We have all heard of road rage and perhaps experienced it at some point in our lives. Just like in traffic, life in office can get hectic and cause us to have a case of desk rage. A small trigger like a computer malfunction or a comment from a colleague could be the tipping point that sets off a bout of rage or tears.
We all know that bursting into tears or having a fit of anger at work is inappropriate. However, some days our emotions get the better of us. Some days we are sleep deprived, have added demands at home, plus a heavy workload or difficult colleagues in office. Stress mounted one on top of the other makes us more prone to emotional upheaval and outbursts.
Emotions are a natural and healthy part of our lives and we cannot turn them on and off like a light switch. However, if we have an outburst at work, not only does it create drama, it may also affect our credibility as professionals. Crying gives the impression that you are weak, fragile or unable to handle the pressures of work. Angry or violent outbursts make others wary of interacting with us and can lower productivity.
So if emotions are a natural part of life, what do we do if we get really upset at work?
Fortunately there are several things we can do to keep our emotions in check. And in case we do slip up, there are ways to deal with the aftermath. Though our emotions are natural, we do need to be careful how we express them in the workplace.
1. Don't bottle up your feelings. Research conducted by emotional intelligence experts, Henry Evans and Colm Foster, shows that individuals and teams that express their emotions in healthy ways turn out to be the highest performing in the long run. So the next time you get irritated with your teammate for making a mistake, express some of it. Filter out the colourful language, sarcasm and criticism. Tapping into your emotions and expressing them without criticizing or ridiculing another person can improve your productivity. Instead of shouting or sulking, communicate your need to the other person and tell them how they can do things differently.
2. Know yourself. Be aware of your internal emotional state. If you enter the workplace already tense from something that happened at home, take some time to calm yourself down and set aside your personal issues. If you have unresolved matters at home which need your attention, jot down a brief to-do list to take care of later. If needed, make a phone call or two to delegate tasks. Then set the matter aside in your head.
3. When you notice yourself getting worked up, take a moment to collect yourself. Do whatever works - excuse yourself and take a small walk, get a drink of water, take deep breaths and take time to think before responding.
4. Channel those emotions towards action. Rather than let your emotions control you, once you've had a good cry in the bathroom or otherwise calmed yourself down, focus on the upsetting situation. If your subordinates are continuing to make the same mistakes time and again, perhaps something is not clear to them. Perhaps a protocol or a process needs to be tweaked in order to get the results you are aiming for. Perhaps a colleague is slacking off and needs a one on one meeting to find out what is going on with them. Shouting at a colleague will relieve your anger for the moment, but it will not help you in the long run. Use your emotions towards increasing productivity instead of creating a scene and scaring people into cooperating with you.
Let's say you did lose control of your emotions at work. First of all, don't despair. A once in a while occurrence is acceptable. If you have shouted at someone or used demeaning language, you need to apologize. In case you had an outburst in front your boss, explain yourself to them later on. Once you've done so, no need to bring it up again. Work on coping with your emotions in a healthy way, and make sure it does not happen again!
If you commonly have emotional outbursts at work, it will affect your reputation. If controlling your emotions at work is routinely a problem for you, consider talking to a counselor to help reduce your stress levels and learn different tools to deal with workplace difficulties.