Finance Stoic 15 – Dealing with anger in the workplace

You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.38

Today’s question is why get angry at things, if anger doesn’t change it? 

I discussed hearing negative things about my team and not responding to it, which I regretted after the fact.

Today, I again heard negative things about my team and this time I responded in a way that I was even less proud of.

I responded with aggression and anger and there were some f#ck bombs dropped in the response .

The people I was responding to were senior leaders, and owners, of our business.

People that I ought to never respond to in that manner. To be clear, I did not swear at anyone, I swore at how the discussion was making me ‘feel’, for example: this is the second meeting you’ve talked this way about my team and its making me f#cking angry. It’s not deserved, and here’s why. Regardless, it was

Embarrassing.

Shameful.

Most articles suggest that the first thing I ought to do in response to that angry outburst is apologize to everyone who was on the receiving end of my outburst, message noted.

What I was surprised to read was that anger may not be as detrimental to my career as I’d expected. For example, if you are a man, losing your temper makes you look influential.

That said, I do not want to be known as a person that gets angry and yells at people in the office, it’s not my style. It’s not Stoicism. It’s not controlling my emotions.

Below, I list the top five ways I will us to diffuse a situation before I get to an outburst level in the future.

Navy seals breathing

The navy seal breathing technique I use to calm my mind is a 20 second per breath exercise, which is three breaths per minute.

I start by expelling all of the air from my lungs.

I then breathe in for a five count, more specifically  I chant this Tibetan mantra om mani padme hum.

Once my airways are full, I hold my breath for a similar om mani padme hum.

Next, I expel the air out for a full om mani padme hum count.

I repeat this process for between two minutes and five minutes to calm myself.

Heart rate variability training

When I first began meditating, like many logical people I was challenged at how it works because there was no output.

A therapist that I visited for concussion symptoms introduced me to two things. lens treatment and heart rate variability training (HRV).

When you are unstressed, the space between your heart beats varies quite a lot. When stressed, your heart rate maintains a steady beat.

HRV training teaches you how to control your heart rate variance, which puts you into a relaxed state, known as coherence.

The HRV tools show three zones, red (low coherence), blue (moderate coherence), and green (high coherence) with the goal being to maintain the green zone as long as possible.

To get into the green zone, there are two techniques that you employ:

  1. Breathing exercises, such as the navy seals breathing
  2. Thinking positive happy thoughts, such as the laughter of your children

From a logic standpoint, I love it because there is an output, and I control it. I can see the color move from red, to blue, to green based on how I focus on my breathing and positive thoughts. Also, when I maintain green for longer periods, I feel so relaxed and calm afterwards.

Negative visualization

Picture yourself in your mind converting into the Hulk in the office and smashing desks with your big green hands while screaming HULK SMASH.

Did you look silly in that image?

Did you laugh at yourself?

Good, now do it next time you’re getting angry and instead of looking like a poor version of the incredible hulk, you’ll have a quick chuckle and calm down.

Don’t take it personally

Often, we interpret people’s actions in a way that we ought to not.

For example, if my wife says Can you put your dishes in the sink please, I may hear you’re so lazy and never clean up after yourself. 

Wait, how was my interpretation so blatantly off from what my wife said? How is that possible?

It is possible because we have our own internal filters and monkey mind that try to tell us what people are really saying.

Unfortunately, has your monkey mind ever responded in a positive way?

In my experience, the monkey mind only ever suggests negative things about me or others and it generally ought to not be believed.

When you start to learn to shut off the monkey, then it may actually make you chuckle when you witness someone else making the same mistakes.

Check out the book Feeling Good: A new mood therapy, for a deeper look into this. It’s a transformational book that I’m going to read again.

Take a timeout and better yet, exercise for your timeout

If you are in a situation and you’re angry, why don’t you excuse yourself from the situation to see if the problem might solve itself.

Better yet, you ought to exercise as a way to diffuse the anger.

Often, I will go for a ten kilometer run at lunch at work. When I am stressed, or angry, the run can diffuse those emotions.

It’s hard to be angry when I’m tired from getting a solid fifty to sixty minutes of cardio in.

4 thoughts on “Finance Stoic 15 – Dealing with anger in the workplace

  1. I had a lot of employees and if one of them started dropping F bombs on me I’d stop them and remind them that I did not have to listen to that. It is about as bad a career move as any that come to mind. I’m glad you recognize that you need to control your anger in the future. I did not mind people venting when they were talking to me, it was part of my job to counsel my team but there is a line between honestly expressing emotions and outright insubordination.

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    1. Absolutely true.

      I should clarify that there was no swearing or anger directed at any individual in the meeting; rather, it was directed inwards, ie “this situation is making me f’ing angry”.

      Regardless, poor form and I will apologize.

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      1. No, actually that’s totally different. I didn’t care about swearing if it wasn’t personally aimed at me or somebody else. And I didn’t mind anger, I mean we aren’t robots, even if I rarely got riled up mself. It didn’t seem fair for me to get mad as the boss because it wasn’t a fair fight. I misunderstood what you meant, my apologies. I don’t think you were out of line at all. In fact people who allow themselves to show some emotion have an edge over more reserved people like me quite often because it really makes you more human and that engenders trust. Good post!

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