March 13, 2013
Q&A: How can I control my temper at work?
Q: I’ve realized that I lose my temper at work once in a while, and people seem to be nervous around me. I don’t want to have that effect on people; what can I do?
A: Look at your behavior, practice new habits and get support from people around you.
An uncontrolled temper has a corrosive effect on a work environment, and it’s to your credit that you want to address it.
Realistically, if you only lose your temper “once in a while,” it’s unlikely that you’d see such a strong effect. So, take an honest look at just how often you get angry. If you don’t remember, keep a log of your emotions for a week or so; it could be an eye-opener.
How do you show anger? Do you yell or get verbally abusive? Stomp or slam things around? Notice where you may be crossing the line, and imagine how you’d feel if a co-worker or boss behaved that way with you.
Reflect on whether your anger is justified. Are you getting angry over minor issues? If so, consider whether you’re projecting anger from something else on this work issue. If you do feel that anger is justified, identify more constructive ways to show your feelings to get the outcome you want.
It will be helpful to get input from others. Ask people you trust for their feedback on this issue, and listen without getting defensive. If you find yourself getting angry or wanting to challenge their points of view, take some deep breaths and stay quiet.
Make some specific plans to change your behavior. If certain circumstances trigger anger, make a strategy to manage your response. Some simple tactics can make all the difference; counting to 10 really does work, as does giving yourself a “timeout” for a few minutes to cool down, or taking some deep breaths.
To the extent possible, avoid situations that evoke an excessive response. Also, look at other circumstances in your life and address any other issues that may be the underlying source of your anger.
One of the tough things about making others walk on eggshells is that they don’t know when to start trusting you. It’ll help if you let folks know that you’re working on your anger issue. Ask for their support, and be understanding if it takes awhile for them to be more comfortable. Don't be afraid to apologize when you slip, and then just keep trying.
Build momentum by celebrating successes. If you make it through a stressful situation without losing your cool, acknowledge it to yourself in some small but meaningful way.
You can get your temper under control, and once you do, both you and your workplace will benefit.
Submit questions to career coach Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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