'How many of you have been angry at least once today?" asked the conductor of an anger-management seminar. According to an article in The New York Times, most of those in the room raised their hands. "The fact is," the seminar leader continued, "people get angry an average of 10 to 14 times a day. But anger is especially endemic to work. If you have a job, you're guaranteed to get angry" ("When Rage Is All the Rage," March 15, 1998).
Up would have gone my hand, had I been in the room and heard that last remark. And I would have respectfully disagreed.
Although some statistics indicate that the number of on-the-job flare-ups has increased in recent years, to hold on to the notion that workplace anger is therefore guaranteed is counterproductive. It leaves one with the impression that any efforts to remain even-tempered at work are, at best, only a band-aid.
Anger-management experts do offer a few common-sense guidelines to minimize work-related anger: don't let it fester; don't look for snubs in what are purely innocent incidents; don't get caught up in other people's gripes; if you start to lose control, take a break.
I would add, pray.
Instead of sitting there fuming over some encounter, why not use the time to listen for God's thoughts, His messages to you? To be sure, they will snuff out the heat of anger and bring calmness, clarity, and healing. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jer. 29:11).
Better still, one can act preemptively to prevent a volatile atmosphere on the job. A good start is to consider that the people we work with - whether it's the person at the desk across from ours or the president of the company - are not what we see on the surface.
If we take it for granted that our co-workers are so many individuals composed merely of an assortment of physical and emotional characteristics, then our overall expectations on the job, as well as our concern for the well-
being of those we work with, are limited. But our true nature isn't the sum of material and sometimes fiery emotional elements. Each one of us is God's child. Everyone's true selfhood comes from this one source - God, divine Spirit - and is therefore purely good and spiritual.
"Man [including woman] is the offspring, not of the lowest, but of the highest qualities of Mind," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, author of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (Pg. 265). This divine Mind, or God, is expressing in each of us these "highest qualities" as our real nature, respectful and loving, and revealing our actual relation to one another as sons and daughters of God.
What we should be counting on at work, then, or anywhere else where people come into contact with one another, is an atmosphere in which everyone feels upheld by God's thoughts of peace. In this atmosphere, solid relationships develop and solutions appear even in situations where it was believed that none were possible.
So, instead of bracing for a showdown with a fellow worker, you can arrive at work filled with the conviction that you and your colleagues, clients, and customers are all inherently good-natured - God-natured - the offspring of a totally loving creator. You're certain to have higher expectations, more compassion, more patience. A real peacemaker attitude.
This is doing more than managing work-related anger. This is helping to eliminate it.
Be kindly affectioned one
to another with brotherly love;
in honour preferring one
another; not slothful in
business; fervent in spirit;
serving the Lord.
Romans 12:10, 11