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Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot

You may be the kind of person that has a reputation for being level-headed, nice, and a team player, but even the "Calm Calvins" of the world can can get infuriated by a person who is rude, mean or constantly stirring up trouble in the office.  You know the kind -  always sending inflammatory emails, spreading rumors or boardroom blustering.  Unfortunately, it is possible that you might experience more of this unsettling behavior as people exhibit tension and fear in the face of layoffs and lower profit returns during times of economic uncertainty.

How do you handle such people who push you to your emotional and professional limits?  Here are a few real-life scenarios and principle factors to help you to deal with difficult people and situations in a work setting:

1) Ms. Accuser writes an email falsely accusing you of not doing your job and sends courtesy copies to the entire team and upper management.

You should reply in writing to the same group of people on the email.  This is necessary to protect your reputation and to avoid problems and confusion with the work/project at hand due to any false information.

No matter what you do, when you reply always communicate without "raising your voice" by using BOLD, ALL CAP OR RED letters or by utilizing insulting or derogatory words.  Reply only with the facts.  Be firm, clear and to the point, but respectful (even though the other person was not) and set the record straight.

You are the professional.  People are watching you and the way that you respond.  Most people will know that the other person is out of line, but they are waiting to see how you will handle such a matter.  Your calm reply is not about being intimidated or submissive to the "offender" at all.  Your composure will underscore the difference between a true professional and an immature hot-head time and time again.  The likelihood is that this is her normal behavior with you and others and such repeated actions will usually result in dismissal.

2) Yancey Yells-a-Lot raises his voice or even curses and points at you in a team meeting over the strategy on a new project, indicating that you don't have the company's best interests at heart.

Stay steady.  Don't strike back.  Simply remain calm and turn the focus to his behavior instead of the issue being raised.  Nothing can be accomplished substantively while anyone in the meeting is out of control.  At that point, a more senior person in the room may interject and take control, but if not, you might say to Yancey, "There's no need in getting emotional.  We can see you're upset.  Maybe we need to table this discussion until you gather yourself."  The truth is, you have a right to discuss business in a professional, non-hostile environment.  If the person cannot speak to you or others on the team in a non-threatening way, then the meeting should be postponed.  

In both of these egregious scenarios, the situation required some sort of response, but not all confrontational events will.  There are occasions in which the best course of action will be to not respond at all and let it go.  This is especially true if the other person acted out of character or if you know that they are trying to improve their behavior and level of professionalism.  It's always best to give people a chance to improve.  After all, no one is perfect and the relationship will hopefully get better over time.

Best regards,

7 Comments to Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot:

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Donna M. on Saturday, January 24, 2015 10:26 AM
I love this post. Sadly, I have read it many times as I seem to keep requiring its advice - usually for the same one or two people. Thank you for providing thoughtful and practical advice. It's nice to know I can keep returning to read it on your site. P.S. We really miss you in our old job :)
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