When the World’s Divisions Spill Into the Workplace, What Can You Do to Reduce Anger?

Don’t Let Conflict Destroy Workplace Harmony. 

First, understand that anger is triggered by feeling that something is unfair, that you are threatened, victimized or you feel helpless or inadequate. Some people react to stress with anger. When you’re angry, your amygdala, the seat of emotion in the brain, pumps your body full of hormones to prepare it for a fight-or-flight response. It responds automatically to threats, both real and perceived, even before the conscious brain does. The hormone cortisol quickens your pulse and raises your blood pressure to ready you for battle. It hijacks your thinking and makes you more vulnerable to fake news.  

1. Nip Conflict In the Bud 

Conflict at work eats into productivity, creates secrecy and resentments and most importantly, erodes trust. Without trust, co-workers see diverse viewpoints as threatening. Don’t confront anger with anger; it will likely make things worse. Deliberately strive not to say things in a way you know another will take personally. But don’t ignore the elephant in the room. It won’t just go away. 

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2. Cultivate a Conversation Culture 

Start with respect. De-escalate tense situations by being diplomatic about how you say things. Just listening with respect and empathy will go a long way to cooling heated situations. Build trust by fostering conversations about non-political subjects, which may just lead to more conflict. Focus on problems and solutions, not people.  

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3. Beware of Bullies Who Use “Predatory Anger” to Control Others

Workplace bullies use the threat of anger to get their way. Developing a company culture which prioritizes integrity will go a long way to preventing bullying behavior. Keep track of bullying behavior and model firmness when dealing with them. 

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Design procedures for employees to follow if they are the target of bullying.

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What About Politics? 

When it comes to politics, pick up a few pointers from the Swiss, known for their cool-headed neutrality:

Also know that, generally speaking, “free speech rights” are not protected in private companies unless related to work conditions. Companies can avoid political T-shirts and other apparel with a carefully worded dress code that applies equally to everyone. Employees have a right to express their personal views on social media on their own time and computer, but it’s prudent to have a clear policy in case someone’s personal posts have a detrimental effect on a company’s reputation. This might cover video or posts that go viral. 

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When it comes to politics, keep in mind that people are often quite emotionally invested. Create an atmosphere of safety in which to discuss conflicts. Be compassionate but stick to the facts. Look for solutions and identify common ground together. Remember all effective communication begins with listening

Dig deeper here: 

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Many in the workplace play it safe and avoid conversations on touchy topics, such as politics or race. But the workplace is a microcosm where people of diverse backgrounds interact with each other every day. Bridging differences and turning diversity into an asset requires addressing difficult topics head-on – but in a civil, respectful manner.

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