The Office Coach offers advice to a reader who works with a colleague who is always angry.
"I have a colleague who is always angry and our work environment is awful as a result"
Anger is a normal, commonly experienced emotion. However, anger can be incredibly destructive if we don't know how to control it.
You may not be able to influence your colleague’s feelings (e.g. of frustration, hurt, harassment, injustice) regardless of whether real or perceived. However, you can draw his attention to the dangers of his behaviour when he acts out in anger, and you can offer some ideas to help him work through his feelings.
Negative consequencesUncontrolled anger leads to many negative consequences, especially in the workplace. For instance, it can damage relationships with our bosses and colleagues; and it can lead people to lose trust and respect for us, especially when we react instantly and angrily to something that we've misperceived as a threat.
This can negatively affect our work performance. Frequent anger poses health risks too. One study found that people who get angry regularly are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, eating disorders, and obesity.
Research has also found a correlation between anger and premature death. Further studies have found that there is a link between anger and conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Doctors Redford Williams and Virginia Williams described 17 strategies in their best-selling book,Anger Kills. These are a few that you might suggest he implements:
1. Keep a hostility log
Draft a hostility log worksheet to monitor the triggers and the frequency of your anger. When you know what makes you angry, you can develop strategies to channel it effectively. This may help your colleague acknowledge that he has a problem. Only then can he begin to make a plan to deal with it.
2. Interrupt the anger cycle
- When you start to feel angry, try the following techniques:
- Yell "Stop!" loudly in your thoughts
- Use physical relaxation techniques like deep breathing or centering
- Count to 20 before you respond
- Manage your negative thoughts with imagery and positive thinking.
- Close your office door or find a quiet space, and meditate for five minutes
- Distract yourself from your anger – visit your favourite website, play a song that you like, daydream about a hobby that you enjoy, or take a walk
- Another approach is to consider the facts of the situation, so that you can talk yourself out of being angry
3. Use empathy
If another person is the source of your anger, use empathy to see the situation from his or her perspective. Be objective here. Everyone makes mistakes, and it is through mistakes that people learn how to improve.
4. See the humour in your anger
Learn to laugh at yourself and do not take everything seriously. The next time you feel tempted to lash out, try to see the humour in your expressions of anger.
One way to do this is to "catastrophise" the situation. This is when you exaggerate a petty situation that you feel angry about, and then laugh at your self-importance.
For example, imagine that you're angry because a sick team member missed a day of work. As a result, a report you were depending on is now late.
To catastrophise the situation, you think, "Wow, she must have been waiting months for the opportunity to mess up my schedule like this. She and everyone on the team probably planned this, and they're probably sending her updates about how angry I'm getting."
Obviously, this grossly exaggerates the situation. When you imagine a ridiculous and overblown version of the story, you'll likely find yourself smiling by the end of it.
5. Listen effectively
Miscommunication contributes to frustrating situations. The better you listen to what someone says, the easier it is to find a resolution that doesn't involve an angry response. When others are speaking, focus on what they're saying, and don't get distracted by formulating your response before they've finished. When they're done speaking, show that you listened by reflecting back what they have just said.
6. Live each day as if it's your last: life is short
If you spend all of your time getting angry, you're going to miss the many joys and surprises that life offers. Encourage him to think about how many times his anger has destroyed a relationship, or caused him to miss a happy day with friends and family. That's time that he will never get back. Remind him that he can prevent this from happening again – the choice is his.
These strategies are only a general guide. If his anger continues to be a problem, you might need to seek the help of a suitably qualified health professional, especially if his anger hurts others, or if it causes anyone physical pain or emotional distress.
Written by Deirdre Elphick-Moore