During WWII, the British government created a series of posters called 'Keep Calm and Carry On' to raise the morale of the British in the event of a Nazi invasion.
It's hard to say how much that advice worked on soldiers dodging bullets, but the ability to be calm, ask the right questions, and contain the urge to lash out, are important lessons for CIOs who have to deal with angry colleagues every so often.
Here are some tricks your peers use to diffuse angry colleagues.
Don't believe the other person. This doesn't mean you should suppose an angry person is lying. They probably have good reason to be angry--but that's not always the reason they give you. Rajesh Chopra, SVP-IT, EIH, says that his first instinct when dealing with an angry person is to give them a patient hearing and attempt to find why they are really angry. "Once you have figured the real reason, you should then try to hash out the real issue," he says.
Detach, Distract, Diffuse. "When ego over takes sense, anxiety develops. Once you sense another person's anger, shift to some other subject. Allow for a light moment," says Saradindu Paul, AVP Corp IT, Electrosteel.
Watch out though, this tactic could get you branded as someone who avoids having tough conversations--or worse--someone who tends to make light of real problems.
Paul says that after a light moment, you should go back to the problem. "Gradually, come back to the point being discussed and quickly connect it to an organizational priority. Demonstrate your own 'zero ego.'"
Take Notes. Use a notebook and scribble down someone's complaint. When people see you writing they know they're being taken seriously. Plus, seeing someone take notes prompts angry people to talk more slowly and focus their thoughts on what they would like to convey--which calms them. Also, it avoids you asking an angry person to repeat themselves, never a good idea.
Make Realistic Promises. Often someone is angry with you because you haven't kept a promise. When confronted, most people tend to get rid of the angry person by ensuring immediate resolution to the problem--yet another promise they can't keep.
"Convincing or promising that you will resolve an issue in two hours when you're fairly certain it will take more time is like stepping on an axe," says Mukul Jain, SVP & head-IT, DLF Pramerica Life Insurance. He suggests that one should choose the harder path by making a realistic promise. "Patiently explain why something will take time. I also ensure that I inform the concerned person once the job is done," he says.
Recognize Silent Treatment. Sometimes people are not 'in-your-face' angry. This makes it tough to identify an angry person and even tougher to fix. Hard as it sounds, Jain , says it's not an impossible situation to deal with. "If someone congenial suddenly turns aloof or less responsive, it doesn't take rocket science to know that something's up," he says.
Jain says that in a situation like this it's wise to be the one to break the ice. And if that doesn't work, there are enough processes today within enterprises to figure out what didn't get done and why someone is unhappy.