Question:

“Eric” loves one-upping other employees in meetings. While he sometimes does this to me, by loudly posing contrary opinions, this morning he slammed another employee, also a hothead, who argued back.

I told employees to stop. Neither did. Eric, however, raised his voice. I felt forced to raise my voice and didn’t like the person I became.

It was a mess. What should I have done instead?

Answer:

If an employee acts inappropriately in a meeting, ask him or her to stop before another employee feels pushed to defend or attack back. If he continues, say, “let’s take that offline after the meeting.”

If he persists, tell everyone else, “Offline just started. Could the rest of you leave us?” By letting everyone else leave, you spare them the time waste and conflict. You can then resume the staff meeting, with or without this employee.

If Eric raises an opinion contrary to yours in a meeting, defuse potential conflict by asking him questions to understand his views. Once he’s explained himself, summarize what he’s said and then outline the reasons you’ve decided on a different view. If he then voices an additional perspective that has merit, again listen to him.

Finally, you mentioned you supervised two hotheads, yet you came down harder on Eric. Is that because he takes you on, and so you over-react to him? If so, you may need to take yourself offline as well.

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3 thoughts on “Handling Employee One-Uppers and Hotheads

  1. Over the years as a regular employee and a foreman, I have met genuinely good-hearted people that have explosive tempers. For most, it is a terrible cross to bear. I realize many ill-tempered people revel in the power trip their scary anger exudes, but I’m talking about people who, for whatever reason (genetics, abusive childhood, etc.), struggle with controlling their emotions.

    Unfortunately, anger management and meds often don’t work. I worked mainly on remote jobs, often with no village nearby. Having 50 men, many who had never worked remote without amenities, was a recipe for work/social conflicts.

    My modus operandi was to immediately have a “meet & greet” safety meeting. During the course of the meeting, I would say if anybody got in a fight, BOTH would be on the plane back to town. Many immediately expressed as to how unfair it would be. Perhaps now, there would be legal ramifications, however at the time conditions were rough and some of the men rougher.

    The “innocent” man, if there was one, always ended up on one of our other jobs, so the punishment wasn’t as draconian as they were led to believe.

    I realize in today’s world, things aren’t as simplistic, however historically, the jobs went rather smoothly when this “unfair” rule was in place. There were no law enforcement officers and often it would be days before a plane could land on the dirt strip. Peace was essential in the aftermath of a conflict that could have extremely serious consequences. There was an aura of calm when friends of the men felt “the other guy” also had to go to town.

  2. Grace under fire! Great suggestions. My guess about why the poster came down harder on Eric was that maybe he was the more frequent and louder put-downer, but that was an assumption on my part. You raise a question that demands self- evaluation. Good ideas all around here. Let’s hope we all can learn from them.

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