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How to Use Anger Management to Keep Your Cool at Work

Even the most mild-mannered among us will occasionally get angry. It’s a natural, and dare I say it, healthy response depending on the situation. It could manifest as irritation, frustration, annoyance, or full-blown and frightening rage.

When we get angry, most of us lash out. Physically - punching walls, throwing stuff around, hitting other people - or verbally - hurling insults and abuse at those around us. It alleviates the pressure building inside us. But that’s not always ideal.

That said, suppressing and hiding it isn’t any good, either. Many people never express their anger. They squeeze it somewhere deep inside themselves for days, months, or years...until it eventually and inevitably explodes. No one can keep that much tension and energy under wraps forever.

There must be a happy medium. A healthy, SFW middle ground halfway between turning yourself into a ticking time bomb, and unleashing your inner Hulk (Hulk smash!).

So...anger management. Not the court-mandated, 12-step variety (although that might be something worth looking into for some people), but a handful of tried and tested techniques for keeping your cool. It’s always possible.

Anger that turns to rage or fury is a loss of control, and that’s not something you want to experience at work. The “angry guy” doesn’t get promotions. The “angry gal” doesn’t have a lot of work friends. Your superiors don’t want individuals with anger and control issues in their department.

You have to learn to control your anger.

See Also: 10 Signs You Have an Arch Enemy at Work

1. Vent on the Page

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Once you say or do something in the throes of anger, you can’t exactly take it back. You can apologize, you can ask for forgiveness, but the damage is already done. When you feel your anger rising at work, find a way to remove yourself from the situation, and vent on the page. Write out everything you want to scream, throw, punch, yell, and do. Let your green monster loose (yes, another Incredible Hulk reference...but come on, that dude has anger management issues!). When you’re done, you’ll probably feel much better. Read your rambling anger missive...and then destroy it. We can say and express things on paper that we could never (and likely should never) say out loud.

2. Count to Ten

It might seem corny, hokey, and silly, but it works. If you silently count to ten before doing or saying anything, you’ll more often than not calm down sufficiently in those ten seconds. You won’t blurt something out in the heat of the moment and instantly regret it.

3. Take a Breath

When we get angry, we tend to hold our breath. Our pulse quickens. We tense. Our face flushes. We’re ready for a fight. We become a tightly coiled spring ready to be sprung. That energy and tension has to go somewhere. It won’t be easy, but you can help it slowly leave your system by taking a few good breaths. It’s the difference between throwing open the floodgates on a dam - resulting in massive destruction, chaos, and death - and opening just a crack - the water trickles out, barely noticeable, but it will eventually lower the level on the other side.

Deep breathing has a wonderfully calming and mellowing effect on our bodies (why do you think it’s so integral to meditation practices?). Breathe from your diaphragm. Close your eyes if you’re able (standing at the front of the conference room during your presentation is probably not a good time for this).

4. Reframe Your Anger

Anger is typically a result of some perceived slight against us. Someone is being unreasonable, inconsiderate, demanding, unfair, or any of a multitude of other offenses. It can feel personal; like the world is out to get us.

Except it’s not. Rarely is anything personal (I won’t say never, because sometimes, it is). Remind yourself of this. The copy machine did not jam to piss you off. Your boss is not being a jerk just to annoy you. Your colleague is probably doing their best with their share of your joint project. Reframe your thinking. You can acknowledge your frustration and irritation...but don’t let it control you. You can even recognize that you’re getting or are angry. That’s okay. Just remind yourself that a) it’s probably not personal, and b) it’s fleeting. Remember that getting angry will accomplish next to nothing in terms of actually dealing with the issue.

So-and-so is not “always forgetting the expense report”, even though it might feel like it. Your boss is not “never going to approve your request”, even though it might seem that way. Always and never are two words you should banish from your vocabulary. They’re rarely accurate, and they plug into your anger. Don’t feed the Hulk!

5. Take a Timeout

Timeouts are amazing. We often think of them in terms of punishment (You need to go to your room for a timeout, young man!), but the reasoning behind them is solid and applies to adults, too. You remove yourself from the source of your anger, whether it’s a person, situation, or whatever. Step back and away from it...literally. Out of sight, hopefully out of mind. Physical distance should give you the opportunity to calm down, and you won’t have the chance to lash out before you do. Go back to your desk, cubicle, or office. Take a quick walk outside. Grab a coffee in the break room.

6. Meditate

Meditation works. Full stop. Finding even five minutes during the day to close your eyes and meditate can help you recharge, rebalance, and refocus. It can ease tension, frustration, and yes, even anger.

If you need a little guidance, there’s an app for that. Calm, Stop, Breath, and Think, Headspace, and Buddhify can all lead you to a calmer, better you.

7. Replace "You" With "I"

On the subject of language, you should aim to replace “you” statements with “I” statements when dealing with colleagues. Instead of lashing out and shrieking “You never do your share of the work”, you can reframe it and instead say “I feel that I can not complete my work because there are missing sections.” Accusations and finger-pointing accomplish little other than creating animosity and tension between people.

Express your feelings. Make it about you, not the other person. They can’t argue against how you feel, but they can - and will - defend themselves against accusations. It quickly becomes a merry-go-round of insults and indictment. State your concerns and needs in a relaxed and direct manner for maximum impact. You don’t have to blame or criticize to get your point across.

8. Focus on Solutions

Not problems. We all tend to zero in on what’s wrong, who’s causing it, and its effect on us personally. Instead, look for the solution. Put your energy into that, and that alone. Copier jammed? Find out how to fix it, and then fix it. Partner not carrying their weight? Find out why, and then suggest solutions.

Anger doesn’t fix anything. It’s our first inclination to rage against the injustice (Damn it, the copier’s jammed again!, or Damn it, Jason forgot to file this expense claim again!), but you’re no closer to a solution after that, are you? What needs to be done to make the irritation, frustration, source of anger go away? Do that.

See Also: How to Channel Your Anger into Power

“Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.”

’Benjamin Franklin’

It accomplishes nothing...yet we all fall victim to it sometimes. Say no to it. Banish the Hulk to the basement. Focus on solutions, not problems. And get more done. There are a lot better ways to spend your workday than seething, angry, and spittin’ mad.

What’s your best anger management technique? How do you control the Hulk? Leave your suggestions in the comments below...

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