Let’s face it, even in the best jobs, even in our DREAM jobs — the ones where our workplace is made up of people that feel more like family than coworkers — there will be moments when you will be engulfed in a flaming hot rage because of an email, a convo over lunch, something said in a meeting, or an unrealistic deadline. And that’s okay! Anger is natural and normal in high-stress situations. As women, it’s an important exercise to allow ourselves to be angry and to validate that feeling. Again, saying it louder for the folks in the back, anger is a valid feeling. That said, what’s not always valid and reasonable is how you handle that anger. Here are a few ways you can tackle and harness your anger at work.
1. Create Space
Though this is important anytime you begin to feel angry, it’s especially important at work. However you create space—closing your email for 15 minutes, walking away from your desk, excusing yourself from the conversation, or simply reflecting inward and taking a few cleansing breaths—it’s important that you really create that space both physically and mentally. Try to remove yourself from the situation with some time, space, and processing before beginning to try to address the situation.
2. Assess the Situation
What was it that made you angry? Did someone say something inflammatory, or do you just disagree with a decision? Is this something you can handle alone, or do you need to pull in HR to address this? Try to take a full inventory of everything that happened, then assess it from the other person’s point of view. Maybe a project manager gave you what seems to be an impossible deadline to meet on top of all of your other work. Try giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. For instance, maybe that project manager is forced to accommodate a client request. You don’t have to rule out you initial assessment that that project manager is trying to sabotage you, but at least try to consider all angles.
If, during your assessment, you aren’t able to empathize with their side or can’t come up with a reasonable explanation (i.e., someone said something blatantly offensive to you), that’s a sign that it might be worth looping in HR.
3. Formulate Your Response
There are a few ways you can handle the situation once you’ve fully assessed it. You can:
Ignore it and move on. It’s not as big of a deal as you initially thought, and this isn’t the hill you want to die on.
Have a constructive conversation. It’s probably a misunderstanding, but it may be important to you and your working relationships to clear the air.
Report it. Whatever happened was completely unacceptable, and this is not the first time it’s come up.
Note things like rage quit or write a strongly worded email aren’t here. No matter what you choose, it’s important that you commit to it. If you’re going to ignore it and move on, really work to do that. It doesn’t work to choose to ignore it but hang onto your frustration.
The same thing goes for having a constructive conversation. (This is my favorite option.) If you’re going to have a constructive conversation, plan it beforehand, and choose your words carefully. It’s okay to be stern and to speak candidly periodically, but do it in a way that’s factual and even keeled as often as possible.
If you opt to report it, make sure you’ve exhausted every other option. Note: there are some situations worth going right to reporting for. If bigotry, violating workplace rights, or sexual misconduct are happening, don’t try to talk it out. Report that right away. That said, if this is a repeat offender, report it and stick to your guns, girl.
4. Work to Let It Go
Whether you bring the frustration to your next therapy session, talk it over with some friends, or use your other coping mechanisms, make sure you take the time to process your anger and release it when it is no longer serving you. This is the hardest part, depending on the situation, but it’s the most important. Hanging onto frustration and anger at work doesn’t punish anyone else but you, and you don’t deserve it. Your anger was there for a reason, so you owe it to yourself to work through that anger and come out better for it on the other side.
// written by Nora Allen
// Image by Photo by energepic.com