How to Keep Your Workplace Rage Under Control

BY Kathy Crosett
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How often have you been the target of a senior executive’s rant? Whether it’s delivered in person by someone who’s red-​faced and shouting or by email with snarky threats, these attacks hurt. As a leader, you need to stop yourself in your tracks when you feel your rage is about to boil over.

You may have heard about the recent email from the head of Restoration Hardware to all employees. Following the news of high order cancellations, the CEO lost it and emailed all employees. He said they might get fired if they don’t delight the customers. In an Inc. column, Marcel Schwantes described the episode. No doubt, RH employees are more than a little nervous right now, and the company’s culture just tanked. Even worse, they are probably sending out their resumes. If you want to avoid that scenario at your workplace, try a few of these tactics Schwantes recommends.

Why Are You Really Angry?

When you’re about to throw a tantrum, it’s usually in response to something you just heard. Many people, including leaders, lash out at the bearer of bad news. Chances are, the real cause of your anger is more complicated. If an employee tells you the company lost money last month, you could respond by hurling your coffee cup at the wall. At that point, all you’ve done is terrify the employee. That same employee will no doubt tell everyone else what happened.

Before you lose control, stop and think about why you’re so furious. Is this the latest string in a long line of losses? Are you worried that the company is about to fail? Or, maybe you’re supremely frustrated because the strategic initiatives you and your team have put in place aren't working.

Thinking through these details will let the anger diffuse and help you focus. Maybe you need to take drastic steps to turn the company around. Turn your anger into the positive energy you’ll need to sway team members to start on a fresh strategy.

Coping Tactics

Sometimes the news you get is so bad that you can’t control your angry outburst. Maybe you’ve been fearing all along that a competitor is going to steal away a key client. And maybe you’ve been frustrated with pivotal employees who didn’t react as nimbly as you’d hoped to the threat. When the news finally comes, you feel a huge explosion coming. If counting to 10 doesn’t work, and logical thinking won’t come to you, leave the area. That’s right. Explain what you’re doing to the employee who delivers the bad news. For example, “I’m upset and I need to take off for a few minutes.” Later, you can return to discuss what you expect will change in the future – because you don’t want to lose another key client.


If the worst happens, take responsibility. None of us is perfect. When leaders send hurtful email messages or allow their anger to take over in a workplace setting, employees notice. They’ll also notice if you deliver a sincere apology, especially in person. Explain that you won’t let it happen again and then make sure it doesn’t.