06-27-2006, 06:39 PM
Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor
When someone or something at work causes you to fume, how do you blow off steam without blowing your career? Learning how to control your reactions to the things that make you angry is easier than you might think. In fact, everything you need to know about managing your emotions in the workplace you likely learned in kindergarten. Here's a refresher.
Lesson #1: Give yourself a timeout.
If you're ready to blow a gasket, do whatever you have to do to calmly remove yourself from the situation. Excuse yourself from a meeting, grab a breath of fresh air, take a walk to another area of the building or visit with a friend on another floor. Chances are by the time you return, you'll feel much better and be able to handle whatever made you angry in the first place.
Lesson #2: Redirect your attention.
One of the most popular early childhood buzzwords of the '90s was "redirection," which moves your mental attention from an undesirable activity into a substitute, more positive activity or thought. Highly effective with young children, this technique also works well with angry grown-ups. "When I get angry with a vendor on the phone, I turn my chair and read a poem I have posted on my wall that reminds me of all the wonderful things life has to offer. I also have a sweet photo of my young son that always causes me to smile. It's a great way to change my perspective," says Mary, a purchasing manager.
Lesson #3: No temper tantrums allowed.
It's never appropriate to have a meltdown at the office. Not only does a temper tantrum show a lack of self-control, it is an immature way of dealing with your emotions. Ask anyone in human resources - employees who lose their cool rarely get promoted. Count to 10, take deep breaths, or "blow an imaginary bubble." This extra oxygen gives you time to refresh and relax and slows the adrenaline flow.
Lesson #4: No hitting.
Hitting, throwing or other physical violence is a big no-no. As much as you would like to clobber the guy in the corner office who took credit for your work, acting out your anger in a physical manner will likely cost you your job or worse. If you need to get physical, try a strenuous walk outside, head to the health club, or grab a stress ball.
Lesson #5: Don't be a bully.
It happens on the playground, on the street and it happens in offices across America every day. It's bullying and it is demeaning for the victim at any age. Be aware of your feelings and actions that make you want to belittle, intimidate or tear down the efforts of subordinates or less talented co-workers. Bullies lack self-respect and often have low self-esteem. Take a look at how you feel about yourself and make sure it is not being directed toward others. Consider seeking professional help or counseling.
Lesson #6: What happens at home stays at home.
Teachers must always consider that a child who acts out at school could be reacting to issues that occur at home. We all have mornings when the kids spill the milk, the dog runs away, and we get stuck at a train crossing and behind a school bus. Rather than bringing your frustrations to the office, let it go by the time you arrive. While driving, practice relaxation breathing. Breathe deeply, from your stomach. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut." Listen to relaxing music and concentrate on becoming calm. Use visualization techniques and imagine dropping your morning anger baggage as you walk from the parking lot to the office door.
Lesson #7: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
It's the golden rule - the one our mothers and teachers quoted us hundreds - if not thousands - of times throughout our childhoods. By treating others in a respectful and courteous manner, you're likely to get the same in return.
Lesson #8: Choose your words carefully.
Be very careful when using words like "never" or "always" when talking about yourself or someone else. According to the American Psychological Association, "saying things like ‘This !&-%@ machine never works,' or ‘You're always forgetting things' are most always inaccurate. These statements also serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there's no way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution."
Lesson #9: Grab your crayons.
When you're really mad at someone, use "silly humor" to help defuse your anger. Picture the person you are mad at using an imaginative phrase. If you think your co-worker is a slimeball, use colored markers to draw his or her slimy appearance talking on the phone or oozing from his desk like something from a Nickelodeon cartoon. Visualize this picture each time you encounter the person and you're sure to break a smile. Drawing or other forms of creative expression will usually take the edge off anger.
Lesson #10: Ask yourself, is it worth it?
The next time someone or something at work annoys you, ask yourself if it's worth the irritation and stress it is causing you. Then, ask yourself if it will be important a year from now. If it's truly worth it, by all means take your annoyance to a supervisor or manager. If it's not, let it go.
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