Business Insider Edition

If you're angry at work, you shouldn't pretend everything is okay — do these 6 simple things instead

Rachel Premack , Business Insider US
 Aug 01, 2018, 10:39 AM

(Unsplash)

  • Anger management is an important tool to have — especially when dealing with frustrating work situations.
  • To figure out how to deal with anger at work, start by taking yourself out of the situation and cooling off.
  • Then, approach the person about the situation without blaming them.


When it comes to negative emotions like sadness, anxiety, or anger, one common course of action is to try ignoring them. 

But Deanna Geddes, a professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, recommends the opposite.

"Anger is a healthy emotion," Geddes, who has extensively researched the role of anger in the workplace, told Business Insider.

"It signals that something is upsetting us," Geddes said. "When we feel anger, it's helpful to stop and think about what's really making us angry." Anger forces action, Geddes said. It can help you change a situation for the better — but there's a right and a wrong way to deal with being ticked off. 

Here are six steps to processing your anger and changing a work situation that's infuriating you. 

1. Remove yourself from the situation

If you feel yourself starting to get heated, Geddes advises removing yourself from the situation to calm down. 

To exit gracefully, Geddes recommended saying the following:

"I'm feeling some anger about (insert situation here). Give me a few minutes to cool down a bit, but then let's talk about this because it's important to resolve."

It might seem awkward, but it's better than adding more fuel to the fire and pushing you to explode. 


2. Take your mind off it for a little while

The problem with anger is that it fires up the emotion centres of the brain, making it challenging to be logical, wrote Emma Seppälä, the science director of Stanford University's Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

So, while it's okay to be angry, you'll need to calm down a little bit before you can address the situation that's frustrating you. Otherwise, you could say something that's emotionally-charged and potentially insulting. 

"Cool your flames and you'll see more clearly and communicate far more effectively," Seppälä wrote. "Breathe, take a walk, distract yourself with a funny movie, meditate, exercise, pray - anything to help you regain your composure but also some perspective."

If you don't have time for any of that, try this breathing exercise

Then, revisit the situation when you're more calm.


3. De-escalate your thinking by avoiding words like "never" or "always"

Reframing your thoughts is an important way to get to a logical conclusion. Angry thoughts can often be "very exaggerated and overly dramatic," according to the American Psychological Association.

For instance, angry thoughts often capitalise on something "never working" or "always going wrong", wrote the APA. That's almost definitely untrue — few people are consistently awful, and few things are always awry.  Instead of thinking "My whole life is ruined and this entire situation is horrible," the APA recommended thinking along the lines of:

"This is frustrating, and I understand why I'm upset. But it's not the end of the world and I can't fix this by getting angry."


4. Understand that the other person probably doesn't even realise what they're doing

When it comes to your coworker that may be ticking you off, Seppälä said to understand that they're probably not out to get you. They likely have no clue that they're making you furious.

"Most of us don't run around with evil intentions — but many of us do make mistakes and hurt or anger others accidentally," Seppälä wrote. "Chances are, the person you are angry with is not purposefully trying to hurt you." For instance, your boss with a tendency to micro-manage probably believes she's following appropriate management protocol, not that you're a clueless idiot who needs constant hand-holding.

And your super-competitive coworker who always steals your ideas might not even realize what he's doing.


5. Discuss your frustrations without blaming the other person

The best way to express problems in a relationship is to be positive, avoid blaming the other person, use "I" statements, and discuss your own perspective and needs, Business Insider's Rachel Gillett previously reported.

One way to do that in a professional setting is the "gentle startup" technique, developed by Dr. Michael McNulty, a master trainer from The Gottman Institute and founder of the Chicago Relationship Center.

It looks something like this: "When X happens or happened, I feel Y, and I need Z."

You could say, "When you pitched the revenue-saving idea in today's meeting, I felt frustrated because I mentioned that idea to you last week. I need proper credit for my own ideas."

Or, " When you asked for a five-page write-up of the sales meeting I held yesterday, I feel that you don't believe I'm a competent employee. I need more freedom and trust."


6. Try to understand the other person

People become incredibly self-centred when they're angry, according to Seppälä. And they try to look for any evidence that they're right, and the other person is wrong.

It's important to move away from that in order to resolve the situation.  After expressing your feelings, take the time to ask why the person is doing the thing that frustrates you.

"When you make room for another person's point of view and ask 'why' instead of immediately assuming the worst, you are actually inviting true communication to occur," Seppälä wrote"The result is that you develop understanding, a deeper relationship based on communication and civility, compassion, and empathy."


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