By Edward Chalmers
We've all witnessed men who have lost control of their emotions at work, slamming doors, yelling at coworkers or customers, and saying things they'll soon regret. We've seen men who've thrown tantrums at meetings because they've been overruled, their idea has been shot down or someone else has taken credit for their work.
As kids, we were taught to "act like a man" and suppress our feelings, and yet many of our coworkers are committing career suicide by losing control of their emotions at work.
How can we maintain our professionalism and handle emotions like a man? Here are some tips.
1- Take a walk to cool down
During a meeting, when someone insults your management style or criticizes the department you lead, don't react in anger. Remove yourself from the situation as soon as you feel yourself getting hot under the collar. Fake a page or another call to extricate yourself from a non-productive telephone call so you can step outside to calm yourself. Giving yourself time to cool down will help you regain control of your emotions.
2- Ask for clarification before reacting
Stall for time by asking questions. Is your boss asking what time you arrived because he's challenging your integrity or is he trying to start a conversation about the traffic jam on the off-ramp? If need be, repeat what the other person just said. This ensures you understand the comment and gives your colleague or client the opportunity to clarify any miscommunication.
3- Apply the 10-second rule
Ensure you're not overreacting. If you feel your temper flaring on the phone or in a meeting, count to 10 to keep you from losing your cool. Analyze the facts before going on a rant or becoming defensive.
4- Talk to someone who can calm you down
Always have someone to confide in, inside and outside of the office, about your frustrations. Go for a beer together on a regular basis to vent. You cannot keep all your feelings inside, or your health will suffer. Acknowledge and express your emotions appropriately with a close friend, and be prepared to listen whenever he's ready to explode, and both of your careers will benefit.
5- Work out to work off your anger
Don't blow your professional image by letting others see you freak out, pound the desk or scream. Go to the gym instead. Working out will help you release those pent-up emotions.
6- Recognize what ticks you off
Be alert to the types of situations that knock you off-center. If you don't like questions interrupting your presentation, plan how you'll handle any hecklers. Planning a positive way to react will help you defuse your anger before it throws you off. If you know you have a perfectionist, learn how to deal with it so it doesn't hurt your professional image.
Learn how to read your colleagues, and tell yourself to stay calm...
7- Understand your colleagues
Read your colleagues' signals. What initially seems to be a snide comment might be a feeble attempt at humor. By getting to know your coworkers' characters and personalities, you won't be blind-sided when they do or say something that irritates you.
8- Anticipate other people's reactions
When you're proposing a radical new work process or time schedule, you can be fairly certain your employees' first thoughts won't be about the cost savings and increased productivity. Focus on the personal benefits they will experience and you'll keep your own frustration in check. If your boss is constantly critical, anticipate his reactions to problems and proposals, and have persuasive arguments ready to get him on your side.
9- Prepare yourself to stay calm
Anticipate any objections or questions you might face when you're making a presentation, especially ones that might put you in a bad light. Create a backup plan if there's a technical glitch in case your PowerPoint presentation freezes on you. Before going into your Performance Review meeting, have some accomplishments ready to offset any negative feedback, so you don't respond in anger.
10- Wait before writing a strongly worded e-mail
Never disrespect others, even if you're right. It's easy to let contempt, fury or resentment cloud our judgment. Hold that strongly worded business e-mail or letter until the next day and reread it. Ask someone else to proofread any correspondence you think might be surly, condescending or rude.
11- Let go of your anger at the end of each day
Get into the habit of letting go of your anger as you leave work every day. Otherwise it could fester and make you more likely to blow your cool. Focus on doing something you enjoy once you leave the office, whether it's hanging out with friends or watching the game on TV, and leave the stress and emotion behind.
12- Apologize for any emotional outbursts
Despite your best intentions, if you end up erupting in a meeting, criticize a colleague's work or make ill-timed comments that you regret, how can you backpedal without losing face? Apologize immediately to the targeted person and to everyone around who may have heard. You don't need to offer a long-winded explanation of the pressures you were under, the background on the misunderstanding or the reasons you thought you were right. Saying "I reacted badly and I am sorry" will demonstrate your professionalism, integrity and leadership skills.
act like a man and move on
Strong leaders with strong characters will have strong feelings. That doesn't mean you should allow your emotions to control you, cloud your judgment and cause career missteps.
Recognizing the signs that you're getting angry will help you get over it quickly, without anyone noticing. Replacing your negative emotions with self-confidence and maintaining a healthy balance in your life will help you deal with difficult moments. No matter what, don't snap. It takes years to build up a reputation, and only seconds to destroy it.
Friday, November 11, 2005
By Edward Chalmers