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Boss a beast? Don’t get mad, get calm

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in Workplace Communication

Imagine two employees, both working for a difficult boss. One gets yelled at by the boss and leaves his office looking calm and unruffled. The other flees to the bathroom in tears or kicks the wall.

The difference?

It’s possible that one of them was simply born with a calm temperament. It’s also possible that neither was born with a calm temperament, but that one of them has learned to think differently about the boss’s behavior.

Researchers say that between the act itself (yelling) and the consequence (leaving the office), there’s another factor in between: what the employee chooses to believe.

Example: The person running away in tears might believe, “My boss hates me, everyone hates me, I’m a total failure.”

When you’re forced to have contact with an irascible person who makes you fall apart, try one of these five methods for regulating your emotions, recommended by Professor James Gross at Stanford:

1. Avoid the situation.
If the irascible person isn’t your boss, steer clear of interacting with him.

2. Modify the situation. Turn your desk so you don’t have to look at the person.

3. Divert your attention. When he invites you in his office for a chat, focus on your notepad, a picture, anything but looking directly into his face.

4. Change your thinking. “He’s a jerk anyway—what do I care what he thinks?”

5. Repress the emotion. Concentrate on keeping your face still instead of blinking furiously or tightening your mouth.

— Adapted from “Never Let Them See You Sweat,” Kate Zernike, The New York Times.

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