Professional Development

How to Control Your Bad Temper Before You Explode at Work

Written by Peter Jones

It’s easy to get angered—even at work. Anger can be a normal and productive human emotion, but it can also take a toll on your relationships—professional and personal—and it’s not always best aired in the office.

Here are a few tips for keeping your cool in stressful or unfair situations. So next time you find your blood boiling over that inappropriate email, try moderating your response to save your sanity and your professional reputation.

1. Take a moment.

Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Try to view the situation as you would if you were an indifferent third party. Try to avoid having a purely emotional reaction and analyze the situation. Will you still be angry about this in a year? If not, move on. Think before you speak or react because your reaction could always make the situation even worse.

2. Be the reasonable one.

In situations with high emotions or raised voices, be the sea of calm—the person who, in a low and rational tone of voice, diffuses the situation. This will help show that you are not the aggressor, which might help the actual aggressor to see the contrast and adjust accordingly.

3. Don’t take things personally.

Some things are personal. But in the business world, they’re usually not—especially if you’re an entrepreneur and your business just is personal to you, try to remember that it isn’t for your clients. Put yourself in others’ shoes and try to practice patience.

4. Walk away.

If you feel like you’re going to explode, try to remove yourself from the touchy situation before that happens. You’ll save yourself and everyone else involved the embarrassment, plus give yourself some time to rethink, regroup, and restrategize.

5. Speak from a place of calm.

If you’ve got a legitimate grievance, you should air it. Just make sure you’re doing so via appropriate channels and you’re doing so when you’re calm enough to state your concerns without being hurtful or vengeful to others, and without relying on intensified emotion to make your case.

6. Take a time out.

Take some you time. Go for a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Hit the gym—the oxygen or the endorphins will help to physically calm you. You never know how much less angry you will feel once you’ve calmed down a bit. Nothing is ever as fraught as it feels in the heat of the moment. Relaxation skills are your friend.

7. Come up with solutions.

Are there constructive ways you could fix the situation or improve the outcome? A way to schedule a meeting to discuss disconnects or disgruntlements? A better way forward? Come up with a way to avoid these situations in the first place and you’ll be everybody’s hero.

8. Say “I.”

Sticking with I statements is a great way to try and find a resolution to a situation without angering anyone else or increase tension. Talk about why you are upset, not what others have done to make you so. And don’t hold grudges. Allow yourself to forgive, forget, and move on from tense situations rather than stewing in the bitterness and injustice of it all or harboring ill feelings about your colleagues or boss.

9. Crack a joke.

Nothing diffuses a situation quiet like humor. Don’t make any jokes at anyone else’s expense, but see if you can’t find a lighthearted or funny comment that would put everyone—including yourself—at greater ease.

10. Get help if you need it.

If you still have a really hard time controlling your anger, then it might be a good idea for you to get some help. Especially if you feel your anger is easily out of control. Getting a handle on this will save you a lot of hurt and regret over the course of your life and career.

About the author

Peter Jones