Workplaces can be difficult situations. Some workers seem to be born to anger you, others do unfair things to you. Other times, stress makes you want to hit the roof.
Here are five tools that can help you survive all kinds of workplaces under almost any kind of condition. They'll help you handle conflict and show you how how to deal with creeps, freaks, and bullies, so you'll channel anger and frustration into creativity, focus, and drive.
1. The Buddhist Anger-Management Approach
Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist spiritual leader, recommends that when you feel angry, do four things.
- Imagine your anger like a storm passing through you.
- Stop and feel the turmoil.
- Breathe in and out with that emotion.
- Follow your breathing.
This exercise detaches you from workplace events or people that anger you and helps you control the situation. It's best if you're able to leave the room and do some walking meditation where you focus on your steps or breathing as you walk. If you're unable to do that, continue with your work, and think to yourself as you inhale and exhale: "Breathing in, I know anger is in me. Breathing out, I will take good care of my anger."
Thich Nhat Hanh compares this exercise to a radiator that releases waves of warm air to embrace the coldness in a room. Your workplace is seething with conflict. Your mindfulness will embrace that anger with its warm non-judgmental energy.
2. Seeing-As-Is Anger Management Approach
Communication can be compared to tossing a ball. When people communicate with one another, they're tossing a message to their partner. However, sometime the other person fails to catch the message because their upbringing, experiences, or culture made them interpret the ball (or message) in an unintended way. This may lead to disagreement and often happens in a super-hyper environment like the workplace, which has a mix of different backgrounds and cultures. If that occurs, you can do two things.
- Look at the angry message as-is: What did the other person actually say?
- Communicate with your partner to see why the 'ball' fell. You can say something like: "I feel hurt with the way I understood your words. Can you help me understand what you meant or whether I understood you correctly?" Or, "What did I do or say that made you say that?" Sometimes, it's a simple snarl in communication that needs to be straightened out to calm yourself or someone else.
3. Neural Anger-Management Approach
Brain scientists show that when you're angry, you're stuck in the feeling part of your brain called the amygdala. It's hard for you to move on. You grow stuck because that part of the brain is filled with the fluid of emotion and makes it difficult for you to think clearly. What can you do? Try to distract yourself by focusing on something that is non-emotional, such as the color of the person's dress or the title letters of a book that is on your desk. Maybe look at some papers on your desk or the notices on the wall.
Neuroscientists Ron Sun and Robert Mathews (2012) reported doing these kind of exercises helps people deal with difficult workplace events and toxic coworkers in a more constructive way. The fluid in their brain moves from the emotion-filled amygdala to the more logical-thinking prefrontal locus. They're calm and earn the confidence and power to deal with difficult workplace situations.
4. Satan's Cesspool
In his book The No Asshole Rule, professor Robert Sutton of Stanford University shows how people can use a technique that rafters use to help employees swim past difficult workplace situations. If you fall out of the boat in the rapids, don't try to fight it. Just continue floating with your feet out in front of you.
Do you find yourself encountering bullies and mean people at work? Imagine they are rocks and you are passively floating past them. You're no wimp, but rather you're controlling the way your body and emotions react, and you are powerfully channeling yourself past the situation. Dr. Sutton writes that the "Satan's Cesspool strategy" helps people keep their mental and physical health intact and helps them deal with any workplace environment, no matter how stormy or disagreeable that situation may be.
5. Control Yourself to Control Others
More than fifty years ago, human relations consultant Les Giblin advised people they could control anger in others by using two well-known facts of psychology.
- You control another's tone of voice or actions by the way you speak or act. Keep your voice soft, and people are forced to lower their own voices. Proverbs (15:1) says, "A soft answer turns away wrath."
- Behave in a certain way, and you'll feel that way. More than that, the way you behave influences the way your workers - and boss - react to you. So if you're angry, force yourself to smile. Not only will you be able to control your own anger, but you may be able to keep another person from becoming angry if you start in time.
Millions of people feel trapped in places where abuse from boss or employees (or from both) is the rule rather than exception. By using appropriate strategies, you can help diffuse workplace anger and frustration.