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    Three tips for managing anger at the workplace

    Sabine Meuter

    ANN/THE STAR – Your colleague delivers late, your boss has come up with another strange idea, and customers aren’t returning your calls. These are some of the things that can get your blood boiling in the workplace.

    But over the long run, getting upset is not only an unhappy circumstance – it is also unhealthy.

    Which begs the question, how do you best cope at work when your anger level keeps rising?

    “A first step in an acute situation can be to build up distance – take a deep breath and slowly count to 10,” said Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at the University of Leipzig in Germany Hannes Zacher. That alone can be liberating and ensure that you can now take a calmer approach to matters.

    REFLECT ON YOUR OWN ANGER

    But it also makes sense, when you find a quiet moment, to reflect on certain situations and analyse why they make you so angry.

    “You also have to realise that people are different and have different attitudes,” said Zacher.

    In the course of this reflection, you have to compare your own needs and desires with the behaviour of your co-workers that triggers your anger – and then try to find out for yourself where the middle might be.

    But there is another way, something very direct. “It is perfectly acceptable to let others know that they are upsetting you,” said occupational psychologist Zacher. In doing so, you should take a calm, matter-of-fact tone in describing what is bothering you. Such a direct statement like “I can hardly concentrate” should be followed by a suggestion of how to address the situation, the professor said.

    FORMULATING MESSAGES IN THE FIRST-PERSON PERSPECTIVE

    What’s important: If you let others at your workplace know that they are upsetting you, you should always describe it from a first-person perspective, advises occupational psychologist Frank Berzbach. Because what upsets you doesn’t necessarily mean that others feel the same way.

    And it is by no means a good idea to escalate the conversation. “It’s better to ask the other side to think about what they want,” according to Zacher.

    However, it is not always so easy to achieve a serene workplace environment. “Noise can increase the stress level enormously and make you get into a rage over small things more quickly,” Berzbach pointed out. That’s why employees should make sure that their working environment is as quiet as possible.

    “It has also been proven that with increasing age you gain more composure and become more emotionally stable,” said Zacher. You don’t avoid difficult situations, but instead address them openly.

    This prevents aggression from building up.

    An example: If you’re annoyed that team meetings always drag on for so long.

    “Instead of letting your anger build up, you can take the initiative and discuss with your boss how such meetings can be streamlined,” said Zacher.

    SHRUGGING YOUR SHOULDERS IS NOT A SOLUTION

    Under no circumstances is adopting an “it doesn’t matter” attitude a solution. “Indifference is destructive and poisons the working atmosphere,” said Berzbach. You harm yourself and others.

    And what if it happens again that you get into a rage in your daily work? Besides taking deep breaths and counting to 10, it can also help to get a change of scenery: “Just get out and go for a walk around the block,” recommended Zacher.

    But if you can’t do that and have to stay at the workplace, then it can help to turn your attention to a completely different matter, Berzbach advised. This might help you “to gain some distance from that one issue that makes you angry”.

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