Frustrated Workers in the Workplace

 In 2023, Tip of the Week

With having so many different types of people in the workplace, having to deal with frustration in a team is a normal part of leadership. To understand how to deal with frustration in the workplace, you need to be able to identify it. It’s not hard to see signs of frustration when you know what to look for.

Max is a typical worker. He has a job to do. And he is doing it loudly. Because he is working next to you, it’s hard to miss that he is gritting his teeth and cursing under his breath. When he moves, his body language is tense. Instead of setting his tools down, he drops them. One of them almost hits you. He doesn’t normally act this way. “Hey, what’s going on?” you ask.

“Nothing. Everything is just #&# fine.”

We’ve all been there. Traffic is bad on the way to work, you had to slam on your brakes, making you spill your coffee. Or you have an important report that needs to be on the boss’s desk in the next hour, and your computer decides to freeze. Or someone didn’t get the right (fill in the blank) for the job, making your work harder than necessary. And it’s frustrating.

Frustrated working is distracted working. In the scenario above, it is not obvious, but Max probably is not thinking about what he is doing. It is likely that he is thinking about what made him so frustrated, not about the task he is doing. He let his tools drop, almost hitting the person next to him (you). That is a type of “near miss.”

What can you do about it? You have some options:

1.     You can ignore it and hope his mood improves before he breaks something.

2.     You can snap back at him because he almost hit you.

3.     You can tell him to calm down, which never works.

4.     You can try to help him.


“Hey, Max, I don’t think things are fine. Let’s hit the pause button. What’s going on?” you ask again. This time Max stops and looks at you. “My sister called this morning. She’d had another fight with her boyfriend. I told her he was no good and then we got into a fight. By the time we finished, I was late, and the foreman gave me grief over it. She said if I was late again, she’d write me up.”
“Wow, that sucks. How can I help? Do you want to take a break and talk about it?”
Listening, not to respond, but to really hear what someone else has to say and then seek to understand can help with some frustrations. Taking a break can help to refocus on the job. And that just might possibly prevent an incident before it happens.
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