“That person annoys me all the time.” It’s become more evident from working with some of my coaching clients, that emotional anger and frustration in the workplace is a big concern for them and could be a contributor to lack of success for leaders.
Have you ever noticed that once you’re annoyed or frustrated with an individual, you seem to be able to identify more and more evidence that confirms the reasons why you are feeling that way towards them? You start off with a couple of areas of frustration, then pile more reasons on top, then more. After a while it becomes difficult to get away from the emotional situation and look at that person objectively again.
Can you feel angry unexpectedly, no longer see humour in your situation, become intolerant, not understand where the other person can be coming from, or say (or email) things you later regret?
With individuals, this is a difficult situation. But as a leader, you could be damaging your team’s motivation, engagement and confidence. You could even lose their trust, be accused of favouritism, be missing some exceptional creativity and innovation, and risk them leaving the department because they feel unsupported or misunderstood.
There will always be the occasional situation that will anger and frustrate us, requiring action on our part. However, what I’m concerned about here is when resolution isn’t sought or concluded.
Holding on to an emotion like anger and frustration, can also cause you considerable stress and has been scientifically linked to potential heart attacks, high cholesterol and a weakened immune system. Holding on to anger is not a form of control.
One of the reasons we continue to be angry or frustrated with people is due to our brain’s ability to filter all the data available to us and keep what it thinks is relevant. We notice the things that prove to us that a belief or emotion is true and we tend to ignore, or reduce the significance of, the things that may prove otherwise. You re-enforce the belief and put yourself in more situations to continue to prove that. The more times you see it, the more powerful it becomes and we can hear ourselves saying “see, I was right”.
One employee I know had been unsuccessful in getting a new role, but he was convinced he’d been overlooked and was angry about the situation. He then ended up working for that same manager years later, but his anger remained, and nothing that manager could do was right in his eyes and also caused disruptive behaviour including lateness and rudeness to his fellow team members.
So, what can we do to get back a sense of control and objectively look at the situation?
- Understand what causes the anger, by keeping a log of times, situations and people, and identifying any common themes.
- Analyse your beliefs about the person involved and whether you have been biased in some way.
- What do you need to learn from the above that can allow you to let go of the anger? Take some quiet time and write down all that comes to mind, as this helps to release the emotion.
- Develop your communication skills, listening skills and self-awareness to enable you to build better relationships, understand stress triggers and develop appropriate conflict management. Tools such as MBTI and TKI are useful.
- For one off situations, step away from the situation, take deep breaths, go for a walk or other activity, have some fun. One team I know have a desktop punch bag, as a bit of fun!
- If you’re about to write an email when still angry, then draft it, leave it for 24 hours and then re-read it. It’s likely that you’ll change the wording considerably when the emotions have died down, and not have to deal with the regret (or aftermath) of having sent it originally.
Holding on to these negative emotions can only cause you and those around you stress and concern, so work on understanding the causes and how to release them.
Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees and it’s necessary to get an objective view on why you are feeling and behaving in a particular manner, and talking to a manager, friend or a coach can help. If you are interested in finding out how executive coaching can assist you, then please feel free to contact us for an initial discussion.