Teachable Moment: Managing the Angry Employee
How should you manage a subordinate who is taking out their frustrations on coworkers or even you?
If this person is a valued member of your team who delivers results, give them some leeway. Your angry worker will eventually get over it.
If they don’t, then step in to help them manage their emotional state at work. Two episodes from Bones (“The Finger in the Nest” and “The Perfect Pieces in the Purple”) provide a good example of this, when supervisor Camille Saroyan has to set boundaries with Jack Hodgins who’s angry and guilty about his personal life.
See this in action here (or here):
The Episodes in a Nutshell
- Hodgins is acting insufferable (more than usual). He’s a prickly character that his colleagues love and admire but lately he’s been treating everyone poorly as he struggles with his romantic breakup and the loss of a best friend at work.
- Hodgins is a dog with a bone. He’s relentless and intense as he lashes out at Saroyan. He has moments of self-awareness but isn’t ready to let go of his anger.
- Saroyan finally confronts Hodgins when he crosses the line.
What can you learn from this?
- Recognize that your employees are human and will have personal problems that they take to work.
- Give them some space, but not too much, to process their feelings.
- Send a warning shot across the bow when they start to push it.
- Step in after an appropriate amount of time. Be empathetic, but firm about setting a boundary between the worker’s personal and work life.
One more tip: don’t tell your boss you’re trying to stop them from talking. Boss’s don’t like that.