Defusing Tense Situations

by Hazel Bodner
Managing Partner, Fresh Admin

People, people everywhere... that's our life as a manager. With people there are emotions running rampant. What to do with a tense situation? Your gut maybe to leap right in and make decisions and actions. Take a step back and learn all the facts. And, try to get the people to calm down.

How to do this?

Here is a Harvard Business Review article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter that is worth reading. Click here. She says to do the following:

Offer support
Invoke higher principles

The article explains these ideas, but here's an example from the restaurant. Let's say you have an employee who does not want to take out the trash. Your reaction as a manager may be to pull them in the office and write them up.

EMPATHIZE -- But slow down and let them talk. Listen. Repeat back "I hear that you don't want to take out the trash because it is too smelly and makes you sneeze the rest of the day." Now the magic starts, and they know you heard them. They are probably calmer than they were.

OFFER SUPPORT -- Here you could say, "I'll take out the trash for you today." Doing this simple task changes the scenery. As a rule you don't have time for this, but in this situation, it may be the right thing to do.

INVOKE HIGHER PRINCIPLES -- Talk about the team and in fact everyone has their role in the restaurant and restaurant brand. We can't make delicious food without creating trash. Can you take out the trash tomorrow?

What have you done to defuse a situation?