In today’s post we take a look at handling aggressive people at work. Sometimes people react to difficult situations by being aggressive.
Aggression in the workplace can be verbal or physical; such as shouting or banging the desk. People tend toward aggression when they get into conflict and want to defend their interests at the expense of others.
Handling Aggressive People
The tree that bends in the wind survives the storm. The tree that stands firm and opposes the storm lays broken after. – Unknown
Aggressive behaviour is destructive and needs to be handled directly and calmly. This requires assertiveness and a balanced―emotionally intelligent―approach to conflict handling. Here is a short list of tips for handling aggressive people at work.
#1 Time to Cool Down
Aggressive behaviour can be frightening. It’s also a good sign that the person you’re dealing with has lost self-control. Therefore, give them time to cool down. Choose another time to talk when there is less going on. Alternatively, change the location. Move into a meeting room or corridor.
#2 Point them Out
Point them out. Tell them directly and calmly that there’s no need to get angry. This simple statement is often enough for people to reflect on their behaviour and calm down. Recognise their feelings and show that you care: “I understand you’re angry. Now let’s work out what we’re going to do.”
#3 Don’t Fight
Do not fight fire with fire. Never engage aggressive behaviour with more of the same since this will only act to trigger more aggression. Instead, stay calm and let the noise pass over you. When you have to speak do so calmly. In this way you are in control. Your aim should be a win-win situation.
#4 Acknowledge What’s Important
Acknowledge important ideas or facts they convey since this will help to diffuse their aggression and help them become more open to your ideas. Acknowledging their ideas does not mean you agree with them. Never give ground to someone who uses aggression.
#5 Use Attention Grabbers
Use attention-grabbers to pave the way for better listening. Present new information to gain their attention. For instance, state specific benefits, new ideas or something of interest that hasn’t been mentioned before. Therefore, use plenty of open questions to clarify the situation. These buy time and take the sting out of the situation.
Conflict between people is inevitable. We shouldn’t avoid conflict but we shouldn’t attack or undermine others when standing up for something we want. Aggressive people come from an “I’m okay, you’re not okay” position.
Therefore, when handling aggressive people be assertive, always stand your ground, and say what you have to say.
Have Your Say
How do you feel when people are aggressive toward you? How do you react? What advice would you give for handling aggressive people? Please join the discussion.
Creative Commons image courtesy David Blackwell.