How to Deal with an Unhappy Colleague, Customer or Client

How to Deal with an Unhappy Colleague, Customer or Client

No matter what your role is, nine times out of ten you are going to come across an unhappy person.

In any tense situation, the basic steps and rules to keeping calm and moving towards a mutual and happy solution are pretty universal.

Whether it be a colleague, customer or client the following tips will help you diffuse and resolve most anything without further fanning the fire.


Whilst the customer may not always be right, in tense situations you need to adopt a customer service mindset and take all personal feelings out of the situation. While you may feel criticised or at fault, try to empathise and put yourself in the other person’s shoes to see their point of view. If you focus on them and the fact they are upset, make it your goal to change that situation and find a satisfactory solution without feeling personally attacked or responsible .


The second and most obvious step is to listen actively. The very worst and most inflammatory thing you can do when someone is unhappy, is to be dismissive, disrespectful and not afford them the attention and focus they deserve.

Wherever possible you need to clear the deck and stop whatever you are doing to hear the concerns. If the unhappy person is in front of you and the opportunity is there, ask them to take a seat somewhere private, particularly if other people are present, or turn your phone to silent and ignore emails. These simple steps alone will convey your attention and care, and can be enough to dampen their dissatisfaction. They should feel like you are on the same team not at opposing ends of a court.


Whilst you’re actively listening and letting the other person do the majority of the talking, it is really important to apologise.  An apology doesn’t have to mean you are in the wrong or are taking full responsibility, it just means you are sorry that they are unhappy or inconvenienced. Make sure you don’t give an insincere and impersonal response; make it real and straight forward. A simple, ‘I’m sorry, and I’d like to discuss how to make this up to you’ is a good starting point.

Apologising does not always mean that you are wrong and the other person is right, it just means you value your relationship more than your ego. – Unknown

Listen, make eye contact, don’t interrupt, don’t be defensive or throw blame or solutions at them, just allow the person to air their grievances and feel heard before you begin paraphrasing, and clarifying what is really upsetting them.  The process of complaining may be all it takes, as many of us need to verbalise to know where the root of the problem lies.

If you get an unhappy person this week, try these tips and be sure to let us know how you go. Have a great week!

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