The workplace can often be a stressful environment, but when anger is thrown into the picture then the stress level becomes even greater. Having to deal with the anger or negative behavior of a co-worker can sometimes make you feel vulnerable and decrease your productivity, but there are positive ways in which you can handle these situations.

First of all, it’s important to understand the underlying reasons of a person’s anger or negative behavior and in this way you can take the first step in dealing with their anger in a constructive way. Understanding the underlying reasons of their behavior comes down to how it makes you feel.

Does it make you feel powerless?
His or her goal is to gain some sort of control over you. This is often because the person is insecure or has feelings of inadequacy. The need for control is very important to a person who feels this way and negative behavior is one of those ways in which they can do this.

Does it make you feel annoyed?
Very simply, they want your attention. By angering you, they are seeking some sort of connection or bond.

Does it make you feel hurt or helpless?
They themselves feel inadequate or vulnerable and are doing a role reversal. By expressing anger either outright or in a passive aggressive way, they are protecting themselves.

Next, you need to work on ways to handle their anger, and a lot of this is done by identifying the situation and learning ways to strengthen your areas of vulnerability.
This is how it can be done:

Detach yourself from the situation by seeing their behavior for what it really is, whether it’s a way to manipulate, to get your attention or a way in which they are venting their frustrations.

Remind yourself not to take their anger personally. This can take practice, but by giving yourself these reminders you will feel less vulnerable and better able to handle each situation.

Listen to what they are saying to you without becoming caught up in it. Validate their anger by saying “I can see that you are really upset right now”, or “I’d feel the same way if I were you”. This can often diffuse the situation and let the person know that they are being treated with respect.

Give the person a choice. Let them know that you are perfectly will to talk about what’s angering them once they have cooled off and are behaving in a more respectful way.

Ask the person what it is that they want, or what remedy they are seeking with their anger. By drawing them into problem solving and more levelheaded thinking, the anger can often be diffused.

Set firm boundaries for yourself. Let the person know when they have crossed the line but do this in a non-confrontational way. Be calm and remember again to detach yourself from their anger and not take it personally. If the person becomes abusive in any way, report it immediately to your supervisor.

By learning to disengage from the anger of a co-worker, setting boundaries and building effective communication skills you can have less stress in your work environment and be a more productive person.

By Elizabeth Farrell

Anger Management Classes available 7 days a week in Houston, Texas.

Gregory A. Kyles, M.A., LPC, CEAP, CAMF
Director, Anger Management Institute of Texas
Diplomate, President of Texas Chapter
American Association of Anger Management Providers

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