Workers whose jobs make them angry all the time — like Jon Stewart toward the end of his ‘The Daily Show’ run — share their coping strategies.
Work on your anger.
That’s what most Americans are doing, anyway: More than half (52%) of employees said they’ve lost their temper at work, according to a recent survey from the Accountemps staffing firm, with 65% fuming at a coworker, 37% at a supervisor and 21% at a customer.
Working longer hours for flattening wages; the 24/7 barrage of push alerts and email; plus the frustration and FOMO from social media posts making everyone else seem happier than you are all contributing to our growing dissatisfaction. A 2016 “American Rage” report by Esquire and NBC News found that half of all Americans were angrier than they were the year before. And more than a third (37%) of overall respondents said that they read something in the news that made them angry daily. More than one in four people (28%) also said in a Mental Health Organization report last year that they worry about how angry they sometimes feel.
That’s why Jon Stewart left “The Daily Show” in 2015, a fact that new host Trevor Noah revealed in a recent panel discussion with Vulture. “He said, ‘I’m leaving because I’m tired.’ And he said, ‘I’m tired of being angry.’ And he said, ’I’m angry all the time. I don’t find any of this funny. I do not know how to make it funny right now.’”
Trevor reveals the best advice Jon Stewart gave him about hosting The Daily Show. #FYC
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) June 11, 2018
That’s a refrain that Jeff, a 35-year-old musician living in Brooklyn who declined to share his last name, knows all too well.
“I’ve worked as a barista. I’ve worked managing a deli. And the thing that made me so angry was the fact that [service employees] are caught between two equally unreasonable and challenging parties: the customer and the employer,” he said. “And you can’t win. The customers look at an employee as someone to take their own anger out on. You have the management desperate to avoid negative Yelp reviews … so the employees get no support.”
So he pretended he was Jim (played by John Krasinski) on NBC’s “The Office,” who would make faces at the camera whenever his boss or coworkers did something absurd. “What I had to do was pretend that I was in a bad sitcom, and every time someone talked down to me, every time my dignity was on the chopping block, I would just look over at the camera that was not there, and grimace,” he said. “It was like a dissociative exercise.”
And even as workplace culture is taking baby steps to become friendlier, with some offices letting employees nap or allowing them to bring in their pets, it’s normal to get worn down by the daily grind. So Moneyish spoke with workplace experts and psychologists for more tips on working through workplace anger — as well as knowing when it’s best to just find a new gig.
Decompress during your commute. Even if traffic or mass transit delays often make you see red, this is still a great time to set an intention for the day. Monster.com career expert Vicki Salemi told Moneyish that she saves inspirational memes on her phone to inspire her on the train. “Or have an upbeat tune ready to go that will put you in a happy place,” she said. “Save five of your favorite pictures from a recent vacation to look at. Repeat a mantra like ‘I am gonna rock this day.’” If a terrible commute is a constant issue, ask to work from home a couple of times a week.
Take five to cool down. Don’t yell at anyone or fire off angry emails or Slack messages. Baltimore Therapy Center director Raffi Bilek suggests removing yourself from the situation by taking a walk or ducking into the bathroom to splash cold water on your face, which is “a great way to lower your heart rate,” he added. “Or call someone on the phone for a few minutes and vent.” And if you know you’ve got an irritating day ahead, then also schedule things to look forward to, such as getting a favorite pastry on your break or booking a yoga class after work.
Vent with trusted friends or colleagues. “One important way to manage your anger about it is to have one or two friends at work with whom you can discuss and vent about the situation confidentially,” said Bilek. “The goal is not to badmouth your boss, but to share in the frustration with other people who understand. Be careful who you choose, though. If you are not absolutely sure you can trust someone to keep these conversations private, you shouldn’t share anything you wouldn’t want others hearing.”
Remind yourself why you’re there. When the going gets tough, repeat your purpose for doing this job. Maybe it’s your passion: A teacher frustrated by curriculum guidelines, for example, can remind herself that she loves working with kids. Maybe it provides you with the pay and benefits to take care of your family. Or if you’re doing a job as a means to pursue your real passion, remind yourself of the end goal: getting your book published, or covering tuition to get your degree.
Have a life outside of work. “Without some form of regular escape, people experiencing frustration have no choice but to think obsessively about their problems and conflicts,” business coach Richard Martinez told Moneyish. So free your mind by creating art or music, exercising, curling up with a book, taking care of your plants or going to trivia night.
Determine what’s angering you. You can’t come up with solutions until you identify what’s ticking you off. If there’s one coworker who drives you crazy, maybe there’s a way to avoid that person. Or say your workload is burying you: If this a temporary struggle because you are short-staffed, or your team is finishing a project, remind yourself that things will lighten up in a couple of weeks. If the workload shows no sign of easing up, then meet with your manager to discuss taking some things off your plate or extending some deadlines.
There are warning signs that you can’t work through this, however: If you are angry every day; you’re dreading the work week ahead every Sunday night; you start lashing out at people; you’re having trouble sleeping and letting go of the work day — and there’s no sign that workplace issues like your workload or a toxic colleague will let up any time soon — then it’s time to seek another place of employment.
“It’s normal for us to feel frustration on the job … but when you’re really angry all of the time … the baseline for this job is being angry, and it stands out when ‘Oh, I wasn’t angry today,’ then you know it’s time to go,” said Salemi.
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