We’ve all done it. We’ve been angry while at work and kicked the trashcan across the room or thrown a pencil at the wall. Typically it’s a result of stress from difficult situations or a difference in opinion; sometimes we bring lingering anger from our personal life into the office. No matter the source of our frustration and anger, this is something we personally need to control, AND it’s something management needs to be able to deal with.

Anger is a natural emotion. It happens to everyone at some time. And we all need to know how to control it – in ourselves, and sometimes in others. Why? Because sometimes people express their anger in unacceptable ways, and this can be detrimental to everyone around them.

Here are a few steps to help you deal with anger in the office:

  1. Acknowledge it. Nothing gets better if it’s ignored or swept under the carpet. Maybe the anger is justified (but maybe the way the anger manifests is not), either way, you need to recognize that it’s a real emotion, and set a time and place to discuss the issue behind the emotion. Don’t try to talk the issue through while the anger is still erupting, but offer a listening ear at a soon, but later date.
  2. Sit down and talk about it. Your discussion will include both the exhibition of anger and the cause of the anger. Maybe the feelings are justified. But having feelings and expressing them in a professional setting are not the same.
  3. Take a look at your corporate culture. Hopefully you have processes in place that will encourage positive behavior, rational problem solving, and positive attitudes. Start by setting an example, make certain disciplinary processes are also in place, and provide training in how to respond and de-escalate aggressive behaviors, prioritize safety, keep records, and if necessary, take swift disciplinary action.
  4. Remember, it’s not about you. A person’s anger is typically not completely related to the issue they claim to be angry over, it’s rooted in many other things, so don’t take it personally. If someone else was sitting across the table from them, they would exhibit the same anger and frustration. Remember this, try to be empathetic and understanding. Listen to them. Once you get to the root of the immediate problem, you can begin to make changes as appropriate.
  5. Make a plan. If their anger turns out to be justified and changes need to be made in your office, start immediately to begin examining options. And help them make a plan for a more appropriate response if something angers them again. If their anger turns out to be from outside of the office, suggest some personal time (per your company policies) and remind them that although their personal issues may be overwhelming, they should not come into the office.

But before it ever gets to the office, you need to figure out how to personally manage your anger, here are some thoughts:

  • Look for early signs of frustration and anger – You can feel it, no one else can, so learn to recognize these early signs as soon as they start. If you can gain control of your anger early, you will likely avoid an embarrassing or dangerous situation. It’s a choice, so once you feel those early signs, make the right choice.
  • Stop and breathe – Take a deep breath, close your eyes, shift your thoughts and calm.
  • Pretend you are looking in a mirror – How do you look when you are angry? How do you act when you’re angry? Chances are, if you watched yourself, you would not like what you see. And you’d have a better understanding of why others might not enjoy being around you.

Bottom line: we all get angry, but it’s how we handle it – as an individual, a colleague, a friend, a manager – that will make the difference between total melt down or diffused situation.