Dealing with and Diffusing Anger During a Workplace Investigation Interview

Dealing with and Diffusing Anger During a Workplace Investigation Interview

When a subject exhibits anger during an investigation interview, take these steps to ensure the situation doesn’t escalate or turn violent.

Anger is one of the trickiest emotions to deal with, especially if it happens during a workplace investigation interview. Anger is a powerful and strong common emotion and can be triggered by PTSD-type episodes when an employee is recalling incidents of workplace bullying or confrontations. It can also be triggered by outside emotional issues such as a divorce, illness, or financial strains.

It is important that you know how to deal with any anger episodes that may arise when interviewing someone during an investigation so the situation doesn’t escalate or turn violent.

When an interview subject feels you're biased agains them, they're more likely to become angry.

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Why Subjects Exhibit Anger During an Investigation Interview

There is an “anger-arousal model” which relates to a person’s sense of injustice. They attach a sense of importance to an event or a situation in which they felt a sense of entitlement, felt they were wronged in some way, or they may have over-personalized the event causing them to think in limited views.  Their belief that they have been wronged in some fashion or treated unfairly is a trigger to ignite the anger.

RELATED: 14 Questions to Ask in a Workplace Investigation

How to Handle an Angry Outburst

As the investigator or interviewer, it is important that you understand why they are behaving the way they are and make every effort to diffuse this anger by being compassionate and not judgmental.

Techniques for properly diffusing the anger include:

  • Reacting quickly
  • Suspending judgment and prejudices
  • Speaking softly
  • Developing collaboration with the angry person so they feel they are being respected and listened to

Practice “focus listening” so they know you are paying full attention. If possible, the use of humor can also be used a good subduing technique, but be careful not to ridicule them or make fun of the situation in any way.

If the anger continues or begins to escalate, suggest a cooling off period and consider rescheduling the interview. When you do continue the interview, be specific with the questions you ask them relating to the issue or the incident.

Be sure to always treat them with respect and to thank them for being honest and telling you the details. Assure them that the incident or situation is currently or will be looked into by management. Helping them to feel validated will go a long way towards diffusing their anger.

RELATED: 5 Steps to Defuse Hostility in an Investigation Interview

Although the interviewee may act in an emotional and subjective way, you should always strive to be as objective as possible. Never get angry in response and hide any frustrations or emotions that you may feel. You must remain neutral and professional at all times.

This will help to clear up any misconceptions about your methods or goals and will help to diffuse any anger issues that may arise.

Timothy Dimoff
Timothy Dimoff

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues.
He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University.