Skip to Main Content
by Cathy Vandewater | August 28, 2012


There's a very funny video circulating the internet right now: a supercut of film's best temper tantrums.

Sadly, though, many of the video's scenes happen where they shouldn't: in workplaces. From Office Space to Glengarry Glenn Ross, it's a pretty common film image to see well dressed, grown men scream ate copy machines and bash their desk phones to bits.

These behaviors, while funny on screen, are a serious career killer in real life. If you've ever had a boss or colleague who had temper tantrums, you know the toxic environment they created, and probably also felt feelings of fear, discomfort, and less respect for them.

As extreme as the episodes in the video are, we're all capable of a melt down at work, but there's no reason an embarrassing incident has to involve you.

All it takes to get through a tough situation with your dignity intact is a little self awareness, a touch of control, and the foresight to know it's going to be embarrassing to face a broken phone later.

Here are our top tips to deal with workplace anger:

1. Zero in on the issue, not the person

Colleagues who drive you nuts are tricky territory. They're like your friend's annoying husband: sure, she may complain about him after a fight. But if you join in and add a few insults yourself, things will sure be awkward at your next get together--when they've patched things up.

Jobs, like marriage, are fairly permanent. So unless you're prepared to quit over a dispute, don't make enemies at work; work with people, and you'll have a much nicer environment to report to every day.

Need to address a problem colleague? Be sure to focus on problem behaviors, while skipping name calling or personal comments. And do any one-on-one confrontations in private. No one, however annoying, should be called out in public.

2. Consider what you really want

Sure, at the moment all you want to do is have an epic rage moment and throw your computer monitor. But look deeper. Anger is a surface emotion, and it's usually covering up more complicated feelings like frustration or fear.

Take a few deep breaths and identify what's really going on—are you angry because you feel disrespected? Ignored, when you have a good idea? Excluded? You're in a much better position to fix a situation when you let go of the anger and identify the real issues—then address them.

3. Focus on clarity of expression

If you're arguing with someone who's insisting that Tuesday's actually Wednesday, it make be tempting to give up talking and try your hand at table flipping.

Don't. Before assuming the other person is a jerk, ask yourself if you're making your side of the problem clear—or if you're misunderstanding their side. It's easy to miss a few key words in a heated conversation, so slow it down and repeat back what you're hearing.

Once you've check your understanding, calmly and clearly present your side. By making it your goal to articulate your reasoning—not to "win"—you'll be keeping the conversation on a positive, collaborative path, and diffusing your own inner Hulk.

4. Step into the other person's shoes

You're reading advice on how to control your anger! Great job! You're probably a Zen Buddhist compared to some of your rage-a-holic colleagues. But you can't expect everyone to be so self aware.

When you feel a colleague, or heaven forbid, your boss, is being unreasonable, it's possible they are. But you're not off the hook for trying to understand them (and lapsing into bad behavior yourself). Are they lashing out over hurt feelings? Embarrassment? Fear for their job?

Try looking at a situation from your opponent's perspective. "Problems" may not make their behavior right, but it will shed new light on how to approach them more effectively, and help you feel less anger if you're being treated poorly in the moment. Then, keeping your cool head, you can diffuse the situation together, instead of dissolving into a screaming match.

5. Have an escape plan

Sometimes, you just have to cut your losses and day drink. Kidding! But it really doesn't hurt to have a friend who works in the neighborhood on speed dial for throw-your-desk bad days.

If you really feel overwhelmed, or like the situation has stopped being productive, do not pass go, do not collect $200: leave the room.

You'll recharge your brain and cool off, so you're better able to finish the conversation later.

At very least, you'll avoid an epic meltdown—and a walk of shame to the supply closet for a new phone.

--Cathy Vandewater,

Read More:
Supercut Proves That an Adult Throwing a Temper Tantrum Is the Funniest Thing Ever (Jezebel)
Does Work/Life Balance Exist on Wall Street?
4 Reasons Why Taking Breaks is Good for You


Filed Under: Workplace Issues

Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume

Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews