Anger at Work: Going 90 in a School Zone?

Adapted from a Fast Company article by Stephanie Vozza

Nearly everyone gets angry at work now and then. It’s a normal human emotion. But “anger at work is like vomiting,” says Hesha Abrams, author of Holding the Calm: The Secrets to Resolving Conflict and Defusing Tension, “Sometimes you have to throw up, but you should look for a trash can, so you don’t vomit in the middle of everybody.”

Because “anger is a normal emotion, if you don’t deal with it, it sits and compresses and then blows up and explodes out in an ugly, nasty way,” Abrams says. It can become rage. “Rage has no place in the workplace, but anger does.”

“Quite frankly being out of control is scary to other people, especially when it’s someone higher up the power structure who can’t control themselves.”

“Anger can be used to your advantage, but only if you express it in the right way.”

Strategize to channel your anger:

  1. Get a grip
    Take a deep breath – step away from the situation a moment if you need to – and strategize how you want to handle it.

    “I’ve taught kids something I call ‘dinosaur it out,’” she says. “Bend your fingernails into the palm of your hand and squeeze hard. You get like a little tiny prick that’s enough trick your nervous system into thinking, ‘Something else is happening here.’ It breaks the anger-rage cycle.

  2. Consider the receivers
    Look at the person or people around you. They likely grew up differently than you: some in families where anger was open and easily expressed and others for whom anger was not expressed (making it scary in others) or for whom anger meant something very bad was about to happen (like abuse).

    We have a moral and ethical responsibility to our teammates (and innocent onlookers) to be both real and professional. It is part of Respect for People. “If you’ve got people that are timid, wounded, or uncomfortable with anger, then it’s irresponsible to just vent it out. Choose how to express that anger.”

  3. Pull Plan the outcome
    Before speaking, imagine the end of the conversation (or confrontation) and visualize what the outcome looks like. The pull back, step by step, to devise a quick plan to get that good outcome. Being strategic keeps you in control.

  4. Share your feelings the right way
    Analyze the source of your anger: personal or professional. Did someone hit your “trigger”: that little 5-year-old kid inside all of us that reacts automatically to retriggering a hurt once felt and never healed? (More about that HERE.)

    Or is your anger more professional, born of moral outrage? “For example, you might say, ‘I’m really angry. This policy is just wrong. It’s going to impact and hurt a lot of people.’”

    “This statement requires somebody listening to you and interacting with you,” says Abrams. “You’re not scary, and you’re not pushing them away. You’ve raised your anger as an issue that has to be dealt with. It’s the responsibility of the other person to ask why or to find out if they can help you. Maybe they won’t agree with you, but that’s the normal speed limit.”

    And now you’re not “going 90 in a school zone.”

    Read more HERE.

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