Keeping Your Cool at Work

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Changing your behavior will help you keep your cool at work and not lash out at others.
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Work can be full of things that just set you off. In fact, the office itself might even be the trigger. And once that trigger is pulled, your response could turn into raised voices or in your wildest dreams (or nightmares) thrown phones and flying chairs.

But you can break the habits of counterproductive and even detrimental behavior without spending years lying on a couch.

"It doesn't take long to change a habit. But it's hard. Really hard," writes Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners a leadership consulting and coaching firm, in a recent Harvard Business article "Quash Your Bad Habits by Knowing What Triggers Them."

In the article, he suggests a simple a three-step process to change your behavior in the office. 

  1. Be aware. If you take a moment to pause before you react, you slow down your neurological response. That reaction comes from the part of the the brain where fight/flight/freeze reactions are decided. But by taking a beat, you can let whatever is happening get to the part of your brain that makes more rational choices.
  2. Resist urges. You might have an urge to react immediately, and that reaction might be a poor one. Before acting, ask yourself: What is the outcome I want from this situation? When you've thought about the desired outcome, you will react accordingly to get you closer to that goal. 
  3. Replace behaviors. You need something to de-trigger you and get you to the desired result. So whether you enlist daily meditation or use a "serenity now" mantra, any sort of replacement will be an improvement from your trigger-happy reaction.

[Click on "Listen" to hear Bregman talk through these steps with Money Talking host Charlie Herman.]

Think of your reactions as if they were a train and you were riding it to get to a final destination. Instead of sleeping through all the stops until the moment you arrive when you are forced to sprint off the train and completely forget your bag, consider five or six places to stop before you arrive at the destination. Maybe one stop is taking a deep breath and another is cracking your knuckles; identify what each stop is, get off on at each one, hop back on afterwards, and you'll arrive at a much more productive destination.