Do you ever feel angry at work? If so, congratulations — you’re human. Just about everyone has felt their temper go into the red zone at the office.
If you’re passionate about your work, it’s almost unavoidable. And even if you’re only working to pay the bills, it can be tough to make it through without getting angry now and then. But since most workplaces frown on flipping tables or raging down the hallways, it can be tricky to find a professional way to cope with your anger.
Start by taking a moment to figure out what’s going on. Anger can come from a lot of places, emotionally. Before that eye twitch gets out of control and your clothing shreds off your back, spend a minute reading this.
1. What’s making you upset?
There are many reasons why you might at angry at work, but many of them come down to the stress of working with other people. Maybe you’re stuck with a difficult client right now, or your boss has changed the scope of your work for the millionth time. Maybe your teammate is messing with your project deadlines … or you’re just tired of listening to their annoying chirpy voice whenever they answer the phone.
On the other hand, maybe it’s just the grind that has you down — maybe you’re burned out on your job or having trouble balancing work with your other responsibilities.
Whatever the cause, it’s important to know that anger is OK — and that it serves a purpose. Per the American Psychological Association:
Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems. But excessive anger can cause problems. Increased blood pressure and other physical changes associated with anger make it difficult to think straight and harm your physical and mental health.
2. Can you make it better by doing something for yourself?
If you’re honest with your feelings, you might realize that your anger is coming up because of some other factors in your life. Maybe you’re hungry, tired, overscheduled, or just overwhelmed. Can you do something to help remedy that?
- Eat something and take a break while you do.
- Have a hot or cold drink and hydrate yourself.
- Take a nap!
- Get some things off your plate and delegate like a boss!
- Sort out your To Do list into digestible chunks so you can handle it more easily.
3. Don’t be the office complainer. Find a new way to deal with it productively.
Instead of coming to your supervisor with a problem, try to present a creative, productive solution to the situation that’s angering you. Even if you are making this plan just for yourself, you can find ways to avoid getting so angry you want to burst.
Try to find new methods to connect with an irritating coworker, or make your own space in that crowded office of chatterboxes.
- Move your desk to a different spot.
- Find ways to have lunch in a quiet location, or take a quick walk outside first.
- Discover what you have in common, and try to talk about that to see the humanity in each other.
- Share some food at a post-work get-together and diffuse the tension.
- Come to your boss with a plan to streamline work so you don’t miss deadlines with a bottleneck.
- Note times where software or hardware impacts your productivity, then go to your boss showing time lost.
4. Know your triggers (and get ahead of them).
Loud-talkers and gum-poppers ruining your workdays? Blowing up at them won’t help. Instead, take the time to figure out what you need to do your best work — and then create that space for yourself at the office.
“For example, if one particular colleague pushes your buttons, build in breaks during times when you know you’ll have to work together,” writes Melody Wilding at Forbes. “This will give you space to disrupt any rising emotions that crop up if he provokes you and will help you avoid a hair-trigger reaction. No one likes being angry, so by anticipating triggering situations you can stay calm and collected.”
If sound is your trigger, try headphones or a separate work space away from the chatters. If you need folks to not interrupt you while you do your monthly reports, ask if you can do that task from home for a few hours or put up a “do not disturb” sign. If you need a different way to collaborate with your colleagues for innovative thoughts, talk to your boss about restructuring that creative time so the whole team benefits.
5. Don’t overreact.
Yes, you can get annoyed and downright angry at a coworker’s loud laugh or even their constant interruptions of your workday, but taking a sledgehammer to the vending machine or tearing up the break room isn’t going to fix that.
The experts at the American Psychological Association note that some anger is OK and understandable:
Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it’s a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. There is also a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it adds to our frustration to find out that this isn’t always the case. The best attitude to bring to such a situation, then, is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem.
6. If you need to get upset…do it productively.
One therapist (yes, they get irate from time to time, too) says you can use a mnemonic to get you through an angry time. It’s called STOP:
- S, Stop;
- T, Take a breath and reconnect with the present moment;
- O, Observe and notice what is happening around you;
- P, Proceed with your newfound information after having taken a moment to evaluate the situation.
“I take the time to stop being angry, think about why I am angry, observe what is really going on and process what to do next,” says therapist Katie Leikam at HuffPost.” And that’s been really helpful.”
7. When in doubt, go for the basics: Shake it off!
“When it’s something temporary, taking a second to step back and take some deep breaths is often enough to calm the body and the nerves. When it’s something deeper, there are a variety of options,” says licensed mental health professional Kryss Shane at HuffPost. You can try physical activity like heading to the gym, going for a quick walk, or even dancing for a minute or two.
“I’m a big believer in dancing it out. The combination of dancing and music I love often shakes me out of an angry or frustrated place,” Shane said.
But you can also just take a few moments and do some deep breathing. Try popping on a helpful podcast or guided meditation for 10 minutes and find your calm again.
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Featured Image: JD Hancock/Flickr