How to Handle Your Anger in the Workplace

It’s so easy to get angry in the workplace, because – let’s face it – so many things go wrong there. A client may be making very unreasonable demands, or your boss may have forced you into overtime for the third Friday in a row. A colleague may refuse to submit the materials you need on time; or people in other departments may have screwed up your paperwork and made you ineligible for a bonus. Either way, you feel righteous indignation and you find yourself wanting to “hulk out.”

Of course, you can’t do that because it’s downright unprofessional if you start screaming in the middle of a meeting. On the other hand, repressing your anger won’t be much better – the resentment will likely fester until you become so frustrated and unhappy that you’ll either quit your job or unconsciously sabotage the company.

As such, we need to find ways to express our displeasure in a way that can produce desirable results for us without destroying our professional relationships. How do we do that? Here are a few things to ponder on:

Write a script

You know how you’re supposed to have a script ready when you reach a professional contact’s voicemail number to clearly explain why you’re reaching out to them, right? The same is true here. Reacting “in the moment” is the equivalent of being totally unprepared to relay a message when you hear the beep in someone’s voice mailing inbox. You don’t get your point across effectively, and people will not take your concerns seriously.

So instead of blowing up, sit down and write what you want to tell them. Edit it until you have all your salient points in order. Once you do, you can express your opinions on the matter more rationally – and this has the added bonus of calming you down and putting some perspective on your anger. Even if you can’t deliver the script (because it’s never the right time or you think the matter has reached a satisfying resolution), you still feel the relief of having expressed your anger in some way.

Walk it off

Sometimes, it’s better to remove yourself from a situation before your feelings escalate to the point of no return. If you need to, make an excuse to leave the room or, if possible, the building. In some cases, the mere act of leaving (even if it’s just temporary) is a subtle indication of your unhappiness. For the most part, however, the purpose of taking a walk is to provide an outlet for the adrenaline that your body produces while you’re angry and spoiling for a fight.

Walking gives your body something other than the desire to take a bat to the nearest fax machine. It also gives you time to think the situation over and examine the events leading up to it. Either way, you give yourself an outlet for your anger without making it the focus of your entire day.

Talk it out respectfully

If you happen to be angry at a specific person who happens to be an employee or colleague of yours, it would be best if you had a conversation with them so that you can improve matters between yourselves. Preferably, you’ll do it when you’ve finished writing down your script or walking it off – otherwise, you need to modulate your tone and manner to avoid putting the other person in a defensive position. Additionally, you need to conduct the conversation in a private area (like a conference room) to avoid gossip and potential escalation. You also need to avoid the use of profanity.

Ideally, you do this kind of thing face-to-face. But in emergency cases (when you’re dealing with remote workers), you can do this online.