As an HR professional I have dealt with employees who have no boundaries with their issues or emotions and try to get me to solve their problems. I have learned not to fall into this trap because it creates dependent and disempowered people. Instead, HR professionals need to use a coaching approach by ‘throwing the monkey back’ and keeping the accountability where it belongs. This requires learning to guide a client to a solution by asking the right questions, giving constructive feedback and getting their commitment to take action.
If you find yourself in a conversation with an overly-emotional employee, help them work through their emotions without getting triggered yourself. You do this by giving the person the space to clear his or her emotions.
Here’s how it works:
First, give the other person full permission to vent for a limited time. For example, “You’ve got 5 minutes to tell me what you’re pissed off about…and then we can talk about what to do about it.” As he or she vents, provide encouragement to put it all on the table with responses like “yes,” “say more,” “what else,” etc. At the end of 5 minutes, signal that time is up and get permission to move onto the next agenda item.
Second, emotions are bound to show in our fast-paced, intense business environment. People are pressing each other’s hot buttons all the time. But to be ‘professional’ we need to self-manage our own triggers and not displace them on someone else. Yes, HR professionals can have emotions too and need to learn to manage them as much as anyone else. If you find something triggering your emotions, try to take a time-out from the conversation and avoid resuming it until you figure out why you’re emotional, how you’re going to deal with it, and a strategy to keep your emotions in check in that situation. If you don’t deal with your own emotions, the conversation can get ugly.