No one behaves aggressively all the time at work although it may feel like it sometimes!
Aggression is based on the belief that the Aggressor’s opinions and needs are more important than anybody else’s. People are more likely to react aggressively when they feel under threat, out of control or want to win at all costs. Aggression at work often arises because people feel they’re not being sufficiently acknowledged.
You have a choice – you can let their aggression continue or you can do something about it. Be aware that their behaviour is not going to change unless yours does first!
14 Tips For Handling Aggression At Work
1. If the aggression comes across to you as a short, sharp ‘put down’, return the ‘put down’ with a question to stop them in their tracks i.e. “What makes you say that?” or “What evidence do you have to support that?” or or “What makes you so sure I am wrong?” or “What makes you think I’m lying?”
2. If the aggression is more sustained show empathy towards the feelings they’re expressing to give them the acknowledgement they’re probably searching for i.e. “I can appreciate from your tone that you feel very angry about what’s happened”.
3. Acknowledge any valid points they are making i.e. “I accept that she wasn’t at all happy about the way things were left”.
4. Listen and show that you’re prepared to listen i.e. “Mmmm I see” .
5. When you’re unsure about what’s being said or you want to slow the conversation down use Testing Understanding i.e. “Are you saying that….?” or “Is this what you see as being most important……?”
6. Ask open questions to engage their thinking so that you can encourage them to be assertive i.e. “What can we do about this?, “What other options are there?” “What prevents us from taking further action?”
7. Ask about how things can be different in the future i.e. “What can we do to stop this happening again?” “What result do we want from now on?”
8. If they ignore your questions, state what you want to happen next i.e. “I want to stop talking about this now and discuss it with you this afternoon when the deadline isn’t hanging over us”.
9. Then signal that you’re looking for a win:win i.e “I’m looking for a solution that we both feel comfortable with”.
10. If the aggression continues unabated refer to the discrepancy in their behaviour i.e. “Mike you said you were fed up with the way things were going and that you wanted changes. Now you’re telling me you’re not prepared to sit down and find a solution. Let’s put some time aside later today sort this properly.”
11. If they dismiss what you say and their aggression continues tell them how you feel and the effects of their behaviour on the business i.e. “Mike when you continue to interrupt me like this I feel very angry, the effects of your behaviour on the rest of the team is seriously going to put in jeopardy the deadline. I’d like you to meet with me later day to sort this out properly”.
12. If they still refuse to calm down, step up your assertion and tell them what you will do if they don’t change their behaviour i.e. “Mike, if you continue with this behaviour I shall have to call Personal/your Boss/put the phone down/call Security, now I don’t want to do that so please lets agree to sort this out this afternoon”.
13. You can call a halt to the proceedings i.e. “Mike, we’re not going to sort this out in this way, I suggest you call me when we’ve both had a chance to think about it further”.
14. Finally you may choose at any time during the proceedings to refer to the ‘relationship’ between you and them and remove the work context i.e. “Mike, I suspect that your anger with me today has not got anything to do with missing the deadline, but more to do with something going wrong in the relationship between us. I believe it would be very useful if we could discuss why you and I are arguing so much”.
Remember aggressive behaviour towards you can only continue if YOU ALLOW IT.