How do I deal with my Hulk-like anger?
February 10, 2008 1:01 PM   Subscribe

How do I deal with my Hulk-like anger?

I have a very bad temper, but generally I can keep it under wraps, even when provoked. A few days ago during shift change as I waited for my day counterparts to leave, a day shift manager decided he would try his motivational power games on me (his impression was that I wasn't doing any work), and instigated a very unprofessional argument between myself, two other supervisors, and himself in front of our direct reports.

I quickly blew up. I was in the middle of 3 people, all yelling at me to get something, anything done and I lost my temper. I felt like a terrier of some sort defending his own little patch of grass from the big bad neighborhood dogs. Expletives flowed. Temperatures rose.

This guy has been reported many times before for threatening behavior, making homophobic remarks and generally being an all around asshat.

How do I deal with this typical bully behavior, catch my temper from popping off, and work around these jerks in a professional capacity?
posted by jackofsaxons to Work & Money (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I have severe anger issues as well. I've found the best thing to do in most situations is just walk away. It sounds easy, but it's really hard to do. Of course you'll stew for a bit, but I think it's better than getting fired up in an argument. And to everyone not involved in the situation, you'll look like the better, more mature person.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:15 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

MaryDellamorte has it. You need to get out of the situation. It might help if you have standard line, like "I have to go to the bathroom, please excuse me", which can explain, in some rational way, why you're leaving.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on February 10, 2008

There have been some good past posts on this topic: 1, 2, 3, among others.
posted by salvia at 1:36 PM on February 10, 2008

I don't even think he needs to even give an excuse. Either say nothing or say "I will not be treated like this" or "until you can talk to me like an adult, then I'm going to walk away."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:37 PM on February 10, 2008

I've noticed that anger begets more anger - it just seems to grow and grow once it gets started. For that reason you need to not start, and do what MaryDellamorte and Brandon Blatcher have suggested.
posted by JaySunSee at 1:38 PM on February 10, 2008

Cultivate a hobby that allows you to express the anger in a productive way. Something like kickboxing, where you can release the pent up emotions in a healthy way. It's important not to bottle things like that up.

+1 for walking away, too. It's better to not get wound up in the first place. And report the guy again.
posted by Solomon at 1:38 PM on February 10, 2008

My own opinion is yoga or meditation or heavy exercise. On a daily basis, practice remaining in calm control even as part of your body or mind is feeling intense pain or strong emotion. You do not have to react.
posted by salvia at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2008

I don't even think he needs to even give an excuse.

The excuse isn't so much for others, but for him, so he has a standard line he can remember in the heat of anger that will also be a socially polite way of leaving the conversation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:05 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

The excuse isn't so much for others, but for him, so he has a standard line he can remember in the heat of anger that will also be a socially polite way of leaving the conversation.

Actually, yeah I agree. Good point. But I think it should be more along the lines of telling them that he's walking away because of their behavior, so they will begin to learn that they can't treat him like that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2008

In this situation I have used the line, "I am going to leave now before I say something that we are both going to regret."
posted by tamitang at 2:27 PM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Do not rise to the bait. Smile, nod, say, "Okay, thanks," "Thanks for the advice," or just "Okay," and walk away. No "situation" - you are not getting angry, you are not excusing yourself or having to refer to your anger or fire back accusations or heated statements, and the wind is completely our of their sails. If you feel you have been goaded in the past then reacting like this gives you the upper hand immediately. Arguing or getting angry with people like this simply isn't worth it. A simple throwaway agreement will make you feel a hundred times better in the long run rather than standing there stomping and arguing the case. If people don't want to listen to what you are reasonably telling them, or want to nitpick or intentionally wind you up for a reaction, just agree with them or accept their point of view. Be bigger than them - you will find they go away pretty quickly.
posted by fire&wings at 3:26 PM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've been working on controlling my temper for decades now, with reasonable success. I've identified various triggers that always seemed to set me off, and though I still think anger is not an unreasonable response in some situations, rage is counterproductive.

One situation that I've never had a problem with, though, is when, as you describe, someone else is goading me. In that situation, walking away is a good option, as others have said, but I've most often dealt with it by going icy, steely glare and all, and either explaining why the person who was shouting is making a fool of themselves, going meta, or coolly goading them on further until they do. Then walking away.

It's passive-aggressive, or maybe aggressive-aggressive, perhaps, but the satisfaction comes for me in not losing my temper, and helping them to lose theirs, in which case, if they had deliberately created a situation in which there had to be a winner and a loser from the confrontation, it's pretty clear that it backfired on them.

If they had a good point in the first place and were getting all worked up over it because they have temper issues as well, then I'm quite happy to mollify, back down, accept what they say, and defuse the situation agreeably, of course. That's much easier to do if you never lose your temper.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:28 PM on February 10, 2008

I've had some anger issues that aren't as overt, but still very clearly displayed for those who were paying attention. One thing I've learned to do is try to think ahead a bit. In the moment, my reaction always feels justified, powerful, protective. Although not yet perfect, I'm learning to realize that I'll always, in retrospect, regret my activity and will be viewing it through a different lens. Later, I'll see my past self in terms of the person who less attractively handled a particular situation. So in the end, it was about wanting to look like the better man when all was said and done. The problem is that in the moment, being the "better man" feels like the one who isn't going to let himself be pushed around, and that's the part that needs to be dealt with through proactive thinking. The person who loses it is the person who loses, and if I'm convinced of this from reflecting on it over time, whatever is cathartic about displaying my anger looks much less attractive, even in the moment.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:01 PM on February 10, 2008

OK, the bully knows he can push your buttons now, so you must be exceptionally careful around him.

a very unprofessional argument between myself, two other supervisors, and himself in front of our direct reports

If I may ask why the other supervisors were taking his side? Are any of them your immediate superior? If not, where was your immediate superior? They should be bringing up issues with YOUR boss and YOUR boss should be filtering what's legitimate to bring to you. If they're doing end-runs around him, and dumping on you collectively, there's probably a reason. I'm not saying it's a GOOD reason, but three people agreeing rightly or wrongly means you cannot easily dispose of this problem by blaming it on one man's personality.

So, yes, you need to control your anger somehow -- exercise, better sleep schedule, better nutrition, more sex, whatever -- but it seems to me you need to think about your professional org chart a little here too and how exposed you are to dotted-line supervision (which nobody ever likes) and what you can do about it.
posted by dhartung at 5:34 PM on February 10, 2008

"until you can talk to me like an adult, then I'm going to walk away."
"until you can act like an adult, I'm going to walk away."
posted by plinth at 5:41 PM on February 10, 2008

I have the opposite problem with anger-- i'm so slow to anger I stew for days. You can't always walk away (if that were the case, we'd all be unemployed), so it sounds like you could benefit from developing some coping strategies.

There are a lot of workshops on anger management, and I am sure there are some good books. If you have good self esteem and can understand the other person's games, that seems like a start. Can I suggest a trip to the library for some angermanagement/ self esteem books and a yoga tape?

The books I can recommend are the Mindfulness of Zen, and Zen and the Art of Archery. Slowly I'm learning to understand assholes as just maladapted children, whose behaviour I can't control.

Good luck.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:02 PM on February 10, 2008

Check out your diet also. Personally, I've got anger management issues tied to low blood sugar. I keep food around at all times to avoid it. (You might have a different trigger, but keep in mind your ability to deal with silly people around you can change depending on diet, sleep, coffee usage, etc).

And yes, nthing those who say "get out". When preemptive control fails, and you can't stay calm at the scene, leave. Bathroom is a great excuse, "I have to pick up x from department y" might also work too. Even "oh I left my lights on have to go check the car".
posted by nat at 10:25 PM on February 10, 2008

I will also affirm the diet idea. There's a three-way relationship in my life that when in place, has an incredible effect on my wellbeing, and I find that my anger often dissipates much easier.

1. Eating right (and specifically, very small quantities of refined foods and sugar).

2. Exercise.

3. Plenty of sleep (7-8 hours).

Although all are important, 1 and 2 have the greatest effect on my emotional state in the midst of stress.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2008

There's nothing special about it, the outcome of your manager's behaviour had to be an argument. I think that reflecting on the processes involved in relationships often leads to get a step back and consider the whole scene, like you allow yourself to do when reporting it. To control one's emotion is something to be achieved only in the long run, through practice. René Girard puts a strong emphasis on the fact that human relationships are based upon reciprocal mimicry. When an open hand is offered, you are prone to show an open hand too. When a fist is raised, so are you induced to raise a fist. These are but mechanisms. It's funny to see them that way and to know that somehow you're trapped in that pattern. It's funnier than focusing on the response you're supposed to give to the stimulus that some stupid manager is feeding you.. it maybe could give you enough time to apply the tips given before, and take a little walk to cool down.
posted by nicolin at 12:23 PM on February 11, 2008

« Older Crooked teeth=not sexy   |   Expression Engine and Custom Next Entry tags? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.