Last night, the film industry turned out for the Oscars and usually the day after would see people discussing whether the awards went to the most deserving nominees. Only this year, the focus has shifted from the actual films as instead everyone is talking about the moment the actor Will Smith walked onto the stage and hit the comedian Chris Rock in the face!

The incident, which took place after Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife, seemed completely uncharacteristic of the normally professional actor but this got us thinking about how easy it can be to lose your cool at work and whether there are ways to avoid doing just that.

We’ve all had those moments at work – a meeting turns sour, the boss piles on the pressure, a colleague says something (or emails something) that comes across as rude. There’s a phrase that people use in such instances – ‘it makes my blood boil’ – because that’s exactly how it feels. You feel the heat rising and this is when the knee jerk reaction can kick in – pounding your fists on a table, raising the voice, or writing a quick (and equally rude) email back.

As tempting as it is to take these kind of actions, there are better ways to release your frustrations while remaining calm and professional. Here are five ways to keep your cool:

1. Breathe

If you feel like you’re about to open your mouth and scream or shout at someone, close that mouth, count to ten and just breathe. Although you might still be feeling annoyed or stressed afterwards, this little breathing exercise will have bought you some time to take a step back and put things into perspective (thereby preventing the knee-jerk reaction).

2. Vent to someone you trust

Having a bit of a rant with someone you trust can be a therapeutic way of getting any grievances out of your system and also keeping a sense of perspective. So, the next time you feel that heat rising, seek out your trusted ally instead. Perhaps a coffee/venting session with a work colleague or a quick text or call to a friend or family member. Sometimes just hearing a friendly and supportive voice for a few minutes will help you stay calm and remind you there’s more to life than whatever or whoever is currently the source of your annoyance.

3. Take a Break

If you’ve just gone through a particularly intense and anger-inducing moment at work, another tactic is to temporarily remove yourself from the situation. That might be a physical removal (e.g. taking your lunch or going for a walk) or a mental escape (e.g. using your lunch break to browse a favourite website, listen to some music or play a game on your phone). Giving yourself this kind of distraction will relieve stress and help you get back to work in a better (and less angry) frame of mind.

4. Write it but don’t send it

When you’ve been provoked into an angry or frustrated mood, putting your feelings into words is a great way of letting off steam. Get a pen and paper or type out your response to that person but don’t actually send it to them. You’ll feel better to have exorcised those demons but when that’s done… delete, delete, delete!

5. Ask yourself how important it is

Another way to step back from a provocation is to ask yourself a simple question: ‘Will I care about this in five years? Next year? Or even next month?’

In most cases, the honest answer will be ‘no’. That doesn’t mean not caring about your work or role; it’s simply that most of the things that agitate us at work are temporary. Asking yourself this question will give you a greater awareness of that, enabling you to move on and focus on what’s more important.

One more thing…

If there’s a single workplace where people never get bothered by other people’s actions and there are no arguments, then we’d love to hear about it. For most of us, there will always be some moments when our professionalism and anger-management skills are put to the test. Having a few calming down tactics which work for you can make a real difference – keeping the blood far away from that boiling point.

One last word of advice we’ve picked up from last night’s Oscars:

Regardless of how angry you are, it’s never acceptable work conduct to resort to physical violence but if you’re thinking of making a joke about someone’s wife today, you might want to think again!


Feature image: Freepik