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Be cool: How to manage your emotions and avoid rage quitting

November 23, 2022 - 17 min read

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What is rage quitting?

6 common negative emotions at work (and how to deal with them)

Extra tips on how to manage emotions in a positive way

How to express frustration at work

Don’t give into rage

Anger can be an ugly emotion. After a few months of relentless deadlines, condescending colleagues, and disruptive meetings, you might feel it simmering in the back of your mind. Then, as the frustrations pile up, you reach a boiling point: if one more thing goes wrong, you’re going to quit.

Quitting in the heat of the moment is called “rage quitting.” In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have reached this point. But too often, work is a source of chronic stress for employed Americans, which can lead to irritability, fatigue, and difficulty regulating emotions. This is such a problem that 63% percent of workers are willing to quit their jobs over it. 

But spontaneously storming out of your office is never a good idea. Not only will it leave you unemployed, but you’ll likely burn any bridges you had within that company. Your bosses and colleagues will understand, but someone needs to manage your workload while they find your replacement. That might create some tension or sour your departure. 

Remember that strong negative emotions are generally bad for your physical and mental health, too. One study suggests that cynicism can put you at a higher risk of developing dementia. Hostility can also lead to depression and an increased risk of stroke.

If you’re unhappy in your workplace, it’s a good enough reason to leave. But you want to make sure you’re leaving on amicable terms, if possible. 

Even if you don’t like your job, it’s in your best interest to regulate your emotions. Here’s our guide on how to let a cooler head prevail.

What is rage quitting?

Rage quitting is exactly what the name implies: becoming so angry or frustrated that you abandon a situation entirely, leaving before resolution.

In the workplace, this usually involves quitting your job at the last minute without giving the customary two weeks’ notice. But it can also manifest through smaller outbursts, such as storming out of a meeting due to frustration or walking away from a conversation with a condescending colleague.

On the surface, rage quitters seem to storm off suddenly — but it often occurs after an accumulation of frustrations. Sustained mistreatment from a toxic boss and abusive managers, an overload of work, or a bad work environment can slowly take its toll through chronic stress. And by the time you rage quit, the triggering event is merely the final straw.

How emotions affect work performance

Strong, negative emotions at work significantly decrease your performance. Feelings like frustration and anger are common symptoms of stress. And over time, they can lead to emotional fatigue, exhaustion, and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. This hinders They also put you at risk of making impulsive decisions, like rage quitting.

Anger and frustration put you on high alert and make you more ego-centric. You’re more likely to do things that feel good at the moment but will have more serious consequences down the road.

If you impulsively quit a project to stick it to your coworker, you may indirectly punish your workplace bestie, who’ll have to cover for you when you’re gone. Plus, you might jeopardize your financial wellness if you weren’t in a position to leave your current role.

Rage quitting is usually a sign of serious flaws in the workplace. But as an employee, you have a responsibility here too.

When you start to feel heated, it’s better to step back and evaluate your stressors before making brash decisions. Even if you don’t think you care about ending these relationships, you’ll likely feel differently later. It’s always better to compose yourself before doing something you’ll regret. 

Then, if things don’t improve at work, you can make a backup plan, which includes finding a new job and handing in your resignation letter at a more appropriate time.

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6 common negative emotions at work (and how to deal with them)

If a small event makes you want to rage quit, it’s probably because you’re nearing a breaking point. Learning to manage emotions in the workplace will help you avoid doing anything you might regret. Your first step should be to practice some self-awareness and identify your emotions before they get out of hand.

Here are some common ones to look out for:

1. Frustration/irritation

This emotion occurs when you feel stuck, trapped, or unable to move forward in some way. Your colleague might be stonewalling your suggestions, or your boss is passing you over for a promotion. If you’ve already reached your role’s ceiling, you might be growing bored and unmotivated.

Here are some tips for dealing with this emotion:

  • Evaluate your situation. Once you recognize you’re frustrated, think about why that is. Then you can find a healthier way to deal with the problem. If your colleague regularly chats with you for too long and disrupts your day, learn to set firmer boundaries.

    See if you can find professional development opportunities outside of the workplace, like courses or conferences, to fight the feeling of stagnation. 
  • Find something positive about the situation. A small change in perspective can help improve your mood. Look for the positives in your situation. If you’re waiting for someone for a meeting, you have more time to answer emails.
  • Reflect on the last time you felt frustrated. The last time you felt irritated, things probably worked out in the end. Remember that most problems are temporary, and frustration doesn’t help move things faster — it only makes you miserable in the meantime.

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2. Worry/nervousness

Anxiety often comes from a missing sense of control over the future. You may be worried about the outcome of a project, whether your colleague will complete their work appropriately, or about the fate of your job during company layoffs. These are all things you can influence but may not have direct control over.

To mitigate this emotion, try:

  • Surrounding yourself with calm people. It’s much easier to feel confident when others believe things will work out for the best. Their positivity will rub off on you.
  • Deep breathing. Mindful breathing helps calm your brain, reduce your heart rate, and offset panic. 
  • Seek help. If your anxiety is out of control, you may want to consult a mental health professional. They can guide you through your difficult feelings.

3. Anger/aggravation

This is probably the most destructive emotion in the workplace. It’s also one of the hardest to control. Learning to manage your anger at work is one of the most important things you can do, especially if you want to avoid rage quitting.

Here’s what to do:

  • Look for the warning signs. Anger doesn’t come from nowhere. Just like water, it gently starts to simmer before reaching a boil. Identifying and stopping these feelings is key to avoiding temper tantrums.
  • Remove yourself from the angering situation. If you notice yourself heating up, politely remove yourself from the triggering environment. You can also try to “escape” by closing your eyes and breathing deeply. This will help interrupt any angry thoughts.
  • Imagine yourself angry. If you chose to lash out, what would you look like? Would you want to be around that person? Probably not. An outside perspective of yourself can incentivize you to stay calm.

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4. Disappointment

You may have been re-assigned to a project you dislike or received a poor performance review. These moments can sting with sadness and disappointment. And if these feelings linger, they can hold you back from chasing your goals.

To get over your disappointment:

  • Change your mindset. Humans need sadness to appreciate the good things in life. Remember that your disappointment is temporary, and soon you’ll reach another peak.
  • Learn from failure. Examine your situation and see what you could have done differently. If you made a mistake, learn from it and forgive yourself. If you really did nothing wrong, accept that some things are out of your control. This will help you move on to bigger and better things.

5. Dislike

It’s impossible to be friends with everyone you meet — especially at work. But you still have to see them every day, so it’s vital you stay professional.

These tips can help:

  • Show respect. Even if you don’t like them, they were hired for a reason. They have skills that you may not and are as valuable to the team as you are. And if they behave in an unprofessional manner, you’re better off not stooping to their level. Give them the respect they deserve.
  • Be kind but assertive. When a person behaves unprofessionally toward you, setting boundaries is important. Politely but firmly explain that you refuse to be treated this way, then exit the situation. 

6. Burnout

Burnout usually occurs after an accumulation of chronic stress. It usually leads to a lack of motivation, pleasure in your job, and belief in your ability to complete a task. Plus, it leaves you feeling irritable and easily frustrated, making you more prone to rage quitting.

Short of taking stress leave, here’s how you can mitigate burnout:

  • Cultivate interests outside of work. Burnout is a work-related phenomenon. Adding vibrancy to your life with hobbies, family time, and community activities can help relieve the pressures of your job.
  • Take care of your physical health. Practice good sleep hygiene, drink water, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly. Taking care of your body will help you take care of your mind.

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Extra tips on how to manage emotions in a positive way

Any of the above negative emotions can lead to a rage quit, and each will require its own coping mechanism. As you create your personal coping strategies, these best practices can help:

  • Delay your decisions. Never make decisions when you’re overwhelmed with emotion. This is especially true if you’re angry. Something as simple as the 10-second rule can help you here: close your eyes and count to 10, breathing deeply the whole time.
  • Identify and avoid your triggers. If a colleague regularly aggravates you, limit your time with them. Avoidance can mitigate your frustration until a more permanent solution is available. 
  • Exercise. Run, lift weights, go cycling. Or, for an added social aspect, join an exercise class. This is a great way to burn negative energy and distract yourself from work for a while.

How to express frustration at work

Your coping strategies for the above emotions should act as a pressure relief valve to help you maintain composure at work. Then this will help you express your frustration constructively and healthily.

It’s all about being assertive without getting personal. Here are some tactics that can help:

  • Stick to the facts. Avoid generalizing when confronting someone. Focus on specific behaviors and examples when expressing your displeasure.
  • Use “I” language. Focus on how it makes you feel instead of using accusatory language like, “You always mess up my work!”
  • Draw the connection between their behavior and your feelings. Make sure it’s clear that they’re the reason behind your frustration, but focus on the behavior, not their character.

    For example, “When you hand in things late, it means I can’t complete my own tasks. That frustrates me because now we’re both missing our deadlines.” This shows how it implicates you and how their behavior impacts you.

Even if you decide to leave your current role, you can use the above tactics during an exit interview. Your feedback can help your employer make structural improvements for current and future employees.

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Don’t give into rage

Rage quitting is a tempting but ill-advised way of dealing with workplace problems. It’s always better to calm down, try to deal with your frustrations, then decide with a level head whether you still want to quit.

Managing emotions in the workplace is difficult, and finding the right coping mechanisms will take time. You’ll need to be patient and keep an open mind. And after a while of trying new hobbies, exercising more often, and practicing mindfulness, you’ll be better equipped to make healthy decisions.

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Published November 23, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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