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Help with keeping my temper(66 Posts)
Please don't lay into me on this thread. It's taken quite a bit of courage to admit that I have a problem, and to seek help with it.
My problem is that when I get stressed, usually at work, I lose my temper easily. I don't punch people or shout, but I get irritated and it manifests itself like this:
I send pointed emails to people which, although they don't say "I think you're useless", convey that sentiment. This happens when somebody who doesn't report to me repeatedly messes up, refuses to do something that's their responsibility or is wilfully incompetent.
I get irritated on the phone when somebody won't answer a question, or wilfully misunderstands and answers a different question, or is a jobsworth, or doesn't know something that they should know. It shows in my voice, which becomes a bit sneering, and I know that in those circumstances I can be patronising (e.g. saying, "did you understand what I've just told you?" or "repeat back to me what I've just said").
I get so irritated and annoyed, and it's as if I can't control myself. I think, "why not just admit that you made a mistake, and stop bloody prevaricating?" and "why can't you just do your fecking job, you lazy, incompetent twat?".
Whilst I know that many people experience those feelings, I don't seem to be able to suppress them. I feel like it's my job to show them the error of their ways, or something (I know that's ridiculous) and stop them from doing it again.
It happens when somebody's repeated balls ups cause significant extra work for me, or when somebody goes off and does something stupid and expects me to clear up the mess without so much as an acknowledgement or a 'please'. I feel utter fury surging through me and it finds an outlet.
Another trigger is when somebody sends me a 'chaser' email copying in other people (paraphrased: "I asked you to do this unimportant thing yesterday and now I'm asking you again, copying in some other people who I think will intimidate you, to make you jump to it because I'm an idiot who has no confidence in my own authority, little self-awareness and no idea how insignificant my stupid request is on your list of priorities")
To avoid drip feeding:
I'm in a senior role in one of the professions and my role is very demanding. I'm very good at my job. The technical aspects, at least. I'd like to be better at the 'managing difficult situations' bit.
I'm somebody who makes sure that I understand all the systems and processes, in order to do my job well, and I'm a bit of a people pleaser, so I end up helping everybody and feeling a bit put upon. I was brought up to think that nobody likes a whinger, so I never complain to my line manager or other people senior to me.
If I feel slighted by somebody I'd never dream of making a complaint, which feels like a pathetic thing to do. I either suck it up or address it with the person directly. I'm surprised by how violently people react when I point out that I'm disappointed by their behaviour and ask why they did it (e.g. "Why did you copy X into that e-mail?"). It's as if they can't face up to their own mean spirited behaviour and become determined to seek vengeance on me for drawing attention to it.
Where somebody comes to me and asks for help, or says, "I think I've made a mess of X, will you help me to fix it?", or when somebody is young or new to their job, then I'm always kind and understanding. I'm generally cheerful and upbeat, but certain things are triggers and I just get the red mist.
I know that I'll always have to deal with people who do silly, selfish things or are a bit incompetent, but I don't know how I'm going to deal with it. I'm already acquiring a reputation for 'not exhibiting model behaviours', which I know damages future prospects, but I can't simply not be irritated; you can't switch off an emotion. I know that I'm not dealing with things well, but am I just supposed to sit there and allow people to be useless, incompetent, lazy and spiteful when I'm on the other end of it?
I would really value contributions from others who experience similar feelings but have found ways of controlling their temper and dealing with similar situations. Thanks, and sorry it is so long.
It sounds really 'new age' but NLP - neuro linguistic programming can really help with this type of thing. Google it and techniques for the workplace. It basically helps you understand people's motivations. People can be lazy fuckers but if you can appeal to something in them and understand what makes them tick you can build better relationships. I think this works better in smaller organisations though as in large faceless organisations it can be hard to build 'proper' relationships.
I know some people who swear by NLP so it may be worth a shot as Maz2444466 suggests.
Alternatively something like CBT for anger management perhaps.
I would also suggest a life coach or a mentor within the profession (outwith the organisation). If you have a professional body they should have a mentoring scheme for women which could help as well. Someone to guide you through managing people and relationships. If you are in a big org you can also ask to speak to HR about it as there maybe some occupational health arrangements that might work for you as well (this works even as a senior person if your promotions have been based on technical expertise).
It sounds trite but the first step is seeing that there is a problem. Are you similarly behaved outside work? If so then NLP/CBT/Life Coach is probably a good 1st step to bring your emotions down a bit but also look to see if there are other things annoying/stressing you. If its just work then a mentor may help as well.
I think CBT would help.Your responses are caused by your thoughts, I.e people are lazy, incompetent and spiteful.
However if someone takes action against you for being non responsive you have a justification I.e it's not important.You need to try to understand other people's motivations and intent rather than treat everything as a personal attack.
Have you tried delaying responses so you are responding rather than reacting? Even a 30min reflection, walk around the office, then try to compose a response might help.
Have you read the Chimp Paradox? It explains how our brains respond when we feel under threat, which is possibly something you are feeling unconsciously so you respond with aggression.
I have to say you sound a nightmare but well done for facing up to your issues.
I guess you had highly critical parents growing up?
I'm struggling to see that you have a problem. You're not a whinger, you don't make complaints and everything is out in the open, everyone knows where they are with you. Possibly I've got a thick skin but I'd much rather someone make it clear that they were unhappy with my work rather than whinge behind my back.
Do you think men would be filled with self-doubt at expressing frustration at poor work? (NAMALT etc etc)
However, if you would like to develop a different style of leadership, coaching is a great way of managing challenges in a positively framed way. Lots online.
Best of luck.
I think you need to lower your expectations of people.
You're not the problem. This touchy feely new age namby pamby way of life is. It was so much easier & better when you could just be straightforward with people and not have to be everyone's bloody therapist.
You are clearly seeing the worst in people. On a simplistic level can you take a big breath before any heated interaction and think what's the kindest/most professional/considered/most positive way of saying something?
Maybe you could meditate each morning on a word like 'positivity'. You sound like a very crabby defensive person and helping yourself feel balanced and calm daily might help
Also when asked to resolve things. Know where to drawn the line and delegate. Delegate in a constructive way. 'I'm very busy so I need you to ask x about it as she did a great job last time'
Never ever send an email that you wouldn't be happy to have printed in the national press.
Keep emails totally objective and calm and polite.
Make sure emails are always started and closed formally.
Never send an email when you're feeling stressed or annoyed. Leave it till the next day if necessary. Or simply respond:
Thank you for the email. Please can we meet to discuss?
People might come across as silly or incompetent to you. But it could be that they have strengths in other areas where you don't. And they might be able to be trained in a skill. It could be said that you are spiteful and mean, and this sort of behaviour is harder to improve.
Every one of us has to deal with the kinds of situations you describe. You are not particularly put-upon, nor are your colleagues particularly incompetent, sneaky, or lazy. This is just life in the corporate world.
Try to make it about getting on with the job, rather than getting people to admit their failings. Because they won't. And trying to corner people into seeing How Very Wrong They Are in your eyes is pointless and frankly vindictive.
Hi op, I have similar reactions to those things at work. One thing that helps me is to write the reply I want to send but don't send it. I kind of convince myself as I'm writing it that I will be sending this one and I redraft, edit to make it perfect. Somehow this process exposes how pointless the content is and then I save the email. Most of the time I don't go back to that and send it and end up replying in a far more jolly, less combative way.
I would also recommend keeping replies as brief as possible, bullet point important things as a list (bullet pointing again focuses me on the factual elements and makes it easier for me to avoid emotive statements). Finally I got some good advice from my boss a while back. Keep it neutral, Remove all superfluous words, don't catastrophise. So I might have written 'Due to Mary's error the deadline is now totally unachievable ', and I'd rewrite that to say 'due to the situation we are unlikely to meet the deadline '. I more or less follow this process every time I write an important email now and at first I was really shocked at how much I needed to remove.
You say you don't whinge and whine to your bosses and you seem to view that as some sort of marker of superiority? In the same vein you react better to people who are open with you about any problem they've had. Can you see the paradox there? Maybe it would help if you had that outlet and complained a bit to your boss?
I had CBT in the past for other issues and it helped so I imagine this would be good for this too.
Do you have children? I'm asking because I've become more short tempered at work since i have. I've always been quite chippy but the stress of children at home and the constant demands when I'm at home kind of spill into my workplace attitude too in a sort of 'for fucks sake I'm dealing with all this stress at home and now I've got all YOU to sort out too!'.
Are you on any kind of hormonal contraceptive? I'm having mine looked into right now, partly because of the same issues you're having but also because it's the same at home for me and becoming untenable.
Can't tell on my phone but I think I've written an essay here - hope some of it is helpful.
Another thing - you mentioned you feel irritated on the phone. Stop using the phone in that case. Organise to meet instead. Face to face is a lot better.
When you have someone complete some work for you, do you think you are clear enough about what the end result needs to look like, and if they need any training to help them do the work? It seems a lot of your frustration has the quality (or lack of) of work done by others at its root. Perhaps if your expected outcome was clearer this could be avoided.
Questions to ask them:
This is what we need - do you foresee any issues?
I would like you to work with xx on this as he has done it lots of times and can give you pointers.
Is there any further training you will need for this?
Then check in mid way through etc.
If you do this the first time then the standard is set.
I recognise these feelings. In my case the way to deal with them is to be less stressed: a different job in a professional services firm which is smaller (read too, less prestigious) and prides itself on its collegiality; the end of a marriage. Both rather drastic - but I didn't realise how much stress I had got used to living under till it went away. Now much happier and more relaxed. I still get exasperated by incompetence from people who are capable of doing better, fail to suffer fools gladly. But I find it much easier to pause before I react, so I can moderate my reactions into a form which is more acceptable in the twenty first century.
I agree with others that some form of counseling, or even meditation, would help you, as you are describing the behaviour of a very rigid thinker who can't bear it when others don't live up to your own personal standards of behaviour.
You can't make the world comply with how you think it ought to be. And you risk a breakdown (and you are certainly antagonising your co-workers), if you remain fixated on the idea that people should behave in such-and-such a way.
I'd definitely prefer to work with you than someone that bottled things up and then went whinging to the boss!
Good advice above to take time in your responses. Not everything needs to be done at a million miles an hour. Also try and turn things around to recognise that other people's behaviour is a reflection of their own inadequacies/insecurities rather than an assault on you. Perhaps your behaviour has ramped up theirs. If you can be more reflective they may be less shit!
Cauliflower says it all so much better than I did.
I really recognise that "I want to leave on time to get home for the DC and your incompetent behaviour has made it much harder for me to do that" feeling....
you can't make other people be different by sending narky emails. It just doesn't work
People will work harder for you if they want to please/impress you
You catch more flies with honey than vinegar
It seems you are letting your stress spill out onto targets you have decided 'deserve it' somehow. Manage your stress better.
I second the NLP. It makes you a more flexible thinker, and removes some unproductive the learnt behaviours.
Are you sure you know these people are underperforming? Might they be so stretched in their job that it isn't possible to do everything carefully anymore?
If I feel pressured, criticised in this way it shuts me down, makes me much less effective. I make so many mistakes when surrounded by critical people, and do far better when surrounded by encouragers.
You need to work out how to motivate people and get the best out of them.
As well as all the suggestions above, I'd like to suggest you look into hormonal triggers.
I am struck by how your approach seems to involve shaming people and I wonder where that comes from. Whether it might have its roots in your upbringing
Finally, I think that assertiveness (true assertiveness) might help you. You do not have to clear up other people's messes. Nor do you have to suck up complaints
I like this book: "A woman in your own right: assertiveness and you" (I assume you are a woman)
The good news is that if you are in a senior position, then hopefully you'll have money to pay for thereapeutic help
All good advice above.
To turn it around a bit, how do you respond when someone does a good job? Or just does their normal job but does it on time in full? Do you say 'thank you' or 'well done'?
I had a line manager who constantly criticised, not just me but everyone. I pointed out to her that I had never heard her praise anyone. She was a bit shocked, she saw herself as the consummate professional with high standards.
pklme I agree that ability drops when under pressure and fear/the belief that whatever you do will not be good enough. I had this in a job and left because of it.
OP do you give praise when it does go right? As well as the other advice, I would consider seeking out the good. It will make you feel more positive as well your colleagues.
Also agree to delay the reaction. I write the email but put now address in, save the draft, and then later revisit and strip out all of the emotion. As PP said, keep it based on the job in hand.
Also keep the emails and conversations pointing forwards. Don't harp back to the mistake. Nothing can change that. Focus on next steps to get the job done.
Well done for being aware of it and seeking to improve. I also agree I like working with people who speak their minds. However, it needs to be in such a way as to allow two-way dialogue such as a meeting. Then the other person can give their side. As others have said, it might be that they are unable to meet your expectations.
Maybe next time someone messes up, come at it from a place of concern for them. Can they see your point on where it's lacking? If yes, are there any reasons that you can help with why they might be struggling to get it right? Show you care and that might lift a lot of the pressure for you and then.
Having said what I said, I also think that once you've investigated why people may not be able to do the job, if you do have realistic expectations and are giving an adequate brief, it's not unreasonable to raise an issue with management if you really truly do think they are not performing well. But only when you've explored the reasons and done whatever you can to help.
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