Emotions can run high in any workplace because of several factors that may or may not be work-related. And in these tension-filled scenarios, people may respond differently. Some will be cool, calm, and collected. Some will have a logical approach. But some will have a highly emotional response.
As managers, you cannot control how your people will respond to stressful situations in the workplace. What you can control, however, is how you respond to your people, which can be crucial in the overall goal of keeping the workplace a safe and productive space for everyone.
Situations like these can be a double-edged sword. For one, a manager can screw things up by responding incorrectly and sending the wrong message to the employees. But it can also be a perfect opportunity to show everyone that the organization cares for its people.
Here are some tips on how you can respond well to employees who are having emotional outburst during a stressful situation in the office.
Find a private space
When an employee is having an emotional breakdown or a loud and furious reaction that is already disturbing the peace of the workplace, find a private space where you and the person can talk and iron things out.
Finding a private space to talk sends a message that you are not out to shame or fight the person. You are putting him or her in a safe space. It subconsciously sends a message that you are there to listen and find solutions without aggravating the situation.
Let the person blow off steam
Pour water on a full cup and it will only spill. It’s the same as people full of emotions. You will only waste words talking to the person because nothing will sink in. So, the best first step when you are both in a private space is to allow him or her to let it all out.
The employee might cry some more or drop some expletives. Let him be and never pass judgement. Of course, do restrain the person from hurting himself or doing damage to properties, but never say something that will sound like you are judging him. Let it be and the steam will eventually blow off.
Listen with empathy
When things calm down, it is time to strike a conversation. Start with asking how he feels first at the moment or if he needs anything immediately, like water or towel. Ask what happened and dig deep until you uncover the root cause of the emotional outburst.
At this stage, it is important to listen with empathy. Put yourself on a similar situation so you can see the reason why an employee acted that way. This will help you gain the trust of the person, so when it’s time for you to talk, there’s a good chance the person will listen.
Focus on the solutions
When discussing the things that transpired and the possible events that triggered the emotional outburst, always focus on the solutions. The blame game is not going to be helpful, and it will just further escalate the situation.
Talk about what you can do to improve the situation or solve whatever is bothering the person. Talk about the possible consequences of certain actions and talk about the possible ways on how things can be better.
Find help when needed
Not all solutions will come from you because chances are, the emotional outburst came from different places. For certain, you will be able to provide some solutions at work. But if there are deeper issues, you must understand that it’s not on you.
It’s a case-to-case basis. If you found out that your employee has been dealing with anxiety and depression because of personal reasons, it is wise to advise him to seek professional help because it is beyond your expertise and control.
If the employee, meanwhile, is having a hard time juggling a lot of tasks, and that’s the cause of his outburst, then maybe you can give him a break and try to find out if you can onboard more people to share the tasks.
A long-term solution
Emotional outbursts will happen if the workplace has a negative culture. It usually happens in organizations where the managers and leaders are always angry, cold, and distant. It happens in workplaces where leaders are generous with blame but not with recognition.
If emotional outburst and breakdowns are frequently happening within the organization, maybe it’s time to take a look at your current company culture. Maybe it’s time for a change from a stiff and cold work culture into a people-centric one.
After all, people would always love to be in an organization where they are valued, protected, seen, heard, and cared for.