Managers can prevent blow-ups, contends Mitch Messer, therapist and executive director of The Anger Clinic, if they move in time to defuse a disgruntled employee's anger.
"A lot of people resent their supervisor's tactics, but they don't kill people," Messer
says.They can become so resentful that they become insubordinate, which leads to dismissal.But insubordination can be a prelude to a violent act.Rather than dismissing such an employee, Messer believes, his supervisor or manager or Employee Assistance Program should intervene.
That way, Messer
says, "they might discover why he
was insubordinate in the first place."Messer's
anger management clinics teach managers and supervisors to provide on-the-spot "emotional first aid" to avoid workplace violence."If these people were bleeding from a cut finger, managers would know where to send them.But when someone is angry, we don't know what to do," he
teaches managers to ask the employee focusing questions such as, "I know you're angry but what angers you most about the incident?"
The employee's perception of the incident may be very different from the manager's.He
may say, "It was unfair of you to promote the other person and not me."
The manager shouldn't defend that decision because it's not the issue.He
must ask, "What angers you most about this unfairness?"
If the employee answers, "Why does this always happen to me?"the manager will recognize that the employee perceives himself as a victim of unfairness every time he
doesn't get his
"Things are that bad in his
The underlying issue is the employee's feelings that he's
stupid, out of control and worthless.If he
loses out on a promotion, gets a pay cut, or is fired, the disappointment confirms his
pre-existing conviction that misfortune is all he
deserves."And that drives him crazy," says Messer
.The Anger Clinic
's antidote to the employee's feelings of self-contempt and worthlessness, which most people have after they are fired, is to replace them with feelings of self-respect.
"The Anger Clinic
teaches a specific definition of self-respect that gives some people relief from the pain of their self-hatred," he
"We also suggest talking about the fact that the anger is not always irrational," Messer