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Why so angry?

With tempers flaring easily in most workplaces, what can you do to stay calm when you really want to blow up?

brunch Updated: Jul 06, 2013 17:33 IST
Shreya Sethuraman
Shreya Sethuraman
Hindustan Times

Speak when you’re angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Do these words by American journalist-satirist Ambrose Bierce resonate with you, too? When you are angry, it is tough to judge between right and wrong. And at emotionally-fraught workplaces, it’s easy to lose your cool and lash out at co-workers. However, it never leads to anything positive. Either your relationship with that person sours forever or there’s a permanent stagnancy between the two of you.

Some situations call for a good loud scream. But that’s hardly practical. Let the experts tell you how you to react with civility and professionalism, when all you want to do is roar the place down.

Situation#1: when a co-worker refuses to cooperate

This happens often. You want your colleague to perhaps read the draft you’ve prepared, or maybe you want them to fill in for you because you filled in for them last time they asked. But you’re shocked when your colleague refuses outright.

The immediate reaction: Unless you’re the epitome of patience, you’ll be irritated. "The typical human psyche will first turn to irritability and, for those who are slightly volatile, anger," says Rachna Singh, lifestyle expert and psychologist with Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon. You could also feel helpless at times.

How you should react: It would be wise, perhaps, to let it go the first time it happens. Everybody has bad days, and there’s no way to predict which way their mood will swing. "The people concerned should work harder on role allocation and communicating clearly what’s required of a situation," says Tarun Chandna, founder and manager of Exper, a behavioural training organisation.

So how does one control one’s blood rushing up to the brain? "Take a few deep breaths. I know it’s difficult and might not work at first, but you need to train yourself to do this," says Singh. "Even having a glass of water helps.

Damage control: "At times, if a person is going through a tough time personally or professionally and you are aware of it, it is best to handle the situation with empathy," says Payal Mukherjee, senior

consultant with Spearhead InterSearch, an executive search firm.

What you definitely shouldn’t do: "Don’t make matters worse by immediately going to your superior or HR," says Chandna. Singh adds: "If you are screaming, don’t do it in a place where there are people around. It becomes hurtful when done in front of others."

Cubicle cool tip

"Understand that each person is a product of his or her environment. They’re not robots who’ll always behave the way you want them to," says life coach Ramon Llamba.

Situation#2: when your boss shouts at you for no fault of yours

This too, is not an uncommon incident, and could happen even outside your office. Your spouse might get angry, your parents might seem unreasonable to you, and your friend might randomly blow a fuse. At work, it’s nothing new. You slog and slog on a project, which doesn’t work out despite your best efforts. And your boss loses it.

The immediate reaction: Shock and anger. "However, if it’s a one-off incident, we let it go assuming that the boss has had a bad day or is under some sort of stress," says Mukherjee. "But if it becomes a routine, one tends to question the person’s capability of being the boss or of you wanting to work in the organisation under this person."

How you should react: As uncalled for and humiliating as your superior’s behaviour may appear, you need to stay calm. "Try to logically look at why you got screamed at. There could be a genuine reason, but whatever it seems, do not take it personally," says Singh. Life coach Ramon Llamba, who works with business executives, advocates an interesting solution popular in the West. "Called F**k It Therapy, it’s used in situations where one has no control. Just say f**k it and laugh it off. You need to move on like nothing happened," she says.

Damage control: "Allow your boss to let off some steam and later on, when you are calmer as well, let your boss know how this affected you. Say you didn’t feel good about what happened," says Chandna.

What you definitely shouldn’t do: "No matter what happens, never bitch to your colleagues about what your boss did. This will only result in unnecessary gossip and murkier office politics," advises Singh. "For all you know, it could be used against you later on," she adds.

Cubicle cool tip

Since there’s really nothing you can do about your boss’s temper, the best strategy, say experts, is to ignore the situation. when you get a work-related call on a vacation

You’ve been working continuously for months and deserve a holiday. When the day finally arrives, your joy knows no bounds. Just when you begin to enjoy a single malt in the hills, you get a call from work. You need to dig some dirt for an assignment. This, when people know you’re on a vacation.

The immediate reaction: Frustration and annoyance. And understandably so. "On a vacation, you’re programmed mentally to be relaxed. It’s human to feel upset," says Llamba.

How you should react: With mobile connectivity now spreading across every corner of the globe, it’s impossible not to reach someone over the phone. And if someone can reach you, they probably will. "Vacation calls happen all the time. That’s why you need to do your homework before you leave by sending an official email and letting people know whom to get in touch with in your absence," says Chandna. However, if the call is urgent and you know only you can handle it, it’s wise to answer the call, advises Mukherjee.

How to do damage control: There’s no point in being obstinate and not answering your phone, says Singh. "And if not answering your phone leads to a goof up of sorts, own up and apologise. A simple sorry will not make you any smaller," she adds.

What you definitely shouldn’t do: Regardless of the degree of your irritation, never be rude to the person calling. It could be a genuine emergency, say experts.

Cubicle cool tip

Proper planning and handing over of your duties before hopping onto your vacation wagon is crucial.

Situation#4: when a colleague is rude or nasty to you

The first thing to do when there is a war of words between employees, is to disengage, says Suveer Bajaj, co-founder and director of HR and Operations at FoxyMoron, a digital ideas and solutions agency. "Before giving your point of view, it becomes important to listen to their side of the story. They may be in the wrong, but it becomes our prerogative to give them a chance to voice their opinion about how they have been aggrieved," he adds.

The immediate reaction: Many think the ‘an-eye-for-an-eye’ theory is apt for such a situation. "The instant reaction would entail you being rude and nasty to your colleague," says Llamba.

How you should react: "If it’s a one-off situation, it is best to talk about it at a suitable time," recommends Mukherjee. "However, if it becomes a recurring issue, take it to the higher authorities."

Damage control: If you want to rebuild bridges, just talk it out with your colleague. You’ll never reach any solution if all you do is bicker.

What you definitely shouldn’t do: Never turn around and be nasty or nastier in return, tempting as it may sound. You don’t want to be the person with a terrible temper.

Cubicle cool tip
To succeed in interpersonal relationships, understand that we are all products of our circumstances. “We have a choice to stay calm and intelligently understand the situation,” says Llamba.

Situation#5: when a colleague takes credit for your work
This can be humiliating and annoying. You know you went the extra yard for a certain project – sacrificed a vacation, missed a cousin’s wedding, weren’t there for your best friend when she needed you. This project was snatched from you right under your nose and you were too stunned to react.

The immediate reaction: Any person would feel shocked, cheated and disheartened, say experts.

How you should react: “You ought to discuss the matter with your colleague in a calm fashion,” says Chandna. “Tell her or him ‘I didn’t feel good about this or I will be careful the next time I have such an idea’. It’s important to talk to people, and not about them,” he adds.

Damage control: “Confront your colleague and also let your boss know about what happened, albeit in a gentle manner,” says Singh. And if this happens more than once, you can also report the matter to HR. “Employees should be encouraged to route the complaint through the right channel,” says Bajaj.

What you definitely shouldn’t do: Never humiliate the individual in front of everyone.

Cubicle cool tip
“Be very wary of such colleagues. If they’ve stabbed you once, they can stab you again. Don’t share any information with them,” advises Rachna Singh.

Situation#6: when colleagues bitch about you behind your back
Some colleagues are downright nasty. They like gossip and politics and love talking about people. Sometimes you may get carried away and join in. However, when you hear unkind words about you from your colleagues, it hurts.

The immediate reaction: Apart from feeling shocked, you may feel ‘not wanted’ and rejected, says Llamba.

How you should react: You’ll always find people who will add fuel to the fire, so you need to be wary of them, says Singh.

Damage control: “If the words being uttered are harmful in any way, it’s better to speak one-on-one with the individual, else just let it go,” says Mukherjee. Simple communication can solve so many matters and so many things that are left unsaid. “Every human being has the capacity to understand and operate from a space of love and compassion, so give them a chance to justify their behaviour,” says Llamba.

What you definitely shouldn’t do: Never resort to name-calling or passing value judgements, say Llamba.

Cubicle cool tip
“As long as it’s not causing you any harm, enjoy the attention,” says Payal Mukherjee.

Phrases you must never use at the workplace

“It’s not fair”: Avoid this. Instead, collect facts, make a case study and present it intelligently to the right audience to put your point across.

“That’s not my problem/ job”: If someone makes an important request, even if you’re very busy, try to look for a solution.

“I hate this company’: Don’t make such judgmental statements which reflect poorly on you. If you have a genuine complaint, communicate it with tact and consideration.

“But we’ve always done it that way”: Leaders love people who innovate. This statement shows that you don’t follow a problem-solving approach and don’t think creatively.

Courtesy: Satya D Sinha, CEO, MANCER Consulting (that provides talent management solutions)

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From HT Brunch, July 7
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