Sage advice--for life and careers--often appears in the strangest situations. I personally have gained life-long lessons in some of the strangest circumstances.
I learned, for example, how to know it's time to quit a job from a stranger I met on a bus. A Taco Bell employee once taught me how remembering people's names can build instant relationships and trust. And, today in the grocery store, I learned a profound lesson from an elderly couple standing in line. He wore plaid shorts. She wore a white hat with a red rose on top.
Overhearing the elderly woman's conversation with the cashier, I learned that the man was 96 years old and she was 92. A few 'young' jokes were exchanged. A few compliments were given as to how great the couple looked. And then the cashier asked a question that I'm sure the elderly couple hears all too often, "What's your secret?"
The sweet old woman glowed with energy when she was asked that question. "I'll tell you the secret to a long and happy life," she said. "Live without anger. Let it go."
Of course, numerous studies have been conducted on the harmful physical and emotional effects of anger. It's been linked to digestive problems, heart disease, depression, anxiety, headaches, stress and numerous other health conditions. "I've known many people whose lives were destroyed by anger," the woman continued. "It's dangerous and deadly. Get rid of it."
My expertise in the realm of living a long life falls far short of the lady in the grocery store by about 50 years. Nevertheless, I have seen the dangerous impact anger can have on a career, a person's ability to get a job, retain a job, advance in a job, and lead other people.
Common sources of workplace anger can include:
- Lack of trust
- Unfair criticism
- Being micromanaged
- Employee favoritism
- Rejection of ideas
- Insensitivity by management
- Unreasonable demands
- Poor communication
- Too much negative feedback
Most of us have experienced many of the situations listed above. As employees, too much of anything listed above will lead us to explore just a few options: either A) to a resignation, or B) into a state of frustration, resentment, and eventually anger.
Sadly, most employees don't have all that much control of, or opportunities to change the items listed above. But leaders do have both the control and the opportunity to change the list above. And those changes are not only good for tempering negative emotions, but they're also great for business.
Here are four research-backed activities you can practice today that not only calm tempers, but also improve your bottom line:
1. Don't stop until they love it.
As a leader of people, your job is to inspire the best in others. And research conducted on more than one million cases of award-winning work shows that 88 percent of great work begins with a person asking the question, "What difference could I make that other people would love?"
Ask yourself that question as a leader. How can you inspire, support, remove hurdles, and champion the people who work for you in a way they would love? That's your job--to help them become their best. Find a way to lead that they love.
2. Make their wellbeing your responsibility.
As a leader, your job is to help people perform at their best. Global research reveals that an employee's sense of wellbeing (physical, social, and emotional) plays a critical role in their performance.
According to that research, companies and departments who score high in all three areas of wellbeing experience 157 percent increase in engagement, a 30 percent increase in productivity, and a 120 percent increase in innovation. It's worth it to make their sense of wellbeing your responsibility.
We all know and understand that kind, supportive, and grateful words can mean the world to people. But as a leader, I want you to stop thinking about just the nice words you can use to recognize someone and instead think about why you truly appreciate them. Taking a few moments every morning to think about why you appreciate the people around you will change you.
It will fill you with positive thoughts, marginalize your own frustrations, and change the environment you create at work. Plus, research shows that sincere recognition is the number one thing employees say their boss could give them that would inspire them to produce great work.
Anger is something most of us would like to avoid. It's ugly. It doesn't feel good.
And, although we can read studies about the dangerous negative effects it can create in our lives and careers, there might not be anything more convincing than cute, happy, experienced elderly couple to drive home the point. "Live without anger," she said. I've been thinking about that little old lady all day.
And I would add to her profound piece of advice: Help others live without anger as well.