While you cannot dictate how people will relate with you and their attitudes, you can determine your response to them.
One of the things that drain satisfaction out of a job is dealing with an angry boss. Usually, in cases like these, you do not know who to turn to or how to react. You will be taking the big risk of losing your job if you were to act the way you feel about the situation.
While you cannot dictate how people will relate with you and their attitudes, you can determine your response to them. This is what it means to be boss over one’s own emotions and actions. When the actions of others do not dictate how we respond, satisfaction can be derived from this freedom of choosing how we respond to people the way we have pre-determined, not reacting to whatever comes your way.
Responding to An Angry Boss via Email
In responding to your angry boss via email, you need to understand that volatile and insulting words SHOULD NOT describe you. Their usage only tells a lot about the personality of the person using it. Even if you believe your boss deliberately said hurtful things with the intention of hurting you emotionally, there is no need to let those words affect you by processing them in your mind.
You may not be able to determine how others will relate with you, neither can you have control over their attitudes. People tend to relate with others based on their personality. This is something you need to realize you cannot change. However, you do not have to turn into a ‘Yes man’ in dealing with an angry boss. There are ways to be quite assertive, yet polite while at it, and still get to keep your job.
The Anger Directed at You May Not Be About You
Sometimes, anger is as a result of display of power; behind it may be a fearful heart. Most outbursts at the workplace are as a result of insecurity. Behind anger is a display of human weaknesses. Transferred aggression can be encountered at the workplace especially where there is job dissatisfaction, lack of openness in communication and many other things.
Avoid reacting to other people’s behavior. There is a tendency to pick the tone behind the hurtful words spoken or used in an email and react to those words in like manner. When we are confronted by an angry person, we could feel under attack and tend to either attack back or become defensive. Responding to anger this way does not resolve a conflict. It only aggravates it and leads to more hurt.
You can choose to be boss over your own emotion by learning to control it. When your emotions are under control, your choice of words and manner of approach in resolving the issue will make you a happier person.
Deal with how those words affect you before responding via email. This may take a while. But the wait is crucial, even if the temporary silence could be misinterpreted. Delay till you have dealt with every negative emotion arising from your interaction with your boss. However, do not delay for too long, especially if you are required, for whatever reason, to respond early.
If your boss’s grievance was communicated via email, you may have to re-read the email in order to ensure you understand the message passed across and prepare an adequate response. This will ensure you do not assume or jump into conclusion over the content of the email.
Before responding, you need to understand the other party is not there for you to assess his non-verbal means of communication. His tone of voice and the pitch are absent. His facial expressions and every other body language are not seen. You need to give room to the fact that there is a possibility you might have misinterpreted an email. Giving such room helps you to tread softly in your response. In some other circumstances whereby the mail is loaded with hurtful remarks, you may need to avoid reading it again, but ensure you grasp the crux of the matter at hand.
You will need to analyze the situation carefully, especially the events that preceded his show of anger. If he communicated via email, determine if the message you received is a response to some words used in an earlier sent mail by you or if you have been having challenges with your boss before and it is the reason his expression and choice of words were coloured in anger.
Here are some things to consider while responding to an angry boss via email or other means of communication.
Keep Your Email Response Brief
You risk being misinterpreted with a long response. Sometimes, you do not have to address all the issues raised in the email from your boss, because often, it is not about those simple matters that get the other party angry. Identify the main bone of contention and let your response be solely around that. With brevity, especially when responding to an angry boss by email, you avoid being misinterpreted. Organize your thoughts adequately before proceeding to reply.
Be Polite in Your Email
Some words are simply polite e.g. ‘Could you?’ or ‘May I?’. Avoid CAPITALIZING some words or phrase, it could send wrong signals in this case and not emphasis. The use of exclamation marks or multiple exclamations could pass as having a bad attitude or unnecessary rudeness. Your non-verbal means of communication (e.g. facial expression and body posture) cannot be assessed by your boss; neither the tone of your voice nor pitch. Avoid sarcasm and phrases and/or sentences that might connote it.
It is not necessary to copy someone superior to your boss or anyone else in your email. Most people want to appear right and justified in their actions when they feel they are being observed by others. This may escalate the conflict.
Do not be Defensive in Your Email
Don’t come out in defence the way you were attacked. You may need to just speak to the voice of emotion in your boss rather than being logical. Use a word like ‘I understand’; it connotes empathy instead of ‘You understand’; which could mean that you are asking your boss to reason. The anger in the first place occurred as a result of emotions not reason. Most people do not usually take negative actions when they give a thought to their anger. This is why you need to speak to the voice of emotion.
Direct his anger back at the situation and any other thing, without passing blames on other employees (or other persons) e.g.
‘Sir, I understand your anger over the issue’.
Avoid giving excuses or explaining. Doing these means you are defending an attack and you are telling your boss his anger is not justified. Of course, you may be right about that! But it is best not to make him feel this way.
In cases whereby the anger is as a result of something you actually did wrong, no need to mention to your boss that it will never happen again, you might be giving him reasons to ensure and enforce that.
No need of using the phrases ‘Thank you’ or ‘Have a great day’ in replying an email that was full of condescending words and insults, it could be interpreted as mockery. Choose your words carefully. Words have a way of either quenching fury or igniting it. You could appeal to an angry boss with soothing words without having to feel you are stooping low to insults.
Look at the Positive Side of the Situation
You can use the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with your boss, depending on how well you handle the situation. Conflicts should bring people together and strengthen a relationship when it is resolved. That way, we tend to understand people at workplace better.
Sample 1 – Responding to an Angry Boss by Email
I hereby tender my unreserved apologies regarding the events of the other day as relates to the poor organisation of the team.
Your anger over how the team was not organised is well noted sir. It was quite discouraging how the whole process of planning turned out. This is a result none of us expected. The points you raised were taken with all seriousness. It will stir us to the right path when organising the final events next season.
In the sample above, you directed your boss’s anger to the situation (HOW the team was organized and NOT at YOU or THE TEAM). Though you were in charge of organizing this team, the anger should be on how you carried out your work not on your personality or your team members.
Sample 2 – Responding to an Angry Boss by Email
This is to say how deeply sorry I am for the inconveniences the company may have suffered as regards the last delivery.
Everything unexpected went wrong with the whole process of our delivery that day sir. Despite the fact that we felt we were prepared to face the situation, we encountered some unforeseen circumstances that we did not prepare for, especially in the area of manpower and equipment. I regret that this happened sir.
In this second sample, you have avoided defending yourself and painted a picture of unforeseen circumstances. You have briefly explained what happened and justified your boss’s anger by stating that everything went wrong.
You have stated the fact that you ‘FELT’ prepared and avoided defending yourself. The company probably did not equip you to face the challenges by providing enough manpower and equipment. But you have not stated it but insinuated it through the phrase ‘not prepared’.
Written by Teju Duru; a communication expert and freelance writer based in Ibadan.
Ayo Oyedotun is a professional blogger and freelance writer. He reads, writes and talks about business. You can follow him on Twitter @Ayo_Oyedotun[http://twitter.com/#!/Ayo_Oyedotun] or read Business Owners’ Bible[http://woculus.com/].