The workplace can be an intense and stressful place to be at times. Tight deadlines, high expectations can bring people to a boiling point. This is particularly true for Type A personalities, whose stronger-than-average drive to produce results can lead to harboring critical opinions of themselves, as well as their co-workers.

High levels of emotional and mental stress cannot be sustained without an eventual release of that energy into outwardly expressed behavior -- often leading to increased conflict with others and an erosion of trust. This type of behavior can seriously damage otherwise effective working relationships. In other cases, the pressure can lead to conflict avoidance, allowing negative emotions to be turned inward to "keep the peace."

Every time you lose your temper at work -- even if they are small habitual outbursts -- you risk damaging your credibility with others. And the long-term health problems associated with accumulative stress is even more troubling. The tendency of highly stressed leaders to engage in short, unexpected "bursts" of anger may be dismissed as beyond their control, rationalized as understandable, or simply written off as a personality trait, but the truth is this harmful behavior should be managed.

The main sources of pressure that can lead to outbursts of anger at work are primarily caused by internal pressure -- or personal intensity, and external pressure, caused by organizational and professional influences.

How likely are you to lash out at work? Answer the following questions to assess your personal and professional intensity "predictive factors":

Personal Intensity

Write down "yes" or "no" to each of the following questions:

1. I have been known to make sarcastic or critical remarks toward others.

2. When I'm angry with someone, they know it! (I tell him/her directly how I feel).

3. When I bottle-up my anger, I think about what I wished I could have done, (but didn't.)

4. Events that upset me can bother me for a long time.

5. Others have told me that I am highly critical.

6. At times, I "give in" to another, in order to avoid an intense argument.

7. I have been known to openly use foul language, or raise my voice when I am annoyed.

8. My job is emotionally demanding and tiring.

Scoring. Give yourself 1 point for answering "YES" for each item. A score of 4 points or more indicates that your personal intensity places you at risk of losing your temper at work.

Organizational/Professional Intensity

Write down "yes" or "no" to each of the following questions:

1. Co-workers who engage in outbursts of temper are coached, and if the behavior were to continue, they would be reprimanded for it.

2. The verbal abuse of others, even in a joking, sarcastic manner, rarely occurs in our department or work group.

3. Team members seldom gossip and/or complain about one another.

4. There is an unwritten rule at my place of employment that you can't take care of family needs on company time.

5. The reality is that employees have to choose between advancing in their jobs and devoting attention to their family or personal lives.

6. People know better than to get into a disagreement with certain individuals on the team because of how defensive or angry they are likely to become. It's best just to avoid them.

Scoring. Give yourself 1 point for answering "NO" on items 1, 2, and 3, and for answering "YES" on items 3, 4, and 5. A score of 3 points or higher indicates that your workplace is a contributing risk factor in predicting temper outbursts at work.

If your results suggest that you are likely to "lose it" on a more regular basis -- take comfort in knowing that it's possible to change your habits. The first step is to be cognizant of your "hot-head" tendencies and practice prevention methods that will help calm you and approach intense situations in a positive way -- such as deep breathing or mindful meditation. There are several techniques you can implement if you catch yourself being emotionally hijacked in the heat of the moment. I also recommend seeking the advice of an executive coach or health professional to provide further tools and support.

Published on: Mar 14, 2017
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