How to Handle Anger at Work
I was recently on a panel, "Beyond Glass Ceilings and #GirlBoss, how gender inequality shapes the workplace." I shared a bit about equal pay/negotiating your worth, on behalf of Ladies Get Paid, and then a lot on women's relationship to anger, something that’s been in the news recently (i.e. Serena, tennis court, final game, big rage, etc..).
This is a topic I’ve thought a lot about in my own life, mainly because I used to think I just never got mad - it just wasn’t part of my personality.
Oh wow the tables have turned.
With a lot more self-awareness, I’ve realized that anger is an emotion I typically stuff down (aka pretend like it didn’t happen), which can have really bad health repercussions, not to mention, make us feel powerless at work, OR, when I’m angry, I cry (which apparently is extremely common for women).
It has come to my attention that we need to get better at express ourselves and honoring our own emotions. I'm not saying to rage at your coworker who pisses you off, but I am proposing a process to channel your emotion into direct communication.
To illustrate this point, think about getting an angry email from a boss/superior who's been waiting for a response to something and you haven't gotten to it yet, but you're still within the deadline, but he/she is impatient. Here's what to do:
1) Honor that anger. It's in you, you can't deny it, and you need to do something with it. Otherwise, it will build up, consume you, and suck the life out of you (slowly enough so you don't really notice, until it’s BAD, trust me:)). I recommend writing back to that person (IN A NON-SENDABLE WORD DOC :)) all of the feelings you're feeling about their nasty email. Feel those emotions.
2) You should feel a little more in control now. Breathe. Figure out the common goal you're both trying to achieve. Why is this person being pushy? What would you like to accomplish? Write down, in that same non-sendable doc, what you recommend in order to reach the desired mutual outcome.
3) Now that you're clear on what you'd like to say, you can either email them back, or I highly recommend picking up the phone to prevent the situation from getting too heated. A brawl is rarely useful in the office, but a direct conversation about what's being done to meet the goal, and in some situations, educating how you'd like to be treated in similar scenarios, is more important today than ever before.
I know, it's easier said than done, but the more we can stick up for ourselves, the more we'll be able to step into our power and get what we want in (and out of) the office. And I must note, in some cases, organizations are so stuck in their ways that there will be no room for your opinion (even if it’s for the best interest of everyone). In that case, it’s time to plan your exit strategy.