Anger At Work
Two invaluable elements to anger management are time and perspective. Guess what two things are also often in short supply at the average workplace? That’s right: time and perspective.
Another critical – if often stated – insight for anger management: it’s all too common for an angry reaction to have little relation to its proximate cause. And that’s really a longer-winded way of saying that sometimes, caught up in an angry reaction, what we need is perspective.
So how can we make or steal the time to gain some perspective, and allow the physiological heat of anger to cool?
Many of our emotional reactions are physical. Not without reason do we speak of the flush of anger. That rush of blood is part of the body’s fight-or-flight response: in this case the angry response, tipping toward fight. The good news about these physical responses is that they can be diverted and reversed physically:
• You can force a smile before you speak.
• You can pick up the nearest handy envelope or file folder, stand, and answer both responsively and noncomittally: “Hey, I’m sorry, I need to drop this off now. Can we talk in about ten minutes?” (Or just plead the need for a bathroom break.)
• Carry that envelope or folder over to a neutral corner – the desk of a friend, say, where you can confide, “I’m in a lousy mood and need to get away for a few minutes before I blow a gasket. I’ll be back in a few to pick this up, OK?”
• By standing, walking, and acknowledging the “danger,” you’ve discharged some of your stress, and prudently redirected a toxic (in this case) fight response into a healthy, temporary flight response.
• Now, as you walk away, remember to breathe – deeply, from the belly – to renew and redirect your physical energy away from conflict and back toward maintenance.
• If you can, take a walk around the block. Or go ahead, take that bathroom break; if you’re under stress you may have been unhealthily deferring one anyway.
• Check yourself. Are you stressed, overwhelmed, in pain, short on sleep? Could your angry reaction be coming from anywhere other than its apparent cause?
• Determine a strategically appropriate response. “Busy morning for everyone, I guess. What’s up?” leaves both you and any “intruder” with a lot more options than
“I’m booked solid. If you need any of my time, you’ll need to speak to my boss.” At the very least you’ll learn what the nature of the request is, so your response can be more informed. And you won’t look quite so silly if the request is to sign a birthday card or is being delivered from your boss by a third party.
Of course, no set of quick tips fix can address a rage disorder or other deep-seated anger problem. If you or a subordinate are having recurring problems with inappropriate anger responses, it’s time to call in the professionals.