Tips for Dealing with Hotheads in Life

One of the greatest tests of one’s confidence and composure is dealing with someone who has come unglued with anger. Hotheads make everyone edgy and they can, depending on the age and experience of your workforce, become disruptive opinion leaders.

How to deal with a hothead?

First, if you are the object of their anger, let them vent. Listen for substance, but do not react. If they say things that trigger your own irritation, bite your tongue. The last thing you want to do is add fuel to a raging fire. Nor do you want to dismiss legitimate issues. Be interested and respectful. Model the behavior you want to see. Take notes if it will help you stay focused on what they’re saying. Make eye contact to demonstrate your interest and courage. Let them talk until they are spent.

If there are issues that need immediate attention, say what you will do to address them. Say, also, that you want time to think about what you’ve just heard. There are circumstances in which anger is valid and justified; you’ll want to consider this. Do not respond to personal attack; save your rebuttal for another time when you can be more thoughtful.

When anger is directed at someone in your group, listen with respect and set boundaries for the types of remarks you will tolerate. Prohibit personal attack and profanity. Acknowledge truth. Make eye contact with the hothead and his target, again demonstrating your interest and courage. Do not let the hothead take over the meeting. If necessary, ask him to leave. Follow up with him later to explain your reason for dismissing him and reiterate your expectations with regard to his behavior.

Hotheads at work are like bullies on the playground. Most people will not engage them when they are misbehaving and this avoidance fuels their intimidation tactics. Take the lead in reining them in by maintaining your composure, speaking plainly about what is unacceptable behavior, and standing firmly and calmly in your position. As people watch you successfully defuse a hothead, they will learn that it is possible to stand their own ground.

If hotheads represent a significant problem for your organization, provide development programs for anger management and dealing with conflict. Enroll offenders; encourage others to learn and practice techniques for managing themselves in angry situations.

Categories: General Advice

About Susan Marshall

Susan Marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.