DR. E. CAROL WEBSTER’S
ANGRY AT WORK? GET A GRIP!
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2004
At times, things will make you angry at work. Bosses may go on power trips and colleagues will be annoying. Your reaction is important. If your first inclination is to rant and rave or to throw the nearest paperweight, you’ve got to get a grip.
Giving vent to your anger at work is inappropriate. Period.
Learn how to practice effective anger management techniques so that you can maintain your composure, solve the problems that cause you frustration, and keep your job too.
Realize that You’re Angry
Many people get into trouble at work because they exhibit negative behavior and have no grasp that they’re angry. They walk around with a scowl and cause others to feel afraid or loath to have anything to do with them. Check your facial expressions and overall body language. Keep a mirror around so that you can get a glimpse of your mug from time to time to learn if your knitted brow and frown are signaling fury. Look down at your arms. Are they folded in a tight grip across your chest most of the time? Thrashing as if you’re about to strike a blow? How about your tone of voice—bellowing? And what about your words—peppered with insults? Sarcasm? You can broadcast anger in so many ways and be the last to realize it. This is not okay in a business situation. You need to know how you’re coming across and when something has triggered you to become angry. Ask your friends at work for feedback and to give you a sign when you look like you’re going to explode.
Identify the Problem
So what is it? What pushed your button? Take a look at events and conversations immediately preceding the ignition of your bad mood for clues to the source of your ire. Many times there’s no guesswork involved. The problem is crystal clear. Other times, however, more subtle provocations may be involved and you will have to do a little detective work to figure out what’s bugging you. It’s critical to do this, though, because you can’t address, fix, or change a problem that you can’t identify. Take the time to do so.
What Are Your Alternatives?
What can you do about the problem(s) you’ve identified? Often there are several possible solutions—even though there may be times when you have tunnel vision and insist that only one exists. A very common example is to feel absolutely certain that your boss is unreasonable and that the only thing that can be done is to go over his or her head to “the top”. Sometimes this is, indeed, necessary. Very often, however, you have not really tried to address the problem with your manager and don’t want to acknowledge his or her power by giving the satisfaction of discussing what’s on your mind. Instead, you want to pull a power play of your own and “show them who’s boss” to give yourself greater satisfaction. Instead, call upon members of your Success Entourage—those who mentor you and help you get ahead in your career—for input about other possible solutions. Use them to role-play discussing the problem with your manager. Offer solutions you think will fix the problem. Often those friends, associates and coaches who serve as Sounding Boards will help you to identify more adaptive ways of working the problem out and keep you from making matters worse with angry, misguided muscle-flexing.
Decide Whether You Want to Keep Your Job
If you make the decision to give vent to your anger—to start cursing people out, throwing things, striking others—you are usually deciding that you want to leave your job. Few employers will have the tolerance for this behavior—nor should they. You are being paid to do a job, not to bring drama, antipathy and violence into the workplace. Thus, you have to decide whether you want to continue in your position and, if you do, rein in your frustration. To get a grip on yourself when you feel yourself becoming angry, get up from your seat and move around so that the frustration does not build. If you’re already standing and moving around, leave your office or the building altogether. Taking a short walk may help you shake some of that irritation. Slow yourself down. Take deep breaths, stop to get a drink of water, and generally give yourself internal instruction to relax. This will give you the time and ability to think more clearly. Speak slowly. Pay careful attention to your words and say nothing if all you can say is something negative. These strategies help you to put the brakes on anger that may be building so that you can remain in control before you say or do something that may lead to negative consequences. If you can’t get it together by yourself, contact your Employee Assistance Program or a therapist in the community to learn effective anger management techniques so that you can keep your emotions and behavior under control.
Accept That It May Be Time to Go
Sometimes the chemistry just is not good and you can’t find a satisfactory way to get along with your manager, a teammate, or some policy on your job. Of course you can embark on a campaign to force these things to change, such as when you are facing harassment or discrimination, for example. But most of the time the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is to leave. Rarely are we trapped with no other options. It may take time and some people have to start looking for a new job after they’re in a new position only a few days because they quickly realize that they’re going to be unhappy a great deal of the time and this is not the way they want to spend their lives. Remember, work is where you spend the majority of your day and it can’t be punctuated with anger and resentment 365 days a year without negatively affecting you and others. Something has to go and sometimes that should be you! Embark on an active job search so that you can get into a work environment you like better and that is less provocative for you and those around you. Sometimes the grass is greener elsewhere.
About the Author:
Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,
The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at http://drcarolwebster.com or call 954.797.9766.
E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317 954.797.9766
Reprint Policy: You are welcomed to reprint this article for your personal use and to share with friends and associates.
Contact Dr. Webster to obtain permission for any commercial purposes.