Back in the Cold War days, and even still today, nations would negotiate and operate under the understanding of Mutual Assured Destruction or “MAD.” This doctrine requires each side to have enough force that if one is attacked by another, the other would respond with equal force, or a force that is greater. However, no one wants to be the first to attack, which keeps everyone under control and at “peace.”
But that’s not true on the job.
If you strike while infuriated at work, you can’t expect the fight to continue as you may simply be shown the door. Think back to the movie “Jerry Maguire,” where Jerry, a former company rock star, challenges the office’s status and decides to take a stand. He rages through the office and then asks those around him, “Who’s coming with me?”
After a long uncomfortable moment, Jerry leaves with just one person and a goldfish. While things worked out well for Jerry personally and professionally, life rarely imitates art. If you find yourself getting too mad and letting your emotions escalate to a point where your actions and words may be irrecoverable, stop before the only option you have left is to walk out the company doors for good.
When emotions heat up, try these five techniques to bring it down a notch:
Remember your nursery rhymes. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Getting too emotional over words doesn’t do anyone any good. If you are not careful, you may respond in a way you’ll regret. Let unpleasant words roll off your back and respond once you’ve had time to cool down.
Sleep on it. We live in an era where everything is deemed urgent, and the smallest e-mail requires an immediate response. However, think carefully before you shoot back an emotionally-charged response. It’s always better to address these types of e-mails after you’ve had a chance to carefully consider your reply, especially because e-mails last forever and can go to people and places you never imagined. The best attitudinal adjustment between hope and despair can be a good night’s sleep.
Take a walk before you take a hike. When emotions stir inside, try walking them out. A walk around the building can do wonders. If the boiling point reaches a crescendo and you’ve tried everything to change the situation, then it may be time to change jobs. But, before you put in your resignation letter and take a hike, make sure your decision to leave the company is based on reason, not emotion. Quitting is a permanent reaction to what might have been a temporary problem if emotion was left out of it.
Don’t push it. In the heat of battle, it always feels like we should push to get in the last word or make the point even more emphatically. Remember that your workplace is not a place where anyone is indentured; working is a choice, and it’s optional. It might just be better to let the point go rather than cross the line that causes someone to leave the company or another employee to lose their dignity. It’s a fine line between assertiveness and aggressiveness, but that line should be known and respected.
Follow the ‘Golden Rule.’ When angry, the most important lesson to remember is to treat a person the way you want to be treated. That respect goes a long way.
World peace may have been held through the fear of “MAD,” but it doesn’t hold up for our jobs and offices. Getting mad won’t serve anyone well—not you, not your co-workers, not your boss, and not your company.
Rusty Rueff, director and career expert for jobs and career website Glassdoor.com has been a CEO, led HR in global companies and is co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business.