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Blog - What sets the fireworks off in your office?!

What sets the fireworks off in your office?!

Posted by Stella Chandler 28/10/15

FireworksWith bonfire night around the corner, we ask what situations set sparks flying in your workplace?

How do you stop people shooting off like a rocket or deal with someone smouldering away like a volcano? 

The Rocket

When someone goes off like a rocket, with emotions exploding, shouting swearing, blaming others – most people around will run for cover!

It may be a difficult conversation but the manager needs to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. Often when there is this kind of fiery explosion, things have been building up for some time and is the result of not having an outlet to talk through frustrations and tensions. So...


  • help the emotional flames to die down. Listen, don’t interrupt and work to understand what sparked the outburst
  • use empathy and open questions to get to the root of the issue – whatever lit the blue touch paper probably isn’t the whole story...
  • discuss what would help to move things forward – involve the other person in the solution. Don’t just put the lid back on the box... it will only explode again later ...probably igniting others in the process ...

The Smouldering Volcano

This person is the opposite of the rocket – on the surface. Often characterised by surliness, a begrudging attitude and general lack of cooperation, you and others will know something is wrong. But because the inappropriate behaviour is not as loud or “visible” as the Rocket, it is easier to ignore.

The trouble is, a smouldering volcano only needs a spark from somewhere else to turn it into a rocket!

Far better to nip this in the bud...


  • find a quiet place to ask if they are 'Okay'
  • explain what you have noticed in their behaviour. Pause. Give them space to talk
  • Listen and empathise

Often this is all it takes to diffuse a potentially explosive situation.

So this Bonfire Night, enjoy the energy and creative sparks that great teams display, but manage those potentially dangerous fireworks! If you recognise you have a rocket or a smouldering volcano on your team, what will you do to prevent an explosion?

For more guidance on dealing with difficult situations and people at work call us on 01903 732 782 for a confidential discussion, email us or contact us

Stella Chandler
Stella Chandler

I thrive on seeing people do things they didn’t think they could do! I draw on my management and leadership experience from working in senior positions in the Metropolitan Police Service, running Focal Point since 2002 and working across all three sectors in the widest variety of environments. Because we rarely learn things first time, we believe it is vital to provide support before, during and after the events we run, in order to get the best from them. Time and time again people have told us how the chance to review their learning and to have their actions reinforced has really helped cement new ways of doing things. This is what has then made the difference that they and we are looking for. I am a fellow of the CIPD and when I am not working with clients I can be seen on the golf courses of Hampshire.

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