CAREERS: How to ruin a career in a snap

Publication: The Kansas City Star

Section: Careers

April 15, 2007

Diane Stafford - Careers

In earlier days in my workplace, I saw an extremely bright, talented and otherwise pleasant person sweep his typewriter onto the floor.

I've also seen co-workers slam a phone down so hard the handset broke, yell at someone while pounding on a desktop, and heave coffee on someone's chest.

But that's history. Maybe newsroom people are too busy now to waste time and energy on displays of anger. Maybe they're on Prozac. Maybe everyone who's still here knows better -- that there are career consequences for such public snaps.

Still, a study by Rachelle Canter, a San Francisco-based career adviser, found that 14 percent of 506 U.S. workers surveyed randomly said they had seen "desk rage" in their workplaces.

Apparently, the beast isn't tamed completely.

Anger management is a career essential. "Bad boss" surveys repeatedly rank an explosive temper as one of the worst traits. And it's hard to assume a leadership posture if people are afraid your short fuse will ignite any minute.

Canter also found that 16 percent of the workers surveyed had seen company property damaged as a result of workplace stress and that 9 percent had seen physical violence occur in their workplaces.

Some people justify small anger outbursts as safety valves for stress relief; it's the ones who never explode who are the bigger worry, they suggest. But needing to vent is no excuse.

Loud or quiet, male or female, boss or employee, the rule for workplace behavior should be the same: civility.

At the boiling point?

Count to 10. Go to the restroom and cry. Take a brisk walk around the block. Arrange a private conversation to deal with whatever or whoever is getting under your skin.

Just don't let 'em see you snap.

If you feel at a breaking point often, take a serious account of your job and decide if it's time to look for something or somewhere else. Make an appointment with a career or mental health counselor.

And don't go home and kick the cat, either.

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