By Rob Smentek
Do you frequently fly off the handle? Are you prone to blow your stack? Do you often hit the roof? Is it common for you to go ballistic, wig out, or even flip your lid?
In the high-pressure, 24/7 world of chauffeured ground transportation, where customer service and corporate culture are integral parts of your business’ success, it’s vital that the staff of your company—from the part-timers to the owner—knows how to keep calm, cool, and collected.
Everyone knows that it’s challenging to run a business. When it comes dealing with problem employees, demanding clients, or even just standstill traffic, the day-to-day struggles of running a luxury ground transportation operation are enough to try the patience of even the most laid-back personality. Tales of the “office screamer” are unfortunately common, as are stories of slammed doors, holes in drywall, and airborne cellphones that need constant replacing.
Inappropriate displays of anger are a surefire way to send your career in a downward spiral, and if you’re the owner, you can bet your business will follow that trajectory. Explosive fits of rage can kill your office culture, reduce trust, and cause your employee engagement and retention to plummet as they never know what will set you off. Even worse, it can negatively affect your brand or ultimately lead to legal complications.
Getting mad is normal—and is often justifiable; however, it’s important to behave rationally, especially in a professional environment.
Thanks to a mediocre comedy film with Adam Sandler, the phrase “anger management” has become something of a punch line. It conjures up the image of a soft-spoken instructor talking down screaming nutcases who are sitting in a circle. In reality, it’s more beneficial to think of anger management as a tool that anyone can use if they feel their inability to control their temper might be having a negative effect on their business or family.
Using a three-tiered approach to help you manage welling frustration is an effective way to control your temper, and can positively change your behavior patterns in the long run.
1. Identify what’s causing your anger
If your go-to reaction in many situations is anger, it’s likely that your temper is masking your true feelings; this is especially likely if you grew up in a family where expressing yourself was strongly discouraged. As an adult, you may have a hard time acknowledging feelings other than anger. Picture a child: It’s very common for a child who's hurt themselves or embarrassed in public to lash out in anger. This is because they’re unsure how to react, and a long-standing pattern of this behavior can last through adulthood. Is your anger masking other feelings such as embarrassment, insecurity, hurt, shame, or vulnerability?
Anger can also be the result of an underlying health problem, such as depression, trauma, or chronic stress. Do some soul searching to see if you can identify the root.
2. Be aware of your warning signs and triggers
When you feel yourself getting especially P.O.’ed, do you have any physical signs? For instance, some people get red in the face or clench their fists. Others (like me) hear a hum or actually see red. It’s important to recognize your personal signs of escalating anger. When I hear that way-too-familiar hum in my ear, I know it’s time to step away from a situation before I say something I regret.
Also, think about anything that consistently triggers your anger. Do you have a day or activity you particularly dread? Is there a client or coworker who always seems to punch your buttons? Knowing in advance that these things are prone to tick you off is helpful in planning not only your day but also your approach in handling those regular stressors.
3. Learn how to cool down
Throughout our lives, most of us have been taught to manage our anger by suppressing it and then letting loose while we’re alone. But, while it’s true that holding in your anger is unhealthy, venting is no better. Contrary to popular belief, punching a pillow won’t decrease your anger. In fact, recent studies have shown the opposite to be true: Venting only increases your hostility, which can have a negative effect on your health. Anger has been linked to high blood pressure, headaches, skin disorders, and digestive problems. One study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology directly related anger to a rise in coronary heart disease, and worse outcomes in people who already have heart problems.
Anger is not something you “let out” in an aggressive way in order to avoid blowing up, and the temptation to use drugs and alcohol to settle down is likely to exacerbate frustration and possibly create new problems if used to mask the underlying issues. Instead, try these exercises to calm your temper.
• Prioritize getting more sleep. We all know it’s true: Being sleep-deprived leads to more anger, hostility, and irritation. It also makes it harder to deal with minor issues that trigger your frustration.
• Take three deep breaths. Using deep breathing is an effective, and fast acting, way to regain control of yourself before your anger erupts.
• Go for a walk. Take my advice: When you start to see red—literally or figuratively—just walk away. A short walk outside, or another calming exercise, is a great coping strategy for how to deal with anger.
• Assert yourself. Learn to express your feelings calmly and directly without becoming hostile, defensive, or charged up. Read self-help books or seek help from a professional therapist to learn how to use assertiveness and anger management skills.
If you have repeatedly tried some of the techniques above and still can’t control your anger, it may be time to go and seek professional help from a medical or psychiatric professional. Don’t let your temper take over your life and affect your business, personal life, or both.
Getting mad is normal—and is often justifiable; however, it’s important to behave rationally, especially in a professional environment. Anger can disrupt your relationships and raise your risk of illness. Learn to take control and express yourself appropriately.