I have to admit I’m wasn’t always the best at this. Don’t get angry. How many techs do you know that lose it and throw their toys out of their cot. Its perhaps part of the personality type but I think its fair to say that techs don’t generally play well with others. When you start to be responsible for them there is a change that needs to be made if you are going to be successful.
Probably the most important realization is that for anyone who deals with a support environment, they are going to get a lot of anger pushed onto them by users who are covering for their own failings with anger. Its not a positive thing and you will find it breeds an expectation that this is alright. As a manager the worst thing I think you can do is respond in kind. Defend your people by all means but do not engage back. It creates the perception that this kind of behavior is ok “When I’m the manager I can act like that.”
So the trick is disengaging your feelings from something that you are likely quite passionate about. As technical people we do tend to get quite passionate about what we do. At the end of the day we support our companies ability to make money and in most cases are a huge contributor to their ability to do that. It is after all easier said than done. I made the mistake once of assuming that since my techs were expressing anger towards me and raising voices, the best response was to raise my voice back to show strength and to highlight I was serious. That doesn’t work so well. In fact it starts a shouting match. A very smart Sales Manager once pointed out to me the issue with wrestling with a Pig in Mud ‘You get dirty & they love it’ and this is the thing, techs are used to having people shout at them, its not positive for anyone but for the most part they deal with it.
So the trick then is to try and remember that the person in front of you is a passionate individual and they genuinely care about the topic at hand. They are also perhaps responding the way they are because of an environment you created. So the trick is no matter what happens do not raise your voice and do not get into an argument. Figure out what the acceptable outcome for the situation is and highlight that as unemotionally as you can manage. Also take the opportunity to highlight what acceptable behavior is. Its not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it does get easier with practice. I’ve stuffed this one up a number of times along the way, often because I had the best interest of the person on the receiving end at heart and the outcome never results in that.
If you feel like a conversation is going to head that way leave it. Wave it off until you are comfortable in your own mind you can deal with it and don’t let yourself be goaded into a situation where you are wrestling with a muddy pig.