Does your job ever make you angry?
If you're a veteran of the work force, the answer is probably a resounding yes, Pegg Lantzer, employee assistance program coordinator at Altoona Regional Health System, said. But there are things you can do to get that anger in check before it escalates into something bad.
"Jobs cause stress. That's a fact of life - personality clashes, confined spaces, dislike of a supervisor, personal matters at home - it all causes stress, " she said. "You spend almost as much time with your co-workers as you do your own family. That in itself can cause stress. You go home, yell at a spouse ... and it goes from there. It's all part of the natural process that occurs."
But there's a way to resolve just about any heated workplace situation. She said it is key to head off a potential conflict by stating the problem; discussing how the problem is affecting you and the other person; avoiding sarcasm and innuendo; facing the conflict as a team; compromising; showing respect for the other person (the source of the problem is a behavior or action, not a person, she said); and letting go of a conflict once it's been resolved.
"Recognizing the problem and talking it through with each other is vital," she said. "If someone bites your head off and you've done nothing wrong to them, you have to stop and ask if they're having a problem or a bad day - get them to look at what exactly it is that's bothering them and figure out a way to change the behavior. Usually, when people are stressed they can be very unaware of their behavior - not always, but they can be."
If a hostile situation can't be resolved by the parties involved on their own, it's time for third-party intervention, she said. That entails bringing both parties together and discussing the issues.
When you get angry
Focus on what the problem is and how you can work it out rather than winning or getting your own way.
Let the other person know you are angry. State it right out front in an assertive but non-confrontational way.
If you tend to act on assumptions or read into a situation, take a few minutes to decide if you really have something to work out with the other person or if you have to resolve the problem within yourself instead.
Deal with issues when they arise, not after hours, days or weeks stewing about it. If you can't deal with a problem immediately, set up a time to work it out later.
State your feelings directly with appropriate nonverbal cues. If you are genuinely angry, a smile is inappropriate and misleading to the other person.
Accept responsibility for your own feelings.
No one has the power to make you angry.
Stick to specifics and the present situation.
Avoid generalizing about the entire history of the relationship.
Picture you and the other person working together as a team to resolve the problem.
If it appears the conflict cannot be resolved together, take the initiative and be the first to sacrifice.
Respect the other person. The source of the conflict is a behavior or action, not a person.
Listen to the person. Nothing heightens a person's anger more than the feeling that they are not being heard.
Ask the person to be specific about whatever it is that set them off. Doing so leads the person to the thinking side and away from the emotional side of the problem.
Let go. Resolving a conflict means ending it. Bringing it up again means the conflict was not resolved in the first place.
Source: Pegg Lantzer, Altoona Regional Health System, Altoona
"They stand a better chance of resolving it that way," she said.
And if there is no resolution to be found?
"Then you have two options: Either you call a truce or one of you leaves and finds another job or position," she said. "You have to remember that you don't have to be friends, but you do have to work together. But if you're in such a bad situation that it's harming your physical or emotional health, you have to make a decision."
Janet Pfeiffer, a nationally recognized authority in the field of anger management and conflict resolution and author of "The Secret Side of Anger" (Tate Publishing, 2009), said there are many triggers that cause workplace anger, but only three root causes: hurt, fear and frustration.
"In this day and age, there is a lot of fear resulting from an unstable economy and job uncertainty and frustration because many companies are demanding more from employees without compensation," she said in a phone interview from her office in Oak Ridge, N.J. "People feel powerless to improve their circumstances. Hurt occurs when, for example, management lacks compassion and concern for employees and cares only about profit. People feel devalued and that hurts."
The end result of hurt, fear and frustration is anger, and that's when interpersonal conflict begins and a miserable on-the-job experience takes root, she said.
"Anger can always be resolved since it is internal and self-imposed. All emotions come from what we think," she said.
"No one has the power to make us angry. We can choose to become angry about a situation, or accept that it is what it is and decide to resolve it, or do the best with what we've got. Focus on the positive rather than the negative. Positive thoughts generate positive feelings," she said.
Pfeiffer, who also is a certified domestic violence counselor and motivational speaker, believes that while expressing anger is "perfectly acceptable and essential for our well-being," the manner in which do it is equally as important.
It is never permissible to use anger to hurt, berate or threaten others. Anger can, and needs to be, expressed with confidence and respect, she added.
"Those who feel comfortable with themselves, who have a strong sense of self, are less likely to be bothered by other people's behavior. They will address the issue but respond from a place of confidence - 'I can handle this ... it's no big deal.'"
Dr. Mlen-Too Wesley, a part-time lecturer in Religious Studies at Penn State Altoona who teaches conflict resolution and anger management classes as Altoona Regional Health System, said that while anger and conflict is always best resolved in a non-confrontational way, it is important to not be overly docile.
"There are certain situations where you must make a stand or you'll be attacked - emotionally and psychologically. That happens often in the workplace," he said.
"It's important to develop a patient attitude. A patient person is someone who is tough and not easily moved to anger - not someone who is perceived by belligerent or trouble-making colleagues as someone they can prey on. In most cases, if they perceive you as easy prey, they'll continue to attack."
Wesley said resolving conflict "is not just for resolution but for healing."
He cited examples of how to relieve on-the-job stress and anger.
"Take a few minutes of silence and meditation. Silence is good for the mind, soul and spirit." he said. "Go to the restroom, or any place you can find sanctuary, sit quietly, meditate for a while, stretch you arms, run in place or even punch the air or yell - if you're in a place where you won't create alarm for people."
Lantzer said more often than not workplace anger stems from a perceived lack of control over life issues such as feeling stuck in a job you don't like.
"As long as you feel like [the problem] is outside of you, or that you have no control of it, it makes you very angry," she said. "Once you realize that you do have a choice, then you can calm down. If you're that unhappy at work, you have to say to yourself, 'Why am I here. No one is forcing me to be here.' You're not trapped ... you have a choice."
It's always a matter of keeping your job in perspective, she said, adding a job should never consume someone's life.
"Sometimes, we identify who we are by our work," she said. "But there's a whole lot more that goes into being a human being - work is only part of it. But you know, in the end, we're all expendable. If you drop dead tomorrow, there will be someone else to do your job."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.