While having a management position at any company you will come into contact with an angry employee at least once (probably more). Truck drivers have the unusual experience of not being able to share their feelings on a regular basis (there's no water cooler on the road), which can cause their emotions to build up. Correctly dealing with an angry driver is important for the goal of retaining your drivers.
Check out these "Do's and Don'ts" of dealing with an angry driver:
Change the environment - If a driver comes into your office with an angry demeanor and you can tell he or she is about to blow up, ask them to walk and talk with you. First, walking is a calming activity. Second, if you move away from your office the driver will feel more at the same level as you, which will make it easier for them to open up. They won’t feel as defensive if they don’t feel like they are talking to a boss.
Listen first, talk later - Let the driver speak his or her mind before you start responding or asking questions. Sometimes just ranting about a problem can help a person feel better about the situation. If you speak too early the driver may not have the opportunity to get everything off their chest. It also gives you the chance to listen carefully and hopefully decipher the heart of the problem. It’s important to remember to remain calm and not get emotional yourself; this will just add more drama to the problem.
Ask questions - After the driver finishes telling you the reasoning behind their anger, start asking them questions to help them calm down. This is important for you too because it can provide useful information to help you solve problems in the future. If you don’t know what questions to ask, start with these three as a guideline.
1. How long has this been bothering you?
2. Did you feel comfortable telling management?
3. What can I do for you?
Come up with a solution - Lastly, make sure you discuss solutions to the driver’s issue. If you don’t layout what you are specifically going to do to help the driver, the driver will not feel as though anything was accomplished and will continue to be angry. Make sure the solutions are reasonable for both parties and don’t promise anything that you can’t actually give them.
Don’t get defensive - This goes hand in hand with not getting emotional as the driver tells you why they are angry. You being defensive will only lead to the driver becoming even more defensive. The driver issue is not a personal attack on you and it’s critical that you don’t act like it is. If you can’t remain calm the driver won’t be able to fully explain the problem and nothing will get solved.
Don’t reference company policy - Even if the driver’s issue is because of something within company policy, don’t bring that up during this meeting. This will not be helpful in calming the driver down, it will only add annoyance and more anger. Anyone has the ability to go read company policy and they don’t want to hear it from you. This shows little empathy for the driver, and makes your sound like a corporate computer.
Don’t place blame on someone specific - Again, don’t make the problem personal for you or anyone else. Even if the driver is angry with someone in specific make sure you talk about that person as a department or segment of your company. For example, if a driver is angry with a dispatcher, let them know that you will speak to all of the dispatchers about the situation.
Don’t patronize driver - This is the most critical “Don’t!” Belittling a driver by making them feel like you are above them is the worst way to handle anger. When you are listening to them make sure you are engaging with them like a normal human being and not like a trained puppet. Sometimes people overtrain for staying calm during a dramatic situation and it actually has negative effects on the situation. Always keep this tip on your mind while dealing with an angry driver; patronizing an employee is a quick way to lose them.
Have any (horror) stories about dealing with an angry driver? Share with us!
Keep on Truckin'!