April 4, 2014
There’s an iconic scene in the cult classic Office Space in which three coworkers take out their aggressions on a malfunctioning office printer. While I’m sure each of us has felt the impulse to take a baseball bat to office equipment at one time or another, we must remember that it’s important to manage our emotions at work.
Depending on the source of your stress—such as whether it’s a personal matter seeping into your professional life or if it’s work-related—it might make sense to get your HR department involved in devising a solution.
“While stress is a part of both professional and personal life, there are ways to help you deal with it in a healthy and productive manner,” says Ericka Tate, Simply Hired’s Senior Director of Human Resources. “If you find yourself wondering if the issue is important enough or if your stress is justified, you should reach out and at least have a conversation to see if there is anything HR can do to help you. At the very least, you may feel better from talking through your situation with someone and getting their reassurance.”
For matters that do not need to involve HR, here are five tips to help you maintain a positive and productive attitude in the midst of trying situations.
Get the full story in person before getting upset
A lot can be misconstrued or misinterpreted during online communication. I learned this the hard way when I became enmeshed in an increasingly heated email conversation with a coworker that resulted in hurt feelings on both sides. My takeaway: When you feel that an online discussion has taken a wrong turn, suggest taking the conversation offline. Speaking face-to-face allows you to gauge the other person’s intentions and clarify statements. Face-to-face conversation also keeps the conversation focused and polite. It’s harder to say something discourteous to a person’s face.
People experiencing stress or tackling major projects sometimes unknowingly take out their frustrations on coworkers. You may be the recipient of anger that has nothing to do with you. Likewise, you may end up being brusque with coworkers if you inadvertently transfer your emotions. One Simply Hired employee, “Mark,” admitted, “Sometimes I get caught up in my own responsibilities and projects and become easily frustrated with others.” One remedy: stay focused on the matter at hand, remember what is relevant to the situation and ignore what is not. “Mark” went on to say, “I have to remember that everyone goes through their own struggles and that I’m not the only person with deadlines. Taking a moment to realize this helps me relate to others around me and be more reasonable in my responses.” Another tip: Go into meetings with an agenda so that conversation doesn’t veer off track.
Look for tough love
If we go through the list of people in our lives, we can all identify the “enablers” (people who encourage poor choices by supporting our excuses) and the “tough lovers” (people who force us to face harsh truths in order to help us make necessary changes in our lives.) Try to find a “tough love” colleague who can offer you objective and level-headed advice when you feel heated. You want someone who will minimize your mounting hysteria and help you come up with workable solutions.
Take a break to regroup
When you start to feel overwhelmed—such as in a heated discussion or during a buildup of pressures—excuse yourself and calm down so that you can better assess the situation. One Simply Hired team member, “Mindy,” said that she takes walks in order to decrease stress. “Getting out into the fresh air makes any tense situation or difficult moment evaporate into the sunshine,” she said. “When I take a quick walk around the block, or even just the building, I get renewed energy and feel a bit calmer and more grounded.”
Separate the work from the personal
It’s not uncommon for your personal life to bleed into your professional life and vice versa, especially when there are lunch outings, office happy hours and “always-on” devices such as smartphones pumping the dramas of your personal life into your work environment. Try to understand your personal thresholds and build boundaries between these two aspects of your life.
We all experience personal issues or sometimes find ourselves in imperfect work situations. While you may not have control over these events and circumstances, you can make a plan for how to comport yourself in the workplace. When you manage your emotions, you present yourself as a true professional, and you help to maintain a positive work environment for everyone around you.