Managers: What to do when someone goes into a rage

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

We have all been there when a seemingly normal person suddenly explodes with anger, leaving everyone in the room stunned and silent. How is it that a normally sane person suddenly becomes an insane, arm-waving monster, loudly shouting the odds at anyone who is within range? Also, what can be done about it? We call someone who suddenly explodes like this “The Grenade”. The reason for this is because they explode over a trigger event, or even just a word. The Grenade is usually a passive person who is pushing down the urges to be aggressive in certain situations until the moment they can hold it in no longer and… BOOM! They explode. This leaves everyone in the room wondering: What on earth has just happened? Only the Grenade knows what has pulled the pin, everyone else is just left stunned.

What Can Be Done?

If you have someone who just explodes from time-to-time, then you will know that there is no telling when it will happen. But there are steps we can take after someone has exploded to ensure or reduce the chances it will happen again.

When someone explodes, follow these steps:

1. Get their attention: In full-rant, people are not thinking straight and will be in full flow. To get their attention, you must increase you voice volume to match theirs. Say their name repeatedly. Get up-close and maintain eye contact. Not too close though! Be assertive, not aggressive with them. Wave your arms if you need to.

2. Speak to their emotions: “I know you’ve worked very hard on the details of this project and we all know the extra hours you’ve put in to get us all here.” Is an example of aiming for their emotions and should get them to start to calm down. Their need is to be appreciated and you must demonstrate this very quickly in order for them to feel better about the situation.

3. Bring the temperature down: Once you know that you have got their attention and that they have heard that you appreciate them, now is the time to take the temperature down to normal levels. Lead this by gesturing to sit down (they are usually up and walking around when exploding) and reduce your voice volume and tempo to a calm and soothing rate.

4. Take a Break: It’s time for everyone to regain composure, process what has just happened and refocus. How long a break is a judgement call. A big explosion can sometimes ripple into more than one person exploding, which will need a bigger time-out than a small spat.

5. Find the Pin for next time: Some time after the event, maybe even weeks afterwards, find the right time to sit down with the person and discuss what went on with them at the meeting. Your goal here is to find out what triggered the explosion so that this can be avoided in future.

Have your best week ever.

Mervyn is an international leadership development expert and keynote speaker to raise standards and lift spirits. His mission: to make you outstanding.

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