How to Handle Incidents of "Office Rage"
by Christopher Lisotta, for Yahoo! HotJobs
Recent research shows a welcome decline in workplace stress, but, like an unhealthy condition that never really goes away, the reality of workplace stress can still lead to uncomfortable situations at the office.
According to a study done by career coach Rachelle J. Canter and Opinion Research Group, there was a 15-point drop from 2000 to 2007 in the percentage of people who reported workplace stress is a problem for them at least occasionally. She also found that 16 percent of workers said this year that stress caused them to yell at a co-worker (down from 29 percent in 2000).
The overall atmosphere may have improved, but for workers stuck in an office with a co-worker who yells at them, damages property, or shows signs of "office rage," life is difficult. Canter defines office rage as "verbal or physical abuse that is out of proportion and inappropriate in a workplace setting."
Don't Take It Personally
If you're faced with a coworker who overacts or lashes out in an inappropriate manner, don't take it personally, said anger management expert Leonard Ingram, who created angermgmt.com. "Other people are going to get angry at you whether the anger is just or not."
The next step is to "not make yourself angrier than you need to be," Ingram said, noting that you shouldn't stew, or form an inner dialogue that makes you angry.
Allow Some Room to Vent
From there, give the angry colleague the "opportunity to diffuse, calm down, and make their own case -- people tend to appreciate that."
The key is empathy, Ingram said, which does not mean that if you are the victim of office rage, you're legitimizing their bad behavior. After the most tense moments have passed, Ingram suggests you "ask them what happened to make them so upset. That gives them an option to get rational for a moment."
It Can Happen to You, Too
If you find yourself overreacting at the office, chances are the cause goes far beyond your inbox, said Liz Bywater, president of Bywater Consulting Group. "People will often arrive at the office primed to lose it," Bywater said, noting that traffic, family issues or a bad night's sleep can set you up for office rage.
The simplest step is to just remove yourself from the situation if you think you can't control your anger.
"It's perfectly appropriate to say 'You know what, I'm a little hot under the collar, and I don't think it is just about this.' Walk away from it if you can."
Take a Breather
It also helps to make some sort of physical change, Bywater said.
"Try deep breathing, go out and get some fresh air, maybe your blood sugar has dropped."
The larger issue is to figure out why you slipped into office rage, especially if it is a pattern.
"Maybe you're in a work environment you can't tolerate" she said, "but more often than not you have to look at what else is wrong."