Emotional outbursts on the job cost time, energy and money. They also cost relationships, morale and loss of collaborative work. When an outburst happens to you, try the following options, depending on your personality, the nature of your relationship together, the scope of the business or project and your history with this kind of upset with the tantrum person:
Option 1: Ask this person to come into your room, or a quiet and neutral place and promise that you do want to hear the content of his complaints, comments or problems. Then suggest that it is very hard to hear the data when you are so put off by his sounds and pounding. Tell him you will give him 10 minutes of uninterrupted venting if he will just lower the emotional vigor and decibels.
Option 2: Suggest a time-out from the subject at hand. Tell him that you are willing to listen to the dilemma but you need a half hour of getting ready to hear the news first. Or, better yet, suggest that you'd like a postponement to another day which will allow the cooling down time for both of you.
Option 3: Explain in a calm manner that you cannot listen or be a party to the uproar he is making. Tell him that you would like to let him know how much you want to understand what he is experiencing, but when a voice is raised or a controversy becomes too hot, you cower inside and you cannot think. Many of you will avoid this self revelation, but you may be amazed at the cooperative response you will receive when you show this form of vulnerability. It actually takes great courage to admit our frail side.
Option 4: Stop the screamer with, "Wow! You are really mad!" I can see this is an upsetting event for you. If I were in your shoes, I would probably be upset too. When you are able to show compassion, and do not appear to be blown away, you will likely get him to immediately calm down. Remember that the flip side of anger is hurt, so that you can sympathize with him from a hurt perspective and not from an angry perspective.
Option 5: Try to get into his head. Is he upset because he feels unappreciated? Betrayed? Abandoned? Ignored? Frustrated? Can you put aside a personal response to his feelings? Can you decide this is about him and not about you? Can you detach from the emotional response to his uproar and allow that some of his response might be justified?
Option 6: Assume that this particular outburst may be the tip of the iceberg. Suggest that your history together has probably caused some hard feelings and that you would like to negotiate a process in which each of you can meet your needs without sacrificing the relationship.
Jean Hollands, CEO, Growth & Leadership Center, author, Silicon Syndrome and Optimistic Organizations, is a management coach and corporate team-builder. Write to GLC, 1451 Grant Road, Mountain View 94040.