How to Tame a Disgruntled Colleague

Workplace suggestions in the wake of the recent Orlando tragedy.

Posted Jun 05, 2017

Source: Pexels

Earlier today (6/5/2017), there was a deadly shooting at a workplace in Orlando, Florida. A disgruntled employee killed himself and five others. Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones. The mayor of the city requested that people speak up if they notice unusual behavior at work. So what steps should we take to protect ourselves and others in the workplace?

When in doubt, seek help. If you are faced with a disgruntled employee who is acting out or speaking erratically, don’t wait. Seek help immediately by contacting the police or your HR representative.

If an employee who is usually patient and pleasant can’t seem to control his/her anger, don’t turn the other cheek. Step away and let HR know. It is better to let the company know so that the employee may receive necessary help.

Sometimes, employees act like raging bulls, becoming unglued in a fit of violence. They benefit from coaching or from some time off. For those cases that are not emergent, requiring the immediate guidance of HR or of the police, take note of the ways that you may be able to help.

If you have a good relationship with your colleague, and you do not feel that the colleague is a danger to himself or others, then take steps to personally calm him down and win his confidence.

Strategy to Help a Colleague Who is Not a Danger to Himself or Others

  1. Be prepared with practical suggestions to reduce the stress he’s feeling. Don’t analyze his behavior; just mention what you’ve observed. Discuss ways he might alter his job responsibilities or create more enjoyment. Let him know you want to lend support.
  2. Encourage him to develop alliances. Stressed colleagues find comfort in the support of others.
  3. If the behavior continues, speak with your HR professional and/or encourage him to seek professional counseling.

Tactical Talk

You: Justin, I can see you’re having a tough time lately. I went through something like this a while back. If you’d like, I’ll tell you what I learned that pulled me through.

Justin: I don’t think you know how overworked and overwhelmed I feel. I’m sorry for blowing up at you yesterday.

You: I do understand, but there are things you can do to regain control. For instance:

  • Insist on taking 15 minutes each day to relax. Schedule a set time to close your door and close your eyes. Then, you can go back to work refreshed.
  • Use breathing exercises to increase self-control. That helps you focus on the problem and prevents acting on anger.
  • List job responsibilities you can change. Can you rotate any among the rest of us?

Tip: Never sit idly if you are concerned about the safety of a colleague or of yourself. Speak with HR or call the police, depending on the severity of the situation. It is better to be proactive and to stay safe than to second-guess the need to ask for help.

Want to learn more about handling difficult people in the workplace? Please follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Read my book Working with Difficult People or visit

Copyright© 2017 Amy Cooper Hakim