Talent Development Centre

How to Control Your Anger at Work

It doesn’t matter how great your team is, how understanding your client is, or how simple your project is — there are going to be days when you get angry. Getting angry and frustrated is natural and acceptable, so long as you deal with it appropriately. Being great at this skill tends to go unnoticed; however, if you’re horrible at controlling your anger, your professional reputation will quickly go downhill.

Keeping a level head at work does not come naturally to everyone and is even more challenging when you’re under pressure. If this is an area where you have room to improve, here’s a summary from an article on the topic that Forbes published back in May:

  1. Deal with your body/mind equilibrium by taking a deep breath, drinking a glass of water or changing the physical scene.
  2. Contrary to current trends, sometimes you do need to repress your feelings, especially when planning your actions.
  3. Think long and hard before confronting a person with whom you’re angry.
  4. Is the situation making you angry or are there external factors enhancing the anger? (ex. something at home, reminder of a past situation)
  5. Take responsibility and consider where you went wrong and what you could have done differently to prevent this current situation.
  6. Wait 24 hours before writing an email about the situation.
  7. Avoid complaining to others at the client site.
  8. Reflect on the entire situation, going as far back in time as possible, and then imaging how it plays out into the future.
  9. Do some other work, absolutely anything, to get your mind off of the situation and bring yourself back to a positive headspace.
  10. When warranted, get even with the best scenario – to right to wrong – but remember the words of George Herbert, “Living well is the best revenge.”

The way you communicate in situations of anger are equally as important or you risk making things much worse. Inc compiled 31 pieces of advice from managers for communicating with their team, and many can be applied to situations of anger. Here are some of our favourites:

  • I use email or WhatsApp for simple topics, but phone or face to face for dealing with more complicated issues.
  • I always ask if I can improve on how I communicate.
  • I always prefer a face-to-face meeting or a call, followed by an email that answers, “This is what I think we discussed; did I get this right?”
  • It’s important to understand the other person’s emotional state and how he/she responds.
  • A mentor taught me about managing the “monkeys on your back”. The idea is that everyone is trying to shift tasks (monkeys) to someone else. As a manager, your job is to delegate a monkey, but your team member may try to hand it back. My mentor suggested replying with “How do you think X should be handled?” If the team member doesn’t have an answer, he/she gets sent back out to find a few solutions. Now my team members know that they should come up with a solution before bringing me the problem.

Have you ever been an office when a co-worker (or yourself) lost control of their anger and had an embarrassing outburst? How did it turn out for them? Probably not well. The slightest slip up in these scenarios can have devastating results on your career with lasting effects.

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