It’s never a pleasant experience when you have a falling out with a coworker. You can’t necessarily give that person a piece of your mind, and it’s definitely not wise to sweep the situation under the rug, because that will only makes things worse for everyone in the end. What’s an angry, disgruntled worker to do?
Understand What Anger Is
Although anger isn’t necessarily an emotion that we’re proud of, it is a vital component of our survival. “Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats,” so it triggers emotions that “allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked,” according to anger specialist, psychologist Charles Spielberger, PhD.
However, just because anger is part of our natural survival instincts, doesn’t mean it’s OK to lash out at everyone and everything that makes you angry, especially in the workplace. Use these seven steps to help get your anger under control and handle the situation professionally, before it turns into a hostile work environment for you and your coworker.
- Remove yourself from the toxic person/situation.
The best thing to do when you feel your anger rising is to physically remove yourself from the environment and go somewhere that allows you some privacy and time to regroup. Staying in the situation or with the person who’s making you mad will only fuel the fire, so do yourself a favor and go get some space.
- Allow yourself to be angry.
People often mistake burying their anger with dealing with it. Don’t try and convince yourself that you’re not angry, because that will only make things worse. Allow yourself some time to feel your anger, so that you can better understand why you’re angry and how to manage the situation in a levelheaded and professional manner.
Otherwise, you’ll fool yourself into thinking that you’re OK (when you’re really not), and the next time your coworker does something to upset you, it’ll all come pouring out in one anger-filled rant — making you look bad in front of your peers and supervisors.
- Pay attention to how anger is affecting your physical body and mind.
During episodes of anger and rage, your judgment becomes clouded and you may become more agitated, annoyed, and aggressive than usual. If you’re not careful, this rage can cause you to do and say things that you may regret later.
Therefore, sit in your anger and try to pay attention to how the feelings are affecting your thoughts and your body. You’ll notice that your body is tenser and your thoughts are racing. Your heart rate will be high because of all the adrenaline pumping through your body. Recognizing what anger does to your body and mind may help you realize that it’s not worth it to let someone else affect you like this, which will hopefully bring you a sense of control that will allow you to start coming down from your rage.
- Understand that you have control over your anger.
When you’re in a fit of rage, it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost control of your emotions and actions, which is a scary feeling. However, remember that your anger does not control you, you control your anger. It’s understandable that your ego is bruised and you’re feeling wild, crazy emotions, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to stop this from continuing.
The first step in actually managing the physical and psychological effects of anger is to understand that you’re in the driver’s seat and have full control. You choose whether you want to sit and wallow in negativity, or do something constructive to deal with the situation in a mature and professional manner — ultimately, it’s your choice, not anyone else’s.
- Practice deep breathing or meditate.
Now that you’ve got a grip on your emotions, it’s time to regain control of your mind, body, and energy. Start by practicing some deep breathing and focus predominately on your breaths and nothing else. This will allow your body to physically calm down, which will in turn allow you to regroup and regain your clarity. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique to help calm your central nervous system and counteract stress.
Another way to regain focus and control is to meditate. You don’t have to be a pro at meditating to benefit from the practice; all you have to do is sit quietly, without interruption, and focus on your breathing and the present. Don’t ruminate about what happened or what may happen. Just focus on what you’re doing in the moment, which should be breathing. If it helps, put in some ear buds and play some calming, meditative music. If you find your thoughts wandering off, simply bring your focus back to your breathing.
- Try to pinpoint why you’re angry.
Some common elements of anger include feelings of unfairness, loss, blame, pain, and focus on things we fear and don’t want to happen, says Tina Su in her article for Think Simple Now. Try to figure out why you’re so angry and whether or not it has something to do with things going on in your life. For example, consider these questions:
- Are you projecting your emotions/insecurities onto the other person, or vice versa?
- Are you being too sensitive?
- Are you having a bad day?
- Do you need to establish better boundaries with this person?
- Are you overextending yourself to others?
- Are you expecting too much from this person?
The point of this exercise is to figure out where the anger is coming from. Often, if you’re going through a tough time in your personal life, it’s easy to carry those struggles into the workplace and take it out on others, without even knowing you’re doing it. Likewise, you may feel like you’re being taken advantage of if you’re constantly helping others out at work and falling short in your own work. Try to figure out what’s sparking the anger so that you can better understand how to deal with it.
- Vent to a trusted source.
If all else fails, vent to someone you trust — because sometimes the best medicine for a fit of rage is to just get it all out. Be sure that this person will provide you with constructive and mature advice that will help your situation, not worsen it.
For the sake of not contributing to office gossip, consider venting to someone who isn’t your coworker — maybe a trusted friend or family member, your significant other, or even your therapist, if you have one. Refrain from venting to your boss, especially if they’re a source of your anger.
Hopefully these steps will help you navigate your anger so that you can find some clarity and resolution. Working in an environment where there are so many different personalities can be challenging, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. Sometimes, these negative situations at work bring you closer to coworkers from whom you would otherwise distance yourself. Try to find the silver lining in all this, because we all have our struggles — they just might look different from the outside.
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