Manage Your Workplace Anger So It Doesn’t Manage You
At work, there’s so often someone or something that’ll push your buttons. Few are those who have never felt like clobbering a customer, screaming at a superior, or trashing a teammate.
If you get angry at work infrequently, and you easily resist clobbering, screaming, or trashing, that anger isn’t a problem. But if you experience anger often and you lash out, it could be doing you harm.
Anger triggers an energy rush that rallies you to fight. Your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and temperature rise, and you’re flooded with stress chemicals. Health problems caused by unmanaged anger can include headache, insomnia, increased anxiety, and even heart attack and stroke. And those are just the health implications, never mind the damage you could be doing to your professional relationships.
The most familiar advice for regaining control when anger strikes is to count to ten, or higher, if necessary. This advice sounds simplistic, but it’s logical: Counting gives your blood pressure and heart rate a chance to return to normal. At the same time, it distracts you just enough to help you get control over your emotions. Counting is even more effective if you take slow, deep breaths between the numbers.
Whether you count or not, it’s wise to take a few moments before reacting to gather your thoughts so that you don’t say something you’ll soon regret. My friend Ray learned that lesson the hard way. When his sarcasm-wielding boss’s boss wandered by and made a cutting comment about Ray’s messy desk, Ray erupted. Instead of responding with humor or simply remaining silent, Ray lashed out—and at the very person in charge of the direction of his career path. His name was slashed from the list of people in line for a management position.
More effective than merely tamping down your anger each time it occurs is trying to gain insight into it. One way to do this is by keeping a record of what triggers your anger over the course of a day, and how you react. You can then reflect on a week or month of “anger history,” or discuss it with a friend or therapist. By gaining some understanding of what triggers your anger, you can take steps to avoid or minimize those triggers. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga may also help you keep your anger in check.
The goal of anger management isn’t to suppress your anger altogether. The goal is to manage it so that you express it in a healthy way that’s under your control. If you make a point of noticing what triggers your anger and how you respond to it, you may soon find yourself having to do less of both.