Count to Ten – It really is true, that taking a deep breath and forcing a pause prevents many human explosions, and corresponding lasting damage.

Leave – If things are building up to the point where you doubt you will be able to keep cool, leave the office.  Tell everyone you are leaving for a meeting or to run errands.  

Focus on Solutions – If a customer makes you angry, don’t focus on the customer or his behavior.  Instead focus on a solution that will make the problem go away.  The same holds for employees.

Do Not Project Emotion Into Communications – It’s easy to project your own feelings or suspicions into written communications.  You might perceive irritation, hidden meaning, digs, or other message on the part of the writer of an email or text, when none is intended.  Don’t react.  Wait until you can talk things over with the person face-to-face.

Watch Your Sarcasm – Try to avoid using sarcasm in your own communications.  When people are already stressed and irritable, sarcasm is the equivalent of poking a grizzly with a stick.

Use the Ben Franklin Approach to Persuasion – If you disagree with someone, start by saying, “I might be wrong, but it seems to me that…”  By acknowledging you might be in error, you make it easier for the other person to admit error too.  Besides, you might be wrong.

Find  a Gripe Catcher – Sometimes it just helps to get something off your chest.  Pick someone in your office, home, or from your friends to agree to be your “gripe catcher.”  You can gripe about anything to your gripe catcher from time to time, though you should be willing to catch a few gripes in return.

If You Do Explode, Apologize – Apologize fast.  Apologize sincerely.

If Others Explode, Forget It – Yeah, the other person should apologize.  If not, don’t hold a grudge.  Let it go.  The exception is explosions in front of customers, at other employees, or in front of other employees.  There’s a limit.

Don’t Overbook – Because the summer is the contractor’s Christmas, there’s a temptation to take every possible call and make as much money as you can.  Not only does this stress your people, it may be costing you money.  Slow your technicians down so they can look for other opportunities and raise your average ticket.  Dispatch one call at a time and dispatch to maximize opportunity (see Dollar-Wise Dispatching).

Everyone Takes Breaks – Everyone should get breaks during the day, especially people in high stress jobs, like your dispatcher.  Instruct the dispatcher to ensure your technicians take time for lunch.  Make sure you take breaks too.

Lighten Up the Office – Get a few battery powered remote control toy helicopters and have a race in the parking lot after a service meeting.  

Show Appreciation – Pick a Friday and have everyone at the shop for catered BBQ.  Give your technicians survival packages, which include water or a sports drink, snacks, cool towels, etc.

Matt Michel is CEO of the Service Roundtable, HVAC’s largest contractor alliance.  Call a Service Roundtable Success Consultant today at 877.262.3341.  Mention “Contracting Business Magazine” to try the Service Roundtable through the month of May for $10.