Hang Up On An Angry Co-worker

Question:

Is it ever appropriate to hang-up on a co-worker when that person is yelling at you on the phone? My supervisor advised me to do this. I think to hang up on someone is immature and rude. My instinct is to say something (calmly) about ending the conversation. Then ending the call. However, since my boss said I should simply “hang up” on people like that. What is the appropriate thing to do?

Signed,

With No Goodbye?


Answer:

Dear With No Goodbye?:

Hanging up on a yeller might be appropriate. It is like saying, “Stop” by turning one’s back and walking away from someone who is yelling in your face. You are right that it seems immature and rude, but so is yelling. I doubt that your supervisor would think you do wrong if you firmly say, “Because you are yelling, I am forced to hang up. Please call back when you can talk without yelling.” I imagine you have tried listening politely and that that didn’t stop the yelling. Sometimes it isn’t possible to wedge a calm sentence in between a yeller’s rant.

Anger and explosions beg for “time-outs”. Hopefully you can resolve the cause for being yelled at–if not on the phone, at a time-out time in a private space at a later time. Obviously something really upset your coworker. Was it you? Do you need to apologize? Might this be a way to problem solve rather than to place blame? Your supervisor might meet with you and the yeller for that kind of eye-to-eye encounter. Likely the yeller has not learned to control her/himself and a time-out session might demonstrate that there are more productive ways to voice one’s frustration. Try it. Work is hard enough without uncontrolled anger. So think how such an incident might become a learning experience for that individual and you. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and helping the yeller to find that good feeling that comes from being heard and understood is a WEGO experience that is worth the effort. Follow Up: Thank you so much! The person has since calmed down and apologized. The “time out” worked.,With No Hang Up Reply: This is good news. Hopefully civility can rule the day from here on out. But because of the pressures of who does what when and where, making respect the norm requires assertive effort and is an ongoing process of clarification. Your good spirit, I’m sure, is helping cultivate a culture of civility in your work area and workplace. –Dr. G

William Gorden