How to Release Anger at Work (without Getting Fired!)

Angry at work

Have you ever felt so angry about something a colleague did that you wanted to punch the person—but you were still clearheaded enough to know that such a move would reverse the direction of your career path?

There’s a new alternative to clobbering a coworker: anger rooms. These rooms are apparently popping up around the world. For a fee ranging from $25 for five minutes to $500 for a custom setup, you get to release your anger by taking whacks at an assortment of objects that can’t fight back, such as clocks, printers, furniture, and mannequins. Customization might entail a specially designed office that looks much like yours, along with a helmet, goggles, boots, and gloves for your safety, as well as a selection of tools suitable for whacking, such as sledge hammers, golf clubs, and bats.

I once took a hammer to a laptop that had gone kaput. I assure you it deserved this beating, and smashing it to bits felt good. But as a general way to release anger, whacking inanimate objects may not be as cathartic as it seems. The assumption is that anger builds up inside a person, resulting in pressure that needs to be released—thus, the phrase “blowing your top.” But research studies suggest that taking your anger out this way may actually increase aggressive behavior rather than decreasing it.

A better way to relieve anger might be to do so productively, such as by running a four-minute mile. OK, maybe not quite. But exercise, whether at the gym, outside, or at home, releases endorphins, which may help you feel better. Exercise won’t make the provoking situation disappear, but it can make it easier to deal with. Similarly, hobbies such as photography, painting, and reading can serve as distractions that calm your mind.

The best thing, though, is to avoid letting situations trigger anger in the first place. Instead, when a provoking situation occurs, stop and take several deep breaths. Get away from the situation if you can. When your more rational self returns and you feel more relaxed, you can consider the pros and cons of alternate responses. With presence of mind, you can avoid letting anger take control and can instead respond in a thoughtful way.

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