Losing your cool at the office can have long-term effects on your professional reputation.
We have all seen videos of celebrities losing their temper on set (cough: Tom Cruise) and heard about CEOs throwing three-year-old style tantrums, and while it’s easy to shake a finger at their outbursts, the truth desk rage is more common than you think. In fact, a study by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School showed that 12 percent of workers had quit their jobs to avoid unpleasant people at work, and 45 percent were thinking about doing so. Additionally, more than half of workers lost time worrying about irate or rude people in the office.
But you don’t have to start yelling to be considered ‘difficult’. Even little micro tantrums (such as sending a rude email) can have long-term effects on the way we are perceived and approached by those we work with, warns Jennine Estes, MFT, and founder of Estes Therapy. “Whether it’s snapping at a coworker, disengaging from a Zoom meeting, or otherwise allowing our mood to dictate our manners, we need to remember that what may feel good in the moment can negatively impact how we are perceived months, even years, down the line,” she says.
If you’re looking to take more control of your responses and your reputation, keep reading. We are highlighting 5 ways to bring your best self to the office (and build stronger relationships with colleagues and clients as a result).
Identify your triggers
Do short deadlines send you into a tailspin? Feel overwhelmed when you don’t know how to do something? Doing an internal MOT to identify what makes you tense and when you’re most likely to act out is a great way to take control of your responses. “You cannot control others, but you can control yourself, and that means you can learn to handle stressful situations; it’s all about planning and practice,” Estes explains. “Learning what presses your buttons is important because that’s ground zero when it comes to creating a plan of action.”
Change the narrative
“Oftentimes we assign meaning to the actions of others that have no real basis in fact,” says Estes. She suggests hitting reset and giving more room for communication. “Don’t be afraid to ask for more information – why has someone come to you last minute? You may find it’s because they are putting out fires themselves and not that they don’t respect your time.”
Take an ‘in this together’ approach
While it’s normal, and even healthy, to enjoy a little competition at the office, viewing coworkers as ‘enemies’ can create a toxic atmosphere fast. Estes says it is important to see colleagues as valuable contributors to the overall process and respect their role in the workplace. “When you take the time to recognize what each person brings to the table, it’s easier to come together and collaborate,” she says.
Don’t be a sponge
When you work in a dynamic and innovative environment, emergencies and setbacks are a part of the process. When things get hectic, tensions can run high, which can create a domino effect when it comes to stressful interactions. Estes says it is imperative that we do not allow ourselves to get ‘caught up’ in other people’s moods. “[Remind yourself that ] you can support someone without taking on their emotions as your own,” she says.
Make a plan
Remember the triggers we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Estes says writing out a plan of action in terms of how you would like to respond is a great way to establish better habits. “Think about how the best version of yourself would behave and create a ‘how-to’ for yourself. Keep it with you and read it when you’re stressed,” she advises. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do it perfectly the first few times. “We are all human, just do your best and one day it will finally click,” she says.