Communications June 2012

Oh, No. I’m Losing it!

How to handle potentially explosive workplace situations

Since more than one-third of our lives is spent at work associating with people with whom we have not necessarily chosen to be—and working under the pressure of high demands and competition—it’s no small wonder that disagreements arise and resentments fester and build, day after day.

Our daily tasks seem never ending these days. Constant interruptions don’t help. Why, oh why is there yet another conference call at midnight? And why can’t that idiot get the report right? Our lives are hectic, to say the least, and all we want is a bit of peace and quiet to get on with our own work. You know the feeling.

You are just waiting for the day when you lose it—explode! But, once you have exploded, you realise it was not the right thing to do, and it takes so long to get your people on side again.

Developing a coping mechanism or mechanisms is imperative. Below are five techniques that might help get you past that desire to punch an employee or your boss!

Breathe deeply
Sounds logical! But how many times have you entered into a heated debate with someone and found yourself hyperventilating. It happens! You know it does. So think about your breathing and breath deeply through the crisis.

Take a walk
Step away from the situation. I don’t know how many times this has helped me. What I really wanted to do was enter into a full-scale argument, but that’s not the right thing to do. Tell the other person you need time to think, step outside and go for a walk. Clear your head and then reconvene when you are thinking straight again and the heat has gone out of the discussion.

Go into assertive mode
Don’t attack the person. Think assertively. Be hard on the facts but soft on the person. Own your statements. Say “I think you should reconsider that point”, rather than “You are wrong”. Aggressive behaviour intimidates and will never help resolve a problem.

Don’t send that email
How many times do you receive an email that infuriates you, and you want to send one straight back telling the sender exactly what you think, in no uncertain terms?
Well, don’t. Close the email and go get some coffee or tea. By the time you return to your computer, you will have calmed down and will be able to think more rationally.

Think about something else
Think about something more pleasurable. You can’t hold two thoughts in your head at the same time, so think of the plans you have for the weekend, or the delicious meal you had last night, or even a poem you like. Replacing the thought will help take the heat out of the situation.
Anger is always there. An article by E Jewelle Johnson of Fisher & Phillips LLP, titled “Dealing with Anger in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability for Workplace Violence” says that about 2mn violent crimes occur in the US at work each year, and workplace violence costs employers more than $4bn annually. Frightening statistics.

Anne Good is a professional Executive, Career and Life Coach and conducts sessions face to face or via Skype.
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