How To Better Manage Employee Frustration
February 25, 2022 | BY Simcha Felder, CPA, MBA
For most business leaders, managing employee frustration and resentment is a normal and common part of the job. The reality is that when a company brings together many different employees with different personalities, at some point they are bound to clash with each other or with the company’s culture.
Anger and frustration in the workplace is nothing new, and has been around since people started working together. The pandemic has certainly added new frustrations to the workplace, but Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report highlights that the daily rates of anger, stress, worry and sadness among American workers have been rising over the past decade.
Of course, the past couple of years have brought unique frustrations for employees and leaders, but the strategies that great managers use to navigate these challenges haven’t changed and will be used long into the future. As a business leader, it isn’t your responsibility to keep everyone happy all the time, but you are responsible for building a culture of trust and respect so that your employees can be as productive as possible. Here are some recommendations from a recent Harvard Business Review article on how to handle employee frustration:
Balance Your Emotions Before Reacting
The most important step is to be sure that before reacting to your employees’ frustration, you stabilize your own mood. Business leaders are not robots and feel the same frustrations and uncertainty as their employees. It is only natural for people to react defensively when confronted by anger or resentment, but it is important for leaders to not act impulsively.
Perceive your employees’ frustration as data, not danger. Accepting feedback that your team is frustrated without judging them – or yourself – can help you address concerns with an open and clear mind.
One of the best tricks as manager is to give yourself time before responding. For example, if you receive a frustrating email, don’t respond impulsively. Write a response, but wait to send it. Give yourself time to stabilize your own mood – an hour, a day – whatever you need. Then go back and read your response to see if you still want to send it. Most of the time, you’ll end up deleting your draft and sending something completely different.
Learn What’s Causing Their Frustration
After making sure you are in the right frame of mind to respond, ask for more information about your team’s frustration. This demonstrates that you care enough to acknowledge and empathize with them.
Offer your employees a safe space to vent to you without shame or fear of retribution. Then thank them for coming forward and sharing their concerns. Encourage them to partner with you to explore new solutions that benefit everyone.
Redesign Goals Together
After de-escalating emotions and learning about the source of your employees’ frustration, you can now try to channel their anger towards a more constructive outcome. Work with your employees to create shared goals that will address their frustration. By jointly creating goals, you can help turn frustration from a negative emotion to a positive and productive one. According to a study in the Academy of Management Review, employees can become more proactive and increase motivation when redirecting frustration towards a battle that benefits others. Helping your team regulate and pivot their emotions not only helps everyone feel better, but can spark more creativity to address and begin making changes.
Anger and resentment from your employees can make an already stressful leadership job feel even worse. But the way in which you respond to your employees’ frustrations can make you a better leader, your employees happier, and your company more productive. By following these recommendations, you can turn an angry employee into an engaged employee, and improve your company’s operation at the same time.