Part 5 How to Survive Work

How to get very angry at work


The man who sits on the next desk is eating of crisps with his mouth open. Each crisp individually placed in his mouth. Crunch crunch crunch. Three times exactly, each sadistic little crisp. I click onto my workplace wellbeing website to find a mindfulness section presumably designed with this precise scenario in mind; Ocean Breathing or Chakra Energy Cleanse?   And then he coughs, with his mouth open and I watch wet crisp stick greedily to my leg. Pause. Crunch crunch crunch. I get the stabbing pain of desire to carry out my first colon cleanse on him.


When you’re having problems at work probably the most consistent piece of “advice” offered is don’t, whatever you do, get angry. When you are angry this is less helpful than you imagine, underlining the profound difference between advice and help, the latter being a rare thing and the former given in abundance especially from a position of relative security.


The thing about telling an angry person not to get angry is that it’s something of a vicious circle. You are angry, a demand is made that you CALM DOWN and regulate your feelings, you feel this denies the legitimacy of why you’re angry, you get more angry, even harder to calm down.


We live in a demanding age of communication where punching and spitting at colleagues is just not OK. Most workplace wellbeing programmes is based on positive psychology, a psychology that tries to get rid of naughty negative thoughts and promote positive behaviours like being nice to the people around you. Nothing wrong with being nice, but in a context of job insecurity, victimisation and workplace bullying being told to focus on positive thoughts and breathing exercises can be highly provocative. It can really make you angry.


Without trying to sound sarcastic given that there is a lot of anger around at work, what could be a healthy attitude towards it? It might lie in the understanding that anger is necessary to the process of change. The energy and focus that you have when you are angry is an important motivator in challenging things that we think are wrong. Not being able to direct our anger at the right things is one of the most important reasons why some people experience depression and others don’t but if you can get angry you are really living and reacting to what is going on around you.


So this is why I’m all in favour of anger, because of its relationship to the future. If you’re angry, you’re also hopeful that things should and could change.


So when the person sitting next to you spits crisp on your leg consider  locking yourself in a toilet and having a good scream.  Don’t be scared by the sweaty faced troll confronting you in the toilet mirror, and have a good scream, then a good blub. When you’re less wet, go back to your desk and plug in your earphones and listen to a bit of John Lennon. I recommend joining in to  John Lennon screaming ‘mother’.


If you feel like performing amateurish surgery on a work colleague today, do a Lennon. Remove yourself, find a safe place and let it out man and then you can let it be.



Surviving Work offers free and confidential resources for people who want to become more resilient either in or out of work.


We have just set up the Surviving Work Library, a free resource by the real experts, people like yourself who are actually surviving work. There are podcasts, stories and mercifully short guides on how to survive work. All totally and utterly free and anonymous. We are not purveyors of magic solutions. Nor do we promise to make you thinner or richer. But we will help you survive work.

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