Angry Employees: How To Change The Vibe in the Workplace
March 7, 2016
Chris was so proud of himself! He and I were reviewing the work we had done together as client and coach.
Six months ago Chris, a production supervisor at a mid-sized manufacturing company, would have come storming into our meeting because one of his employees had just confronted him about a new procedure. The employee was angry about the extra steps he would have to take, and was very combative in his approach.
When I first began working with Chris, these kinds of situations angered him. He would shout back at employees who got angry, didn’t do their jobs to his expectations, or didn’t understand how to do a task. He often referred to them as “stupid” and put many “on report” for a variety of reasons. This was a pretty low level of energy, and very negative. We call this level Fighter energy. Chris began hating to get up and go to work, to face all these “stupid” people all day. He felt he had to be on top of them constantly to get them to perform.
Creating Positive Influence
Chris and I began our journey together by becoming familiar with the 7 Levels of Energy created by Bruce D. Schneider. We’re not talking about physical strength or power here. We’re talking about the vibe, the energy, we put out into the world.
All of us have a vibe, or energetic resonance, that runs on a scale from catabolic (negative) to anabolic (positive) at any given time for any given circumstance. That vibe creates the kind of influence we have on ourselves and on those around us. The really cool thing is that we can change that energy by changing the way we think about things, which affects our emotions, and drives our actions.
What are the 7 Levels of Energy? Level 1: The Victim, Level 2, The Fighter, Level 3: The Rationalizer, Level 4: The Nurturer, Level 5: The Opportunist, Level 6: The Visionary, and Level 7: The Creator.
Steps to Change the Vibe
Here is what we did to help Chris get from Fighter to Opportunist, Visionary, and Creator.
Determine how you want your people to respond. Chris was tired of the negative atmosphere at work. He wanted his employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability. He wanted them to take initiative, to enjoy coming to work, to be willing to try new things, and to get along with each other positively.
Evaluate your experiences. Once Chris was clear on how he wanted people to respond, he needed to understand what was creating the current situation. Together we analyzed his past performance: what worked, what hadn’t worked. Chris began to get a vision for how his employees responded to different aspects of his leadership, and how he could keep the best aspects.
Focus on the feelings. At one point in our discussions, Chris brought up the feelings he had in each of the situations we were reviewing. It was a difficult moment for him because he had been taught to hide his feelings. As we worked together he began to recognize that his feelings were a signal to him about the kind of energy he was putting out. This gave him an opportunity to stop and make a conscious choice about the vibe he was putting out and whether he wanted to change it.
Check your story. Chris began to realize that he was creating a story about the things he saw or heard, and that it wasn’t always true. For instance, when a machine broke down and the person running that machine didn’t know how to fix it, Chris automatically assumed that the person just didn’t want to fix it. That’s when the anger and yelling started for Chris. In his frustration, he would step in a do the repair rather than calmly helping the person learn to fix the machine. As we worked together, we developed a strategy for Chris to begin checking for truth in each situation rather than what he thought was true based on his interpretation.
Create the vibe that will be most effective for the outcome you want. On this day that Chris came into the meeting so proud of what he had accomplished, he described what he was feeling this way: “I looked for the opportunity here instead of just assuming my story was true. The minute I did that, I began asking the employee questions to explore possibilities. It felt so powerful to be getting his ideas about solutions. (The Opportunist) I was able to stay calm through the whole conversation. I was really connecting with what the employee’s struggle was and began to understand how he was being affected. It felt so great to be this calm and focused on the solutions without trying to change or control the employee. (The Visionary) I couldn’t believe the ideas that were popping in my head that would help this employee, and that would make it easier for all the employees to embrace the new procedures! (The Creator)”
When I left Chris that day, we were both confident that he had learned and practiced his new skills in effective communication. The atmosphere of the entire company had turned around. Turnover had decreased from 43% to 4%, people came to work with cheerful attitudes, and it was feeling more like a family. Production was up because people were no longer focusing on what was wrong, but on what could make the company and their jobs better. And, now profits were soaring!
Want to learn more about turning negativity in your workplace to profitability? Connect with me, Joy Humbarger, on LinkedIn. Let Maximize Your Leadership help your team and profits grow!