Career Woman

Want to feel less stressed? Start by dealing with your anger


Even if you never lose your cool at work, if something there is making you rage internally, chances are it is exhibiting itself in other ways. While showing your anger at work can negatively affect your reputation, not dealing with it can be more damaging to you and show itself in other areas of your life.

Why is it that I can keep my cool at work but when I get home I explode at my partner and kids?I have been asked this question many times by professionals working in corporations.

The answer is that at work,we’re compelled to put on a “professional face” to keep our job and keep paying our bills. There is a quantifiable value to holdingyour tongue and solving problems in an amicable way.

However, even if we manage to hide the fact that certain people or occurrences at work make us fume, it can manifest itself in other ways and ultimately, impact our mental health.

Are women getting angrier?

Until a few years ago, anger was seen as a male problem and women were stereotyped as pleasers afraid of confrontation. However, in 2015,an ‘anger epidemic’ was reported by the British Association of Anger Management with 25% of women identified as suffering from rage in the workplace. Women were said to be lashing out at others, breaking objects and storming off in meetings and87% of working mothers revealed that stress had caused them to shout at their children. Furthermore, the British Crime survey found that 2.3% of married men reported domestic abuse.

Clearly, anger is not just a male problem.

It’s different for men

Traditionally, men have found acceptable outlets for expressing hostile feelings – such as yelling at sporting events and arguing with their friends over whoseteam is better. If a man punches a competitor,it’s consideredblokey, but if a woman does it, she’s labelledunladylike.

I believe this has contributed to women denying that they are angry to themselves as well as to others.  When you deny your anger,it increases levels of stress because it means that you aren’t recognising symptoms that need to be resolved. You use up energy keeping a lid on it, which is exhausting and leads to burn out.

Signs you’re angry but don’t know it

Denying anger doesn’t make it go away, and women have developed subtle ways of expressing their anger without knowing it. Here are some signs that you may be repressing anger:

  1. You react with sarcasm. (E.g. Of course I can do another report, I have so many more hours in a day than you do).
  2. You tell jokes that make other people look bad.
  3. You display extreme helpfulnessintended to show up colleagues in front of senior management.
  4. Ongoing nit picking in the guise of instruction.
  5. You use ideal stereotypes to describe what you want using the word ‘should’. (E.g. A team member should contribute exactly the same number of hours as everybody else).
  6. The thought of going to work depresses you. (Depression is often described as anger turned inwards.)
  7. You can’t take feedback and fire back defensively.
  8. You have to have the last word.
  9. You are impatient and can’t bear waiting for others or accommodating them.
  10. You hold grudges.
  11. Others tell you that you have an anger problem.

How to deal with your anger at work in 3 steps

Anger is destructive. It is destructive to your wellbeing, it destroys relationships and it may even cost you your job. It is better to learn to solve problems in a different way.

The first step is to acknowledge you are angry without shame. Anger is an evolutionary response to danger and it doesn’t make you a bad person.

The second step is to ask: What is my anger telling me? Is the person you are angry with a danger to you? Are they vying for your job? Are they undermining your authority?

The third step is to deal with the cause of the anger. If there is real danger, confront the person directly and assertively. If you feel that you can’t, call for mediation. However, if their behaviour is abusive and you can’t effect change, leave. Remaining in an environment of ongoing abuse and festering with anger will cause you stress, anxiety, depression or burn out.

If there is no real danger, your anger may be coming from exhaustion, self pity, high expectations of yourself, and/or bottling up emotions. You need to identify the issue and take the necessary steps to improve the situation -sometimes it will require psychotherapy.

Frequently we project angry feelings onto others when it is triggered by someone else. For instance, if you are angry at your partner you may yell at your kids. If you are angry at your manager, you may be mean to your subordinates.

The important thing is to remember that there is no shame in being angry; but don’t let it own you or drive your decisions.

About Renee Mill

Renee Mill is a Senior Clinical Psychologist at Anxiety Solutions CBT, and author of Anxiety Free, Drug Free and Parenting Without Anger. She has worked as a clinical psychologist in private practice for over 30 years and is the owner of stress and anxiety clinic Anxiety Solutions CBT, located in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. She has successfully treated hundreds of individuals, couples and families, and has appeared as an expert commentator on stress, anxiety and depression for TODAY, The Morning Show, ABC Radio, and more.

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