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Tackling Tantrums At Work

January 27, 2014

Adult TantrumsExperts say the reason people throw temper tantrums into adulthood is because they work.  This frightening behavior gets the tantrum thrower exactly what they want – even if it is at the cost of co-workers or workplace civility.

The first step to taking the sting out of another’s workplace tantrum – whether it’s your employee, co-worker or boss – is to show them that is not an acceptable way to approach problems at work.

Often, it’s hard not to give in to cool down the environment, but taking these seemingly easy, but tough in-the-moment steps will help the next time you’re faced with another person’s angry meltdown in the office or in your personal life.

First, remain calm.  Breathe to put some time and space between you and the heightened emotions of the moment.  If you also get upset, the situation is sure to escalate and spiral in the wrong direction.

Don’t argue.  Within your own mind, be firmly committed to not going back at them, tit for tat.  Again, that will only serve to escalate things and moving you further away from any positive rational outcome.

Validate the person’s feelings.  It’s important to note here that you’re not agreeing with them.  You are merely respecting their reality.  Make brief statements that indicate you understand the reason for

their upset. If circumstances permit, agree on a specific time to talk, LATER.  Suggest the person jot down their specific concerns and bring them to the meeting. Then, be prepared to listen actively and ask open-ended to understand fully.

If you’re the one throwing the tantrums, write out your rage.  This will give you a chance to calm yourself, see other’s points of view and avoid embarrassing behavior that will follow you long after the episode ends.

Practicing these steps should lead to fewer and fewer outbursts.  But, as in the Money Watch article by Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas, “When An Employee Throws A Temper Tantrum,” you or the person’s manager may need to execute the more drastic measure of termination, if these steps along with a corrective action plan don’t do the trick.

We’re still taking questions for Dear Teressa Tuesday.  Send questions about challenges you’re facing at work or in life and I’ll answer them here!  Click here for details.

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