What to do if you’re ever upset at work

Anyone who works in some kind of organization will suffer the occasional slings and arrows of the modern workplace. In addition to market forces, there’s everything from snide emails to office politics to existential threats posed by reorganizations. My response to these things used to be to worry or get angry. I would turn events over in my head, playing and replaying dialogues real and imagined.

It was upsetting - and all a huge waste of time and energy.

Now I do something quite different.

Upset at work?

Upset at work?

A superpower anyone can have

Just last week, I had a conversation with someone at work that produced an immediate fight or flight reaction. I imagined a range of unsettling scenarios as alternating waves of fear and dread washed over me.

Then I stopped. Instead of spending time fruitlessly ruminating on the possibilities, I channeled that energy into something more constructive, something that would give me some control.

I sat down the next day, went through my network, and for each person I pondered the contribution I could make. As I came up with a contribution, I tried to think of others who might benefit from knowing about it too.

  1. I sent a note to a potential sponsor at my firm about work I had done that he might find useful.
  2. I forwarded that note and some other material to some potential allies for a meeting they were about to have.
  3. I secured dates for two Working Out Loud events in different locations in my firm.
  4. I forwarded that news to other people who might interested in similar events.
  5. I spoke to an outplacement company about how Working Out Loud could help people looking for new jobs.
  6. I contacted an HR association about how Working Out Loud circles might be useful to their members.
  7. I accepted an interview request from a major magazine.

Most of these actions were done via email or over the phone. As I kept going, my mood changed from feeling upset to feeling empowered. Some of the things I did would help my firm directly and others might help me learn in some way (and thus help the firm indirectly). By the end of the day, I felt great.

Gradually, I’ve rewritten the script in my head when something upsets me at work. Instead of reacting emotionally, I developed a habit of doing something constructive that improves both my mood and my possibilities.

That’s a habit anyone can develop.