For every minute you are angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A story is told of Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, and how he was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a sharp letter.
Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded missive to the president. “What are you going to do with it?” Lincoln inquired. Surprised, Stanton replied, “Send it.” Lincoln shook his head, “You don’t want to send that letter,” he said, “Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
Do you know the causes of anger at your place of business? Research by Bensimon showed that most employees were annoyed at least 10 times daily. While the frequency and causes may vary, a survey from Monster reveals the Top Ten causes of anger at work: bad management, unjust treatment, lack of career opportunity, not being appreciated, excess workload, computer irritations, dishonest colleagues, incompetence or subordinates, interpersonal incivility, and asserting power. Any of these resonate with you?
Tipping points for anger vary from person to person, but the effects can be costly if you do not learn how to control it. A WebMD study reveals that personality types and the ability to control anger may have an effect of heart health and one’s risk for stroke. In addition the study said, “People considered the least agreeable and the most antagonistic had a 40% increased risk for arterial wall thickening. This is similar to the risk imparted by having metabolic syndrome, a known potent contributor to heart disease.”
While there may be a Top Ten list of things that anger us at work, none of them are worth the serious health risks caused by stress and anger. So what is a leader to do and how can you get a grip on anger? Here are four tips to help you keep it all in perspective.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. In his highly acclaimed book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson sensibly points out, “Often we allow ourselves to get all worked up about things that, upon further examination aren’t really that big a deal. We focus on little problems and concerns and blow them out of proportion. So many people spend so much of their life energy sweating the small stuff” that they completely lose touch with the magic and beauty of life.” The next time you are tempted to look at how bad things are try counting your blessings instead.
Learn to laugh. It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine. And while not every issue that makes you angry is a laughing matter, perhaps those issues wouldn’t make you so angry if you simply learn to laugh.
In his book, Rules of Thumb, Alan M. Webber says, “We all want to work for people who take their work seriously-and themselves not so much. Work is hard. Life is short. Shouldn’t we all rejoice at the seriousness of our work, and laugh at the foolishness that surrounds us?” That’s great advice. If you simply learned to laugh at what surrounds you instead of being angry it would completely change your outlook. It will also be good for your heart.
Practice gratitude. Be it stress, fatigue, work or personal issues, or a variation of them all; anger can cause you to miss the good that surrounds you. Norman Vincent Peale says, “One of the great principles of life is that of thanksgiving. Not only is giving thanks a recognition of past benefits, it is the activator of blessings yet to come. If in your life there is a paucity of blessings, it just might be that your tendency to thankfulness has grown weak and inactive.” What are you thankful for?
Be proactive. While I have given a few suggestions, there are plenty more good resources available to help you if this is a major issue for you. Additionally; taking breaks, getting proper exercise and rest, among others, will lead to a more positive approach to confronting your anger.
Leadership is hard and stressful at times. And it is only natural that on occasion anger can get the best of us. But if left unbridled it can cause long term problems. Get a grip on anger and reclaim the joy and challenges that each day brings.
© 2012 Doug Dickerson
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