You didn’t Mean to Upset Anyone

You didn’t mean to make them mad, but they are. You were just trying to make things better.

Its the absolute worst when doing your best upsets others. Fasten your seat-belt. It happens all the time in leadership.


Good intentions turn out bad.

Now what?


  1. Say, “Calm down.”
  2. Lean in. While showing compassion, lean in. In heated situations, step back.
  3. Change the subject.
  4. Bring up the past.
  5. Explain why they’re wrong.
  6. Blame someone else.
  7. Rollover and play dead.
  8. Defend yourself.
  9. Get angry.
  10. Make it personal.


  1. Let go of, “I didn’t mean to.” Think about real impact not private intention.
  2. Agree they’re upset. When someone tells you they’re upset, they’re right. Agreeing isn’t affirming.
  3. Pretend they’re angry at someone else. How does that impact your reasoning and responses? (Peter Bregman)
  4. Accept their perspective. People who get upset aren’t idiots. Don’t minimize their reasons. See and affirm their perspective. “I can see why you think that.”
  5. Explore the behavior that caused the offense. “Tell me again what I did to upset you.”
  6. Identify real issues. They’re upset about the changes you’re suggesting. But, in reality, they feel left out and disrespected.
  7. State positive intentions with real issues in mind. “I want you to feel my respect and appreciation.”
  8. Ask forgiveness for the real offense.
  9. Explain remedial action. “I talked with my coach about the ways I unintentionally make people feel disrespected. She said, “Ask questions before making statements.”
  10. Involve offended parties in solutions. Ask them to affirm your successes and offer suggestions for shortcomings. (All input must address observable behaviors.)

Bonus: Follow up to see if the issue has been resolved.

Successful leaders use angry situations to build stronger connections.

What do you do when you trying to do good turns out bad.