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Keep your Cool
10 Ways Smart People Maintain Professionalism at Work Even When They're Mad
Adobe Stock / fizkes
Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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Did a coworker just undermine you in a meeting? Has your boss piled on several new assignments at the end of the week? Or were you passed over for a promotion in favor of a less-qualified coworker?

It’s normal to feel angry at work sometimes, but it’s also important to maintain professionalism. How do you do that? Here are 10 strategies. 

10 ways to cope with anger at work

If you’re feeling angry at work, try these 10 steps to calm down and move on. 

1. Accept the feeling.

It can be frustrating and even frightening to feel angry at work. You may want to nip it in the bud and try to force yourself to calm down immediately, but fighting the feeling will only make it worse. Instead, accept that you’re feeling angry. It may even help to verbalize it, even if only in your mind. Tell yourself, “I’m angry, and this is a natural.”

Once you’re able to accept your anger, you can begin to move forward and calm down. It’s also important to remind yourself that even though the anger is normal, it’s not helpful to you, and you should work on coping with it. 

2. Think back to the last time you felt angry at work.

This can’t be the first time you felt angry or frustrated at work. Reflect on a previous time you had this response and how you handled it. What happened? Chances are, it worked out, either because of something you did or a natural resolution. Your anger probably didn’t have much of an impact on how the issue was ultimately resolved and may have even hindered it.

Recognizing that things usually work out will help you see that this situation is unlikely to be different than the previous time. That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be angry (see #1), but it’s important to know that whatever is frustrating you will probably turn out okay, just like it has before.

3. Take a break.

If you’re able to remove yourself from the situation if only for 10 minutes, do it. It’s best to take this step before things escalate. Take a walk around the block. Take a few deep breaths. Drink some water. Another strategy is to picture yourself angry, considering how you come off to other people when you’re reacting this way. These steps will help you calm down and address the situation more rationally.

If you’re in the middle of a heated argument, you can even tell the other person that you need a minute. Even if it seems a little awkward, it’s better to do it now than to let things get out of control.

4. Distract yourself.

Is there some other work you can do? Can you talk to someone about something other than the issue at hand? Do you have a moment to meditate or read a few pages of a book? It can be helpful to find something else to do to momentarily forget about your anger. This will allow you to regain your composure and recharge and come back to the issue when you’ve calmed down and can approach it with a clear head. 

5. Catch it early.

Don’t wait until you’re already furious to try to cope with your feelings. Learn your triggers and the warning signs so you can catch and address them before they turn into a problem. For example, perhaps there’s a super annoying coworker who you know will make an unreasonable demand of you. When you see her approaching, take a few deep breaths or think of a calming mantra to prevent yourself from reacting too strongly. Or, perhaps your boss is prone to dumping work on you at 4:00 pm on Friday. Rather than seething (internally or externally), recognize that it’s coming and plan out how you’re going to approach the situation. 

6. Consider a different perspective.

Look at the situation as if you’re an outside observer. Try to consider alternate perspectives. How would someone else see the situation and your reaction to it? While you could be reacting in a perfectly normal way, it’s also possible that a more objective evaluation of the issue will help you see that your reaction or the incident itself is overblown. 

7. Calmly confront the trigger.

If another person is triggering you, confront her in a calm, collected way. Rather than blaming or yelling at her, explain how what she’s doing is upsetting you, using “I" statements, such as “I feel…”

You should also try to understand her perspective. In fact, you might ask her directly what she thinks of the situation to see why things might have happened the way they did.

8. Write it down.

Writing down the details of situations that bother you, including your feelings about them, can help get them out of your mind. This is especially true if you can’t stop thinking about what happened and are becoming increasingly bothered by and angry about the issue. 

9. Work toward a resolution.

This may seem like it’s easier said than done, but focusing on how to resolve the problem rather than perseverating on the details of what went wrong about how angry and frustrated you are about it will allow you to move on more quickly. You’ll become stuck in a spiral if you dwell on the negative aspects of the issue.

Instead, consider how you might lessen the impact of this type of conflict in the future, or work on a solution for what’s happening right now.

10. Take preventative steps to keep anger from getting the better of you.

If you’re frequently feeling angry at work, you can take some general steps to improve your mental and physical health, helping you react in a more controlled way. They include:

Getting better sleep and improving your sleep hygiene

• Meditating

• Exercising

• Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol

Anger is a normal response to many situations in the workplace, but how you handle that anger can impact your job and relationships with colleagues. Rather than overreacting or letting issues escalate, try taking these steps. They can go a long way in improving your mood and overall work environment.

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