Keeping Your Cool at Work

Written by Amy Roper (last updated August 9, 2012)

Most Americans spend over half their waking hours at work. If you enjoy your job, this is great—but the workplace is not always where people want to spend their time, especially since most offices lack privacy and force frequent interaction with people who may not be your favorite.

Has an irritating coworker just about pushed you over the edge? Do you dread waking up to a boss who doesn't appreciate your contributions? Have you had your fill of one too many demanding, entitled customers? Perhaps you just don't feel your best when you have to get up early every morning. These sorts of irritants can escalate into outbursts and sometimes even violence that can harm your personal relationships, job position, and even have legal ramifications. Unfortunately, we usually can't stop these things that are bothering us, but we can control how we react. Most of these irritants build up over time, so it's much easier to control our response before the small things build up to the inevitable, always-later-regretted outburst. Here are some tips for dealing with the inevitable challenges at the work place in a constructive way:

  • Identify and analyze your own unhealthy reactions. Sensing patterns and triggers will help you know what to change. Pushing to find the "why" behind them will help you discover how to change.
  • Develop a specific plan: if you have a pretty constant irritant at work, decide in advance what you will do about it.
  • Learn better communication skills. Sometimes conflicts build because people are making assumptions about one another or not being clear. For example, a conflict about a missed deadline could happen if you tell someone, "Can you get me this report as soon as possible?" Instead say, "Can you get me this report by tomorrow's meeting?" If you feel conflict building between yourself and a coworker, communicate the problems to the coworker respectfully. Don't become passive aggressive.
  • Take a time out. Never react immediately, especially to an abrasive email, which doesn't require an immediate response. Wait for a time when you are feeling less emotional and can respond logically.
  • Develop positive healthful habits: exercise, eat a variety of fresh foods, and sleep seven to eight hours a night. This will give you more energy, and feeling healthier and rested will keep your temper in check. Cut down the coffee—substitute the "boost" from coffee with a protein snack that helps balance energy and moods.
  • Take care of stress away from work. Vent to family and friends (who can also help objectively assess the situation), or write it down (and destroy the evidence). Just don't let an emotional outburst outside of work get back to your boss (be careful about what you post on a blog or social networking site, for instance).
  • Ask your supervisors for help in prioritizing so you can manage additional stress. If you are setting your own deadlines, don't overpromise and under-deliver: double the time you think you'll need so that you have extra wiggle room or can even be early.
  • Know your resources: if you need outside help for anger management, don't be afraid to find it.

Practicing these habits will help you maintain good relationships, build bridges instead of burning them, and keep your professional opportunities bright and open. They will also help you feel healthier emotionally and physically.

Author Bio

Amy Roper


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