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In this article we will be looking at how a team leader should deal with angry team members. We will be discussing the Energy Curve, de-escalation techniques and knowing when to back away.
The Energy Curve
One of the most important keys for dealing with a team member’s anger is finding a way to react that will not escalate the anger. The Energy Curve shows the pattern commonly found in angry responses and how angry reactions progress in stages. In order to deal with an angry team member, it is essential that the team leader knows what the appropriate response is for each stage of the curve.
Stages of the Energy Curve:
- The baseline of the curve is the rational behavior. This stage allows for reasonable discussion about the cause of the anger and takes place before the angry reaction.
- The point where the reaction builds momentum and anger is gaining momentum, is called the take off stage. The anger then continues to build energy until it reaches its peak. Arguing with the team member at this point will be futile. At this stage the team leader should respond and not react.
- At the slow down stage the team member’s reaction is the most intense. This stage is the turning point where the reaction stops gaining momentum and begins to steadily decline.
- Next stage in the Energy Curve is the cool down stage. The reaction has reached its height and, unless provoked, the team member will run out of steam. Once the anger has slowed down you can introduce supportive behavior.
- Once the team member has returned back to rational behavior, you can begin to talk about the problem reasonably. Whilst the person is angry, it is best to let them just vent.
De-escalation techniques are designed to:
- Facilitates a person’s cooling down process.
- Reduce the possibility of getting verbally or physically hurt.
- Gain control of the situation.
One of the most effective de-escalation techniques involves active listening. Often an angry team member only needs an opportunity to tell someone how they feel, and have their anger acknowledged. The intensity of the angry reaction can be lessened when the person sees that you are genuinely listening to their grievance.
Active listening includes:
- Showing through your body language that you are listening by establishing eye contact and speaking in a soft, non-threatening tone of voice.
- Re-stating what you hear from the person.
- Clarifying any confusing or illogical statements.
Increasing Personal Space
Create distance between you and the team member and make sure your body language is non-threatening.
Help the Team Member Recover a Sense of Control
The angry team member may feel victimized by a situation. You can help them recover even a small sense of control by:
- Giving them choices.
- Seeking their permission to speak.
- Focusing on immediate solutions.
Ask the angry team member to voice his or her criticism of yourself or the situation more fully. Agree where possible, otherwise agree to disagree. Emphasize your willingness to help.
When to Back Away
Not all situations can be effectively dealt with. The following are situations when it is more advisable to back away:
- When you are too affected by an issue to view it objectively.
- When there are warning signs of verbal and/ or physical violence.
- When there is influence of mood-altering substances.
- When no amount of rational intervention seems to work.
- When there are signs of serious mental health conditions.