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Keep your cool

We all have those days when we yell at traffic, verbally abuse the television or take it personally when someone cuts in front of us at the supermarket. But bringing anger into the office is an entirely different story. Here's how to understand and cope with anger in the workplace.

"Everyone gets angry; that's normal," says Bob Bercovici, founder of Toronto-based Bob Bercovici Consulting, which teaches workshops and counselling on understanding anger. "Not everyone deals with anger in an acceptable manner."

Bercovici's program is titled, "Conflict is inevitable; Aggression is not," a sage motto for anyone who's familiar with the business world.

Workplace aggression, he says, happens when we let ourselves react to "triggers." A trigger is a sensitive subject to which we react almost automatically, says Bercovici. This could be a derogatory or condescending comment or action, or any other action by which we feel slighted or mocked. "When this trigger gets pushed, we go into a cycle so quickly that we don't know that we're doing it. We talk ourselves into, virtually instantly, the idea that that was a personal [affront].

"Because of the automatic nature of the response, we act with the belief that we're right," says Bercovici, who has 25 years experience in the corrections industry and has served as an expert witness in domestic violence cases. "And in fact, that is not so."

The solution to controlling anger is an obvious yet difficult one for some people as difficult as controlling a knee-jerk reflex or a stutter. The secret is to stall that response, to stop and ask ourselves if that person has in fact maliciously, personally attacked us, or if he's merely pushed a button. "We never stop to say, 'Does that fit? Does that belong to me? And if so, is this the smartest thing that I can do?'"

© Carey Toane

Profit Magazine