I’m So Mad!

If you have never been angry at work, then this blog is not for you. You can now go on with your busy and happy day. (Taping foot while waiting for THOSE people to leave…).

If you are still with me, Great!!! Now let’s talk about getting mad at work, why it is not a bad thing, and how we can shift it into a higher, greater good for ourselves and others.

Work can be a cradle for raising the hair on the back of our necks, cause us to furrow our brows, and cause us to commiserate with coworkers at breaktime. I can recall more than one day at work where the song, “Take This Job and Shove It” was my anthem for the entire day. This kind of anger can be damaging, inevitably creating havoc on our career growth as we could be labelled a hotheaded. We could prematurely quit a decent job, or we could get canned (that’s always fun).

I’ll argue, though, that being mad at work can be a good thing. The trick is in our response to the anger. There are some great examples in history such as; the Civil Rights Movement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (literally MADD), and Erin Brockovich (I suggest you look her up). All were created by some REALLY-REALLY angry people and had positive results.

To get ahead of your anger, it’s good to understand some basic rules that science has laid out:

1) Our biological make-up is primed for anger. It served our ancestors well, keeping them alive so we could be born…YAY for anger!

2) We can control what scientist call the “pre-anger state”. These are areas that involve our physical and emotional states. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you saddened about a recent death? Perhaps you are upset about something you heard in the news or on the radio. Some of these we are easily able to circumvent by eating food, drinking water, and getting some rest. Others, we can recognize and take assertive action to separate the feelings and identify the reason we are angry.

3) We have the ability discern how much anger we respond with in any given provocation. We can determine what has caused our anger. The copy machine is always broken. Some fool of a coworker is annoying me. My supervisor is a jerk having given me an impossible deadline. My boss humiliated me in front of everyone. I am being discriminated against and HR is not responding. Once we determine what has angered us, we can decide how necessary the anger really is (obviously, the last two are much more serious than the first three).

Understanding these principles can help us gauge an appropriate response. The first three might be a conversation with a person who can make a change, resolving our anger for us. The last two might have you considering a career elsewhere. The point is, you have a choice if you consider the science behind anger and respond to it rather than react.

Of course, the million-dollar question: how do we remember all this while in a fit of rage? My great-grandmother Esther had the answer. Count to ten. Yeah. Count. To. Ten. When you can do this, you can go through the science first and then create your best response.

Now, go forth and be angry!


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