Dealing with Aggressive Clients or Colleagues


This week I had the pleasure of receiving a couple of aggressively worded accusatory emails from one particular new enquiry: a potential client, not an existing one.

Probably only the second time this has occurred in my 18 years in this business.

Just quietly… not a pleasant experience. Especially when you are used to the friendly and enthusiastic emails normally received from our global pilot client market.

After all, our job is to help and support pilots and whilst we are a business and that means we charge for our services, we often mentor for free and support industry groups at no cost. Who could have an issue with that? It appears he did.

Thus, It was a bit of a shock; in fact I had to physically stop myself from responding and defending myself and my business from these false statements.

It did however make me think. All of us come across these conflicts or hostile situations and this was a timely reminder for me of how darn hard it is to keep your cool and stay professional.

Also of how important it is.

So, half a day later, I’ve calmed down and decided to use this as a teaching/learning experience.

Let’s look at the various steps and self-reminders I followed to manage this exchange.¬†These may be of help the next time you come across a person with an aggressive agenda.

Phase One ‚Äď Do Nothing:

·     Action; Step away and do not respond for at least 2 hours. (If you physically can)

·     Remind yourself; You cannot argue or find a resolution with a person in an emotional or aggressive state.

·     Ownership; The aggressive or abusive communication is about that persons emotional state, not yours.

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Phase Two – Ready To Respond:

·     Demeanour; Ensure you are calm and have done your pre-response research.

·     Action; Acknowledge that you have heard their issue.

·     Language; Deal with the facts, not how you feel about the person or situation.

·     Result; Focus on the solution not the issue.

The only other person who has approached us in that manner, around 4 years ago, ultimately apologised and wanted to work with us 6 months later – post failed interview.

I am in the enviable situation where I can chose who I wish to work with, I therefore declined to do so as he did not share our core values, in particular, that of care and respect for others in all actions.

I know that as employees, most will not have this ability and that makes it even more important to have a management plan in place for those difficult occasions. Even when you do, it takes practice.

Lucky airline that gets this chap!

Kirsty Ferguson

Author, Career Coach and Founder of Pinstripe Solutions.

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