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How to deal with stress and anger in the workplace

April 13, 2012

For many of us stress and anger has become a normal part of our working lives. Longer working hours, difficulties with co-workers and bosses and the fear of losing our jobs due to job cuts caused by the economic downturn have become the norm. These factors are piling on the pressure and causing us to become more stressed and in turn more hostile and angry in the workplace.

One only has to tune into television programmes like The Apprentice to see how stressful working environments and the demand to be able to work under pressure often lead to stress, hostility and ultimately anger.

As a nation it’s making us sick. According to a recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and healthcare provider Simplyhealth, stress has become the most common cause of long-term sick leave in Britain.

Ongoing stress and workplace tension are also causing more anger, hostility and aggressive acts towards co-workers. A recent 2009/2010 British Crime Survey revealed an 8% increase in violent acts in the workplace.

There is so much money being lost with companies paying out for staff sickness – which includes stress related sickness. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimated the total cost of 2009/2010 workplace illness cost society an estimated £8.5 billion.

To help deal with this pressure there are techniques that employees can adopt to help them stay calm within the workplace.

Keep an Anger Diary

People get angry for one basic reason – it’s a habit. Like many people who shop in the same shop or put their clothes on a certain way they have learnt to behave a certain way by reinforcement of behaviour or habit.

The good news is that we can break this habit. Next time you feel stressed or angry write it down. Be sure to write down the day, date, time to see if this has a trigger – you may have found yourself getting angry before a stressful Monday morning meeting.

By understanding when you are likely to get angry you can prepare for it before stress occurs. Within this diary be sure to also include fully what made you angry and what you did about it. Again, this is useful information as you may start to see patterns and that may give you clues for how you can change things.

Also write down what you could have done differently. So when that type of situation happens again, you will be able to do something that will help resolve the situation but does not require you to get angry.

Share

It’s an old saying but a problem shared is a problem halved. Managing stress and anger seems very difficult to many people as we are brought up not to discuss our feelings and want to seem like we are ‘coping’ in the workplace. By talking to a co-worker or manager that you trust, about the stresses you are under at work, they can help you to take steps and resolve issues.

Many managers are not always aware of the strains their workforce may be under. By discussing these issues you can put in place a plan to prioritise and organise your workload more efficiently and revaluate tasks and deadlines and reduce some of your day-to-day responsibilities.

Taking Care of Yourself

Physical, emotional and mental health is often interlinked. With looming deadlines, extra hours we often overlook one, two or all three factors, causing us to become more tired, stressed angry and overwhelmed.

This doesn’t mean that you need a complete lifestyle change but you can take little steps to help you feel more positive and in control. There are a couple of things that can help with this.

Avoid too Much Caffeine

Late nights and early mornings often mean we rely on too many cups of coffee to keep us going. This has an adverse effect – caffeine is a stimulant and increases they heart rate so whilst it’s a perfect ‘pick me up’ in the short term, it actually causes more anxiety in the long term.

Get Moving

Scientists have proved that exercise is great for your mental health; it helps keeps stress and therefore anger in check. Regular lunch time or after work exercise can help you feel more revived. Why not talk to follow co-workers to arrange regular exercise like a running club.

Don’t Actually ‘Do’ Anger Management

There is a simple trick to ‘doing’ anger management – don’t! Dealing with stress and anger should not be a separate thing you ‘do’ rather it should be lots of little changes that you weave into your life so that you simply don’t become angry very often.

Obviously the tips above take a little time and guidance but by putting them in place you’ll find you’re feeling less uptight and aggressive in the workplace.

Further Information

Robert Agar-Hutton is an expert on anger, aggression and violence with over 20 years experience delivering training courses throughout the UK. His latest book ‘How To Deal With Your Anger’ is the perfect tool for employees and managers looking to say goodbye to anger caused by stress once and for all.