As a business leader, you hold most of the cards when dealing with your staff. Generally, what you say goes, and employees must obey if they want to succeed within the organization.
But leadership is more than just wielding power. It’s your job to set an example on every level, including when employees or situations stretch your patience to the limit. But you’re also human, and you might lose your temper sometimes, even yelling directly at an employee or two. That creates deep problems in the organization, since it can leave your staff feeling uncomfortable, dejected and even doubtful of your ability as a leader.
Thankfully, if you take a proactive approach to repair any damage done, you can make sure that the impact of your tirade is short-lived and doesn’t ruin morale. Follow these six steps to quickly win back your employees’ trust and repair any damage to your reputation.
Take a breath. If you’re still fired up or feeling pissed off, don’t do anything until you’ve had a chance to pull it together. If you skip this step, it’s likely you will continue to add fuel to the fire and damage your reputation and professional relationships even further. Breathe. Get away from the employees or situation that made you angry. Before doing anything, take a moment to do nothing.
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Establish a cooling-off period. Realize that those around you who were involved directly or indirectly in your tirade can be harboring anger over what happened. Also accept that you are, too. The cliché that time heals all wounds is true, so allow some time to pass before you start engaging in active damage control. In the meantime, keep interactions with colleagues and employees pleasant, no matter how angry you still are over the situation. The onus of fixing the environment rests with you, the leader. The sooner you cool off – and show that to your staff – the sooner everyone takes your cue and ratchets down. You will have the opportunity to resolve this once some time has passed.
Learn from your mistakes. It’s important for everyone to learn from this situation so you can all successfully move on. Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you’re exempted from this step. You are human, which means you are bound to make mistakes, and if you lost your cool, you’ve made one. Remember to be more thoughtful about your composure. Only you can allow yourself to lose it, so figure out what you could have done better and implement some strategies avoid this happening again. Perhaps you let something that was bothering you fester too long before addressing it, or maybe you expected something of your employees that you failed to clearly communicate.
Listen to others. Once you’ve learned from your mistakes, you are ready to resolve the issue. Do this as soon as possible in order to avoid anyone harboring ill feelings. A mistake managers make is believing that it is their job to talk and their employees’ job to listen. That is not leadership. If you truly want to resolve the issue and you’ve really learned from your mistakes, then you should be open to hearing how others have experienced this situation. No one is saying you can’t express your frustrations, but listen first and tailor your responses based on how the situation was viewed by others. In addition to self-reflection, listening to employees can provide you additional and valuable information.
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Apologize. You should never be too big to apologize when you’ve made a mistake. Sure, you don’t want to show weakness to your employees, but people generally have a positive response to humility, especially from their leaders. Apologizing can be powerful if done correctly. Set a good example for your employees. People usually appreciate evidence of a little humility. Move through this step quickly. The trick is to be laser sharp and direct in how you communicate your regret, and make sure you let them know you own your mistakes.
Resolve. After everyone has had a chance to voice frustrations, it’s time to move on. To do that, make sure that you have worked through whatever underlying caused the blow-up in the first place. Then make sure everyone in your organization is clear that you are moving forward. You want employees to know what you expect of them. You want to convey your commitment to do things better in the future. This is the final step in the process and should leave everyone feeling better and ready to move on.
Don’t bring it up again in the office. One final note: Whatever you do, refrain from gossiping or talking about those involved with others within the organization. That’s immature, unprofessional behavior and will only damage your further in the future. If you need to discuss this with someone, consider talking with a business associate outside of your organization, a friend, a family member or hire a coach.