If what the employee gives you is incorrect, have another meeting… and ask them again to write it up. Eventually, you’ll get a real summary of the conversation.

The advice above about leaving the room was not meant to be used when an employee initiates the meeting and wants to talk with you about something that raises their emotions. You’ll need to hear them out but, if the emotion gets too far out of control, it’s a courtesy to allow them some time to settle down. Some people can’t control strong emotions and may be embarrassed. Leaving the room for a moment here is a kindness so don’t confuse the two situations.

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