Emotions come with being human, but some emotions are more helpful than others. Frustration and anger are emotions that, while common, can be catastrophic if left unchecked in the workplace. The way we express (or suppress) these emotions can take a physical, mental, and emotional toll. It’s okay to feel anger. While there isn’t a way to turn off how we feel, there is a way to express frustration in a way that is less destructive to our well-being. The key is getting a handle on both what triggers your frustration and anger and controlling how you respond.
Manage Your Frustration Triggers
There are a lot of things that could be contributing to your frustration at work. Anything from workplace drama to lack of sleep can result in heightened levels of frustration. While some things are undoubtedly beyond your control, you can often avoid or at least be prepared to respond appropriately to difficult situations.
Thus, it’s critical to identify what triggers your anger and frustrations. Managing your triggers allows you to stop being a victim of circumstances. This then begins the process of dealing with the stressors that are negatively impacting your attitude.
Everyone has their own list of things that upset them, but some common triggers include:
- Feeling over-worked or underpaid
- Office politics or drama
- Personal troubles bleeding over into work (health, finances, depression, etc.)
- Lack of sleep
- Needing a break/vacation
- Lack of flexibility
Never assume people know there is an issue! It is up to you to discuss your issues with a supervisor to address the conditions that cause excess frustration. Bringing concerns to superiors doesn’t mean blaming fellow employees, however. Anger is about your reaction to people and not the people themselves.
Remember, we can’t fix others, but we can find solutions to problems. If you’re the one feeling angry, work on how you can improve your situation. Maybe you need a new space, flex-time, or even a long weekend. It’s okay to request those things. Most managers will be happy to accommodate if it means a more productive employee.
Manage your Reactions Constructively
Anger has a purpose. When we analyze it, it can guide us toward fixing a problem. Essentially, we have to make a choice to use anger constructively instead of destructively. The current pandemic means that routines are a little harder to follow, and problems at work aren’t as easy to remedy as usual. So even if you have done your part to manage your triggers, you may find you still feel frustrated.
Understanding anger means being introspective. If you really want to get a handle on your frustration, you have to do the leg work. There is no one size fits all solution, but there are many smaller steps you can take to conquer your anger and turn it into something productive.
Recognize underlying emotions when you feel angry.
This is where self-examination helps the most. Anger often erupts when we feel our sense of self is under attack. In an effort to protect ourselves from negative feelings — for example, shame, embarrassment, or guilt — our bodies engage the emotional response of anger.
Anger is tricky because it erupts in our behavior, often negatively affecting us and those around us. However, recognizing the underlying emotions helps us to put our anger into perspective and address the root cause instead of just reacting with rage.
Moving can mean more than one thing, depending on whether frustration is situational or habitual. With situational anger, move your body. Exert energy and change your state of being. It might mean a quick walk or trip to the gym (which is beneficial for many reasons) or just stepping outside for a moment to cool down.
If anger is habitual, a change in circumstances may be in order. If your job is constantly making you angry regardless of changes, do you need to stay there? It’s not healthy or normal to be angry all the time. If that is the case, it may be time to re-evaluate and maybe move on to other opportunities.
Phone a friend
It can feel good vent our frustrations to a close friend, but this is something that often does not decrease anger. A more helpful idea is to talk about something other than what is bothering you. Just like when we say “move” physically, you can move your focus by conversing with friends about them and their lives. Good friends often know how to change your state even when you’re not “feeling it,” so they are a great resource when you need to get out of your own head.
Take a moment to breathe
Whether you prefer stopping to take a deep breath in a moment of frustration to avoid an outburst, taking a few moments each day to perform deep-breathing techniques, or even meditating a while, purposeful breathing forces us to pause in order to pump some beneficial oxygen to our brain.
Distract yourself with productivity
You can focus on your anger or you can focus on a task. While that anger may still be brewing, sometimes a meaningful task can refocus your energy long enough to allow those emotions to simmer instead of boil over.
Clean off your desk. Organize some files. Write those emails you’ve been avoiding, or run a quick errand away from the office. Do something productive that can help give your emotions time to process. And as an added bonus, you get the satisfaction of completing a task to help trump those angry feelings!
Seek and utilize therapy when needed
There are many free online publications and even phone apps to help guide you through some cognitive behavioral therapies and other anger management techniques. But if self-help doesn’t appear to be working and anger is impacting your work, family, or personal well-being, therapy with a professional might prove to be a valuable resource for you.
Keep Working to Improve Anger Management
Perhaps you know somebody who seems to never get their feathers ruffled and wondered how they keep it together under stress. Understanding that anger is not the only emotion at play brings some clarity to the situation. Realistically, those individuals may just feel more secure in dealing with those other feelings which helps them to process anger more appropriately, or they have found coping mechanisms that work for them.
The good news is that almost everyone has the potential to deal with frustration in a healthier way, with a little time and contemplation. Additionally, those who find themselves somewhere in the middle can still benefit from different anger management practices to further improve their emotional health. No matter where you fall on the anger spectrum, from mildly frustrated to physically raging, there are always avenues to help cope with those feelings to make you a happier and healthier worker.