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5 Proven Ways to Avoid Losing Your Cool at Work

At one point or another, we’ve all felt totally irritated while at work: You pull an all-nighter on a project that then gets scrapped; a client criticizes your team for no apparent reason, or your co-worker shows up late for a meeting again, dumping all the prep work on you.

These office aggravations can make your blood boil. Your focus is immediately hijacked from the important task at hand. Instead, your mind goes into fight-or-flight mode and you become reactionary; not thinking clearly, blaming others, or beating yourself up for getting upset. In this state, you’re prone to making poor judgements and saying things you may regret later.

It’s perfectly natural to experience a wide range of emotions in the workplace, including anger. Negative emotions are bound to come up on the job just as they do in our personal lives — and that’s not a bad thing.

Learning to productively communicate your emotions is key to boosting your emotional intelligence, which can make you a better leader and boost success across the board. In fact, getting fired up can motivate you and give you more focus to solve the problem at hand.

Learning to manage feelings of anger in a constructive, professional way can help you channel your frustration and get what you want — without earning you a reputation as the person in the office who can’t control his or her temper.

Here are five ways to respond when work is making you angry:

1. Don’t Fight The Feeling

When anger arises, we’re often quick to respond by rationalizing, blaming others, or trying desperately to calm ourselves down. Instead of jumping straight to intellectualization, acknowledge that your anger is legitimate and normal. Anger is deeply embedded into our evolutionary code. It’s how we fend off dangers and threats to our wellbeing.

The next time you feel yourself getting angry, understand that trying to simply avoid it won’t help. Find a way instead to release or disarm your anger in a healthy, self-respecting way. Try telling yourself, “What I am feeling is natural, but it doesn’t serve me.” Accepting your reaction — rather than fighting it — will calm you down and free you to focus on problem-solving.

2. Disrupt It

If your temper is about to boil over, the first thing you need to do is find a way to disrupt the automatic thought pattern that’s been triggered. Physically disconnecting from the situation can help: Take a walk, step away from your desk to call a friend, or take a few deep breaths.

Practicing visualizations is another tactic that can help you manage anger in the long run. Picture yourself when you’re reacting to your anger. How do you look, feel and sound? Do you like this image of yourself? Then, imagine yourself managing your anger appropriately, addressing the situation in a calm, constructive way.

By taking a mindful approach to your anger, you have a better chance of harnessing it constructively and not allowing it to dominate you.

3. Learn Your Triggers

Understanding who and what makes you angry is key to heading off a full-blown freak out. Pay attention to the circumstances and people present when you get angry so you can better anticipate and manage your reactions in the future. For example, if one particular colleague pushes your buttons, build in breaks during times when you know you’ll have to work together. This will give you space to disrupt any rising emotions that crop up if he (or she) provokes you and will help you avoid a hair-trigger reaction. No one likes being angry, so by anticipating triggering situations you can stay calm and collected.

4. Choose Your Words Carefully

If and when you do decide to confront the situation head-on that’s making you angry, be sure you’ve first spent some time identifying and articulating your feelings. Emotional labeling is important because it can minimize miscommunication and help you clearly assert your thoughts, opinions and desires.

Speak to your boss or  whoever is upsetting you the way her or she would like to be communicated with. For instance, if she values straightforward, results-oriented language, keep that in mind when addressing the problem. Ask her to describe the situation from her perspective as well to keep the lines of communication open and even. To find the right vocabulary to express what you’re feeling in the most appropriate way possible, grab my free toolkit.

5. Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem

While it’s easy — and can initially seem comforting — to dwell on what’s making you angry, this isn’t going to pay off in the long run. Ruminating is damaging because it takes time and mental energy away from problem-solving, leaving you stuck in negative emotion. Instead, focus on what lessons you can learn from the situation so that you move on in a productive way.

Avoid making sweeping statements like, “Whenever Jane asks me for reports, she never gives me enough notice.” Instead, try saying, “I was late on a deadline because I was asked for the reports at the last minute. I’ve noticed that this has happened in the past. How can we put a better protocol in place to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future?”

Throughout your career, anger is an emotion you’ll confront and need to manage in order to become a leader. The key is to be sure you’re equipped with the right tools to handle and communicate your anger effectively, professionally, and in a way that’s beneficial to your career over the long-term.

Get the FREE toolkit thousands of people use to better describe & manage their emotions at

5 Proven Ways to Avoid Losing Your Cool at Work

Melody Wilding, LMSW

Melody Wilding, LMSW is a performance coach, licensed social worker, and has a Masters from Columbia. She helps established and rising managers and executives advance in their careers. Her clients work at companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, HP, and Deloitte. She also helps entrepreneurs take bold steps to grow their businesses. Melody has helped over 10,000 smart, self-aware people like you. Her coaching gives you actionable strategies to reach your goals. You get concrete steps to overcome the complex struggles of success. Melody loves arming ambitious people with tools and tactics to boost their confidence. She can teach you skills for assertiveness and influence. Her specialties include better managing your emotions at work. Melody also teaches Human Behavior at CUNY Hunter College in NYC. She writes about psychology and careers for Inc., Forbes, Fast Company, and more. Click here and grab the FREE COURSE to go from insecure to unstoppable confidence 5 DAYS TO FREEDOM FROM SELF-DOUBT..

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APA Reference
Wilding, M. (2018). 5 Proven Ways to Avoid Losing Your Cool at Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 15 Jun 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.