Dear Jayme,

I have an employee who does good work, but causes trouble with his anger. How do I deal with angry people?




Dear Dylan:

Let's start by exploding the myth that anger is bad, bad, bad and that people who get angry are Neanderthals. It's not, and they're not. Anger is normal. Everybody gets angry-you, me, the Dalai Lama, everybody.

Anger isn't the problem. How someone expresses their anger is the key to keeping your business (and life, for that matter) out of turmoil.

Why It Matters: It's Expensive and Unhealthy

It's unproductive: As long as they're angry, people are usually more focused on their anger than doing their work.

It reduces overall morale: Loud, angry, irrational behavior is unsettling to the work crews. Angry people tend to overpower/bully others and this leads to reduced motivation and productivity.

It's physically damaging: Intense anger causes heavy stress on the body. People who live in a continuous state of anger are at high risk for heart disease.  Suffering aside, this translates into missed work and high medical benefits costs.

It drives good people away: Most people shy away from angry, aggressive encounters. If you let them occur, your employees will wander off to a more peaceful workplace.

What to Do

Set the standards: Create clear guidelines about what behaviors are not acceptable in your business and the consequences of those behaviors. It's your game and you get to set the rules.


Hire carefully: It's much easier not to hire the "rager" in the first place than to try and cope with him later. A couple of phone calls to previous employers before hiring can save you a lot of grief.

Reduce the triggers: If it infuriates Louie to deal with unexpected changes, don't make Louie the person who gets all the client's change orders.

Have a process: Create a clear procedure and a communication channel for employees to appropriately express their anger to their managers or you. Beyond that, you should do your homework and have an anger management program or therapist on your vendor list.

What NOT to do

Don't meet anger with anger: This is pouring gas on the fire. Stay calm and react to the cause of the anger rather than the anger itself. Deal with facts instead of emotions.

Don't ignore the anger: Left unchecked, the employee's anger will cause disruptions on the jobsite and cost you time and money. Repressed anger is even more dangerous and can lead to an explosive situation if left unaddressed.


Don't tolerate abusive behavior toward yourself or your employees: Being critical is fine, but personal attacks are not.

Don't be dismissive: This is like pouring more gas on the fire. Anger is a sign that someone feels hurt or scared, and those intense feelings are the center of their universe at that moment. Dismiss those feelings at your peril.

Don't set a bad example: Policies banning raging behavior mean nothing if the boss is a raging bull. You're the role model and the rules apply to you more than anyone else.

Don't put up with it for long: If reasonable efforts don't result in a change of behavior in a reasonable length of time, fire the employee. Their damage far outweighs their good work.

You're a business owner, not a shrink. Learn the basics of anger management, provide the tools and structure, make a good effort and be prepared to replace employees who won't or can't deal with their anger in appropriate ways. Your time is better spent teaching and encouraging the great employees than it is doing damage control.


Jayme Dill Broudy


Construction Business Owner, May 2006