If you find yourself losing control at work, it’s important to step back and see what’s really happening— as hard as that can be to do in the moment.
Sometimes, those intense feelings bubbling up are unrelated to what’s happening at the time, says Lynn Friedman, a psychologist and career consultant. “It could have more to do with your professional relationship with this person, circumstances that led up to this upsetting event, self-confidence or it could spring from earlier life experiences."
Rather than reacting in the moment, buy yourself some time by saying: “This is disappointing to me and I want to think about it. Can we talk about it in a day or two?” Then try to look at what is angering and upsetting you as objectively as possible. “If, for example, you’re very disappointed about a decision affecting a project of yours, think about what might be behind that decision,” Friedman says.
It might also help to vent by writing down your feelings and thoughts, says Deborah Grayson Riegel, author of Oy Vey! Isn’t a Strategy. The writing process may help you resolve your feelings. You want to be careful about just suppressing your feelings, though. That can just add to your stress down the line. Suppression thwarts creativity because energy that could be used for creative thinking is being “siphoned off to help you handle the boss or manage the situation,” says Karen Steinberg, a therapist and coach specializing in work and relationships.
You’re probably not fooling anybody anyway. Although you may think you’re doing a good job of containing your feelings, they usually show in other ways, such as in your facial expressions, the comments you make or your attitude, says Aubrey Daniels, a psychologist who is founder of theconsulting firm Aubrey Daniels International and author of Bringing Out the Best in People.
Appearing visibly agitated, red-faced or raising your voice is generally considered unprofessional. So how should you express your feelings, before they lead to blowups?
It’s mostly a question of timing, Friedman says. If possible, give yourself a day to think about what’s upsetting you. When you do speak to your boss or colleagues, use the same kind of language they use. If your boss can’t talk about feelings, for instance, use language that’s more task- and bottom-line-oriented, like, “I devoted a lot of the organization’s resources and my internal resources to this project and I’d like to learn more about what happened.”
Before you detail your frustrations, let them know that you value your working relationship with them, Riegel says. “Then you can say, ‘Let me explain why this is a hot button for me,’ and ask, ‘Can you tell me what was going on from your perspective?’”
— Adapted from “Finding the Roots of Your Office Anger,” Eilene Zimmerman, The New York Times.
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