Request a demo
Back to Blog

How to control anger at work, take a deep breath.

September 9, 2022 - 15 min read

coworkers-arguing-at-the-office-how-to-control-anger-at-work

Jump to section

First things first: Take a deep breath

Emotional intelligence: The key to success

Trust us: You’ve got this

Look at the bright side

At some point in our careers, we've had to take a few deep breaths and step away. Perhaps that's happened to us once before, or it happens each week. No matter how often our feelings get the best of us in the heat of the moment, learning how to control anger at work improves how we express our emotions and our experience in the workplace.

But finding a productive way to handle our workplace anger isn't easy. It could be a coworker spilling coffee on our computer, our boss being upset with us over a minor mistake, or just one of those days. Developing ways to understand and process our feelings in difficult situations makes us better coworkers and our work environment more supportive.

And that's what we're here to talk about. We're going to discuss how emotional regulation skills are irreplaceable in the workplace, how to deal with workplace anger, and understand that it's a normal human emotion.

First things first: Take a deep breath

Stop what you're doing and take some deep breaths. It's OK to feel frustrated or irritated about something. The first thing to do when learning how to control anger at work is to calm yourself down. And once you’re feeling calm, you can try to identify what causes your anger. 

Identifying what causes your feelings of anger helps you handle it better because it gives you emotional transparency, boosts your self-awareness, and teaches you how to practice self-care. You learn that you have to check in with your emotions and improve your self-management.

Instead of reacting to something your coworker says with a snarky comment or by rolling your eyes, you’ll take a breath, smile, and let it go. 

The effects of anger in the workplace aren’t just felt in your professional life. Anger can increase your stress levels, both mental and physical, or your anxiety. It can cause physical health problems by increasing your heart rate, giving you high blood pressure, and impacting your immune and central nervous systems.

Constantly holding onto negative thoughts and emotions creates patterns of automatic thoughts that can harm your self-esteem, self-confidence, and more. 

But that's easier said than done. Emotions aren't always straightforward. They're confusing and layered, and many factors contribute to why you feel what you do.

If you're unsure where your anger at work comes from, here are a few examples of situations where anger could arise:

  • It's the day of a big presentation at work and all your coworker is doing is scrolling through their social media. You've been working night and day to perfect this presentation, and they don't seem to care. It’s making you angry.
    You asked them if they'd like to rehearse, but they say you're turning the presentation into a big deal when it isn't. Your anger is triggered because you've put in so much effort, and they haven’t. Their lack of support contributes to your stress and frustration.
  • Your team member is late again for work. It makes your blood boil that they can show up to work nearly an hour late and face no consequences. This time, your team member is late for a very important meeting, which means you must do all the prep work alone.
    It's already stressful for you, and your anger is triggered because you have to cover for others who continuously flake on their responsibilities.

improve influence - half size

Emotional intelligence: The key to success

You want to learn how to control anger outbursts at work because they don't do anything good for you. They create tension in your work environment, and it hurts your team's ability to work together. But when you do control your anger, your relationships, performance, and productivity flourish.

One way to do that is to work on your emotional intelligence. Your emotional intelligence is your ability to process and communicate your emotions in a positive, productive way. It's also about how you empathize with others and understand their emotions.

Rather than let your aggravation in difficult situations control you and hurt others, your emotional intelligence steps in to help. 

man-thinking-while-sitted-how-to-control-anger-at-work

Emotional intelligence in the workplace is super important. Research has found that emotional intelligence helps people make more informed decisions, strengthens teamwork, and helps with managing and coping with stress. It helps guide and influence how you act verbally and non-verbally since body language also expresses your emotions

Your emotional intelligence helps you communicate your feelings positively, even if you're feeling some negative emotions.

It's because you know that taking the time to process and understand how you feel is more productive than saying the first things that come to mind. It might tell you to take a break, walk away, or stand up for yourself.

If you're interested in what emotional intelligence looks like in the workplace, here are a few examples:

  • Coworkers are compassionate toward each other as they encounter setbacks or make mistakes
  • You're able to identify goals that'll help you improve your skills because of your self-awareness
  • People spend their lunch breaks with others rather than stay by themselves all the time
  • Work-life balance and well-being are a top priority in the workplace
  • Management provides lots of stress management resources and help 
  • People feel comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their creative ideas
  • Conflict is resolved without shouting or insulting others, but with maturity and respect

Strengthening your emotional intelligence takes empathy, determination, and dedication, and that's what BetterUp's all about. Our coaches will provide the guidance and support you need as you learn how to understand your feelings and productively express yourself at work.

Trust us: You’ve got this

You don't have to relinquish all feelings of anger at work. In fact, that's not healthy or possible. Instead, you can learn how to express frustration at work healthily.

Being able to talk to your boss about mental health is difficult, but studies have shown that channeling your anger in a productive way allows you to think more creatively and better advocate for your needs. Advocating for yourself will improve your circumstances and help create a more positive work environment for your whole team. 

woman-wearing-headphones-how-to-control-anger-at-work

Learning how to deal with your anger teaches you emotional regulation and how to calm yourself down. Dealing with anger looks different for everyone. Perhaps you just need to take a break or you need to have a sit-down conversation with someone to avoid letting resentment build. 

Here's a list of seven ways to control anger at work:

1. Think before the words come out

Your voice is a powerful tool, so choose your words wisely. Think about what you're going to say and its impact on others. Will it hurt someone's feelings? Is it productive for your work? Is it very professional? In the heat of the moment, it's easy to blurt out what you're feeling. That's why you need to regulate your emotions and try to communicate clearly and kindly.

2. Focus on finding a solution

There's no sense in dwelling on the problem forever. Take a moment to reflect and be in the present. Think about what's causing you to feel angry and a possible solution. Think about what will make you feel better, and pursue it.

That could be seeking professional help or talking to a coworker. One of your friends might be able to help you with your problem-solving and offer productive solutions that didn’t occur to you.

3. Never shove it away

Whether you wish for this to happen or not, your feelings might be clear to others. You might try to avoid acknowledging your emotions by burying them, but your irritation might be visible to others.

Pretending that you only feel positive emotions do you a disservice. Use your self-awareness to dig deep and call out your feelings.

woman-smiling-while-working-how-to-control-anger-at-work

4. Create some space

Sometimes the best thing to do is stand up and walk away. Whether it's from your computer or a coworker who's making you upset, it helps to put distance between you and what's causing you anger.

Take the opportunity to stretch your legs, breathe fresh air, or drink some water. Center your focus and process your feelings without feeling pressured to decide what you feel in that instance.

5. Think about your role models

How would someone you admire react to this situation? Someone who you think handles stressful situations and anger well could be an inspiration for how you act. If you have a role model who has strategies or behaviors you find effective, take a page out of their book and emulate them.

6. Practice relaxation techniques

When you have time for yourself at work, whether during your lunch break or your commute, take the time to restore peace within yourself. Try breathing exercises or other mindfulness activities. It calms your body after being angry. Even if you only have five minutes, relaxation techniques will spread balance throughout your mind and body, walking you back from the edge of your anger.

7. Explain your anger calmly

If your roommate was always leaving dirty dishes in the sink and upsetting you, would you take the time to let them know how you’re feeling and ask them to try harder? Or would you stew in your anger until you can’t take it anymore and then yell at them? Finding the words to explain why you’re angry after you’ve calmed down and then politely letting the culprit know will help you find a productive solution — even at work.

coworkers-having-a-meeting-how-to-control-anger-at-work

Your boss is more likely to help you navigate a conflict with a frustrating coworker if you approach them rationally. That can be really difficult — but preparing what you’re going to say and being honest make a huge difference.

Look at the bright side

Learning how to control anger at work demands keeping a bunch of things in mind. One of the most important takeaways is that expressing anger and disappointment at the appropriate time and way will help you understand yourself more. It'll strengthen your emotional intelligence and make you a better team player

But if you're still wondering, "Is it OK to be angry at work?" the answer is yes. You have to express and feel your emotions. Sometimes you’re having a bad day because you’re tired and downright irritable. That’s normal. 

You can't view people as machines or be afraid to have feelings at work. Instead, work to understand that expressing your feelings will improve your well-being. 

Next time you're experiencing workplace anger, remember to acknowledge that what you're feeling is OK. But don't allow it to take away from you acting on your values and succeeding at your job.

Find someone to help you stay accountable as you work on dealing with your anger at work. At BetterUp, our coaches will provide the support and accountability you need to strengthen your self-awareness and use your voice to deal with your anger.

New call-to-action

Published September 9, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

Read Next

Professional Development
16 min read | August 17, 2021

Discovering your true north makes life easier: Here's why

What does it mean to find your true north? Learn how to use your internal compass to guide you successfully through life and become an authentic leader. Read More
Well-being
21 min read | September 1, 2021

Learned optimism can change your life. Here's how

Discover how learned optimism can improve your health, relationships, and career. It can even change the way you see the world. Here’s how. Read More
Well-being
12 min read | July 8, 2022

How to improve your emotional intelligence to improve your life

Developing greater emotional intelligence can change your life for the better. Learn what emotional intelligence is and tips for how increase yours. Read More
Culture
12 min read | June 21, 2022

43% of us don’t feel connected at work. Here's what to do about it.

Employees everywhere aren't getting the type of social connection they want or need. Learn why that matters and what you can do to boost your own. Read More
Professional Development
14 min read | September 29, 2022

11 examples of ambition in life and work to get you inspired

Interested in learning examples of ambition? Learn the best habits that’ll help fuel your ambition and read how ambition is important in all areas of your life. Read More
Hiring
8 min read | September 9, 2022

Why a job requisition matters and how to write one

A job requisition kicks off your internal hiring process. Learn how to set yourself and your recruiting team up for a successful onboarding. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.