5 Secrets to Dealing with Anger at Work


We all get frustrated at work and knowing how to deal with anger isn’t always at the top of our to-do list. There’s not enough time and there are too many things to do.

There are also too many things that can go wrong, and quite frankly, too many people that just drive us crazy. But getting mad at work is almost always a mistake.

So too is holding that anger in. So what do you do when our internal kettle is boiling and we think we are going to explode?

Here are five ways to show you how to deal with anger at work.

1. Take a Time Out

Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents or teacher would tell you to count to ten when you were angry? The reason they did that was because that ten seconds would give you a break, a time out from your anger.

It was psychological, but it was also physical. When you slow down, your heart stops beating as fast, and this in turn slows down the delivery of adrenaline to your blood system. Adrenaline is what makes you flushed and red in the face and also what ignites your “flight or fight” response.

So when you get really angry at work, give yourself a ten second time out, and if that doesn’t work take a ten minute break. Walk around the building, walk around the block. Do something, anything, that will create some space between you and the dangerous emotion of anger.

2. Breathe

When we get angry, our whole body tightens up. It’s part of that adrenaline flow that is helping us to get ready for flight or fight.

If you look closely at someone else who is angry you might also see that it looks like they are holding their breath. That’s another natural reaction that your body has to anger. You don’t actually stop breathing, you just take very short or shallow breaths. This type of breathing however, only adds to your anger and feelings of discomfort, because it reduces the flow of oxygen to your body and your brain.

You can’t think straight when you’re angry or when your breathing is limited to a few rapid pants. Stop and focus on your breathing. Take three long breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then watch as your body and breathing return to normal, and as a result your anger will subside.

3. Call a Friend

Too many of us have all gotten the same message from our parents, teachers and superiors over the years: Deal with your own problems; you don’t need help; you can do this on your own. The idea that they were giving us was and is a good one — learn to be independent. But in practice it is not so simple.

There are many situations in life and in work that we need help with, and feeling angry or overly emotional at work might just be one of those.

Repeat this message to yourself if you are one of the people who was told to stand on your own two feet: It’s okay to ask for help. It’s particularly okay when you are angry at work to pick up the phone and talk to a friend. Sometimes just the act of talking will relieve the pressure, or they might have other suggestions for you. You don’t have to always do it on your own.

4. Go Home Early

Sometimes you just can’t take it anymore. Your anger is raging, you are at the end of your rope, and you are planning to make a noose to hang someone with. That’s when you may have to pack up your stuff and head home early for the day.

This may not always be possible if you are a pilot or a brain surgeon, but for most of us, we can slip out a little early if we really have to. Some days you may really have to because the alternative is that you stay at work and explode.

You don’t ever want to do that. Those of us who have vented inappropriately to customers, co-workers, or even our boss can tell you that. You just don’t want to do that. Take your stuff and get out of there. If it costs you a few bucks it may still be worth it in the long run, because you will still have a job to come back to tomorrow.

5. It’s Just a Feeling

Even as the blood is rushing to our head, and our eyes are seeing red and fire all over the place, and we the feel that our insides are going to erupt like a volcano, we have to remember that anger is just a feeling.

We don’t have to do anything just because we feel angry. We don’t even have to say anything, although we can feel the bile and venom building at the back of our throat. It’s just another feeling.

The amazing thing about anger is that it will subside. We don’t believe that when our head and our heart are pounding, but it will settle down and go back to wherever it came from. Sometimes we just have to wait it out, be patient, and let it go. It’s just a feeling.

Do you have any tips for dealing with anger at work? Leave them in the comments!


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Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of Change the Things You Can (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit: Change the Things You Can
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Discussion

  1. Jonathan Clift on the 25th July

    Taking time out is such a simple solution but often hard to actually carry out simply because you’re angry! However, anger will cloud your judgement, so if you can step away from something for a few minutes it really will make a big difference. A common example is if you’ve received an email thats really got your back up…your response will be so much different if you step away from it for 10minutes and reply a little later on with a level head.

    Wasting energy on things that anger you is a real waste and this is what I try to think about when something really makes me angry. I try to focus on where my energy could be better spent, which helps me deal with situations far better as I know I don’t want to waste energy on unproductive things such as getting angry and stressed out.

  2. Michelle on the 7th August

    Something I’ve found that works well when you can’t leave is to just write down every single thought that is rushing through your mind no matter what it is (maybe not where anyone will see or find it). Because there is no one to judge you you’ll get way more out and find that once you’ve finished ranted you’ll sigh some relief and be able to get back on with your work. It works for me anyway !

  3. Levy on the 21st August

    Being mad at work is really inevitable. I guess all of us already experienced such kind of feeling. But every people has different approach on reacting with that kind of emotion. I just cry and cry until the feeling is gone. Just great I read this tips. I don’t want to ruin my self and work just because of anger. I want to keep the balance. Great I read this awesome article and be able to learn this tips! Thanks Mike!

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