Dealing with distressed employees can be one of the greatest challenges any manager faces. A manager's role can feel particularly demanding when, in addition to the full range of regular tasks, they are faced with the responsibilities of dealing with workers who exhibit what may at times be intense emotion states or demanding mental health issues. Unfortunately, the workplace often provides limited or no training in these areas.
Watch the videos in sequence. Some of the videos have questions to answer after watching them. Your answers to questions may trigger brief additional videos.
Rebecca's about to get some news about the project her team has been working hard on. She thought things were going well, but everything is about to change.
Rebecca prepares to go into damage-control mode regarding the feedback from Alan. Is she handling this well?
Rebecca has to break some bad news to the team. They don't react well. How will she manage their reaction?
Rebecca tries to talk with Kim but Kim has extra issues. Find out what's eating at Kim - and think about how Rebecca should respond.
Rebecca finds Keith shouting at Bobby. How does Rebecca resolve the issue between Keith and Bobby?
Matt is feeling personally blamed and is reacting defensively. What Rebecca said to Matt didn't come across as intended. How can she fix this?
Ann is in tears. How does Ann find out from Rebecca what the problem is? What does Rebecca do to reassure Ann?
Rebecca is going to call another meeting. How will she get things back on the right footing?
Rebecca brings the team back together. See how she moves forward.
This website is brought to you by the Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace.
Rebecca's about to get some news about the project her team has been working hard on. She thought things were going well, but everything is about to change
It's important to understand what triggers your emotional reactions. Rebecca is clearly upset about her meeting with Allan. How do you think she should deal with her stress before she breaks the news to her team? Should she...
Watch the video below to see why.
By taking a moment to calm herself down and plan her communication strategy for the meeting, Rebecca may be better prepared for the meeting. Here is a quick exercise that you can use in the workplace to alleviate stress-related thoughts.
That didn't work out too well for Rebecca. By over-analyzing her meeting with Allan she is now under prepared to speak to her team.
It's important to understand the impact that the emotional state of others has on you. The team's negative reaction to the bad news is causing Rebecca to become defensive, and in turn project to her employees that she's angry with them. Whether we're aware of it or not, there are a number of non-verbal ways we express anger. Which of the following is NOT an expression of anger?
Actually, this may be one of the ways we express anger.
This is more likely an expression of sadness or hopelessness. The other choices may all convey an expression of anger.
These are a few examples of things to which a common response may be anger. Select the situations you think may cause you to feel angry. When you're finished, click "done."
It's perfectly normal to feel angry in situations like these. Everyone responds to stress differently, and your own reactions to these stressors can vary depending on the circumstances. You just need to make sure that you express your anger in a healthy and respectful way. It can also be important to identify the underlying thoughts that may trigger your anger, as they can often be a side effect of another emotion - for example, hurt, worry, or fear related to a previous experience.
Employees aren't required to talk about their home life with their superiors, so asking probing questions may make them defensive, and might be inappropriate or feel like an intrusion.
Making assumptions or asking judgmental questions is rarely an effective strategy for dealing with employees.
Often the best way to assess a delicate situation is by asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions.
Trying to imply that management other than you is to blame is generally a non-productive strategy, and may create more stress for your employees.
Now that Kim has opened up to Rebecca, there are two ways Rebecca can respond; with sympathy or with empathy. Which do you think is more appropriate for the situation?
Offers of sympathy may not feel helpful to a distressed worker, as sympathy alone can come off as insincere or patronizing.
In a situation this emotionally charged, it's best to separate the two employees and let them calm down before trying to intervene.
When we get defensive about what we have done or said, we often make a situation worse.
Sometimes dealing with an emotionally distressed employee can be difficult because of your own personal barriers; you may feel upset by their emotional state, or even to blame for it. These types of reactions are natural, and it's important to remember that others' emotions are more a reflection of their own thoughts than they are about you.
Rebecca wasn't expecting such bad news. When receiving negative feedback, it's normal to feel a wide range of emotion states. You may feel:
Which negative emotions do you typically experience when receiving negative feedback? And what behaviours tend to follow these negative emotions?
Here is a quick exercise that you can use in the workplace to alleviate stress-related thoughts.
Based on the answers to the questions above, decide whether your stress response serves a useful function.
If so, remember that simply staying in the stress state is rarely helpful on its own. You need to use that energy to make a plan and take action to resolve the situation.
Rebecca's meeting didn't go at all as she had planned. By becoming flustered and not taking responsibility for her emotional reaction, she made a bad situation worse. What should have been one productive group meeting has now turned into several individual damage-control meetings.
Here are a few strategies to help you take responsibility for your own reactions and feelings:
When dealing with an aggressive employee like Keith, it's best to communicate in an assertive, non-defensive way. Here are a few strategies for interacting with aggressive employees:
Matt seems to have taken Rebecca's previous negative feedback quite personally. There are a number of personal triggers that shape people's responses to negative feedback; some of these include:
Negative feedback can often be perceived as a personal attack, so it's important to make sure the other party knows this is not the case. Here are some tips for providing constructive, specific feedback geared towards behavioural change:
When dealing with an emotionally distressed employee, you can signal support through empathy, a soft tone of voice, and non-verbal gestures like nodding and leaning in slightly.
Here are a few other methods you can use to avoid escalating an employee's emotional state:
You should always maintain realistic expectations for interactions with distressed employees; you may not be able to fix their problem, but you can certainly offer them your support.
This time things worked out for the best, but in some cases situations like Keith and Bobby's can escalate to verbal or physical violence. No act of violence should be tolerated in the workplace, no matter how minor it may seem.
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