Techniques for Handling an Angry Teammate

Sometimes, even on the best teams, emotions can spin out of control. An error occurs. You’re responsible. You apologize. But your teammate flies off the handle. You need to preserve your working relationship with this person. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1 – Do little or nothing. Let your teammate vent. It may be difficult to sit still and take abuse from an angry person, but doing so will allow her to vent some pent-up anger. Remember: Never tell an irate colleague to "calm down" or behave in a certain way. This will only increase her anger.

Step 2 – Play back the gist of the angry message – without the anger. Example: "If I understand you correctly…"

Step 3 – Propose a remedy, if you have one. If you don’t, ask your teammate, "How would you like to resolve this?" Reason: Anger often goes hand in hand with powerlessness. But if you ask an angry person to tell you what she wants you to do or say, you give her power. And that will often reduce her anger.

Step 4 – Try to agree on a solution. Then, commit to taking the necessary actions. If you’re not sure you can comply with the proposed remedy, ask for some time to consider and investigate. Caution: Arrange a specific time and place for a follow-up discussion so your teammate won’t think you’re trying to avoid the situation.

Tip: If one of your teammates becomes abusive or threatening, get out of her area immediately. Tell the person, "This is getting out of hand. I’m going somewhere else for a while, but I’ll be back in half an hour. Let’s both try to cool down so we can discuss this more productively then."


Source: How To Say It At Work, Jack Griffin. Prentice Hall, Paramus, NJ