Dealing with Frustration in Your Career

frustration career

Dealing with frustration, and even at times anger, is essential if you’re to have a positive impact as a manager and protect your professional reputation.  We uncover the route to managing frustration as a force for good, for you and your career and providing a long term strategic approach to your wellbeing.

The first step is to be self-aware, because greater awareness allows you to predict future challenges and choose a considered response, rather than allowing a knee-jerk emotional reaction to derail you.

A primitive response
We’ve all had experiences that have made our blood boil. What led to those situations, what did people say or do, and what were the key factors that caused the volcano inside you to erupt? The volcano is a good analogy to use here, because often people express the sensation of a fireball rising through their chest.

Anger is a natural response to feeling attacked, deceived, frustrated or to a sense of conflict or injustice. In its primitive form, it is there as part of our ancient fight and flight response, which prepared us for action with a sudden burst of energy.

When you start to feel angry, it’s a signal that one of your beliefs, values or standards have been crossed, so although anger and frustration are often seen as negative emotions, they can be helpful if you can over-ride those primitive urges.

Everyone responds differently during periods of anger and frustration. Some people show outward demonstrations of aggression, often followed by periods of reflection, withdrawal and disconnection. For others, the aggression is more inward, which can lead to negative self-talk, isolation or, in extreme cases, self-harm. The third response is passive aggression, which is where you find yourself ignoring people, and being sulky and sarcastic rather than outwardly aggressive.

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Red flags
Whichever your response, anger and frustration can affect your mood, health, relationships and performance, so understanding the triggers is an essential skill for managers who work in high pressure and volatile environments.

It may be that your current beliefs and reactions have been shaped by how those around you processed anger and frustration in your early years. For example, if you saw lots of conflict and anger in the home or were told never to complain or show emotions, it could influence whether and how you voice your frustrations and concerns today.

Maybe there have been incidents in recent years where you lashed out at people or where you felt the anger rising and you deflected it with some humour and moved away. Each one of us has a unique set of experiences, beliefs and triggers which we can learn from and use to shape our approach to new situations in the future.

When your mind is racing, an awareness of the physical symptoms of anger can be helpful. These include the heart beating faster, feeling hot, breathing faster and shallower, the body tensing up, the feet tapping and clenching your jaw or fists.

Step away
These physical responses offer a chance to identify the triggers. The gap between stimulus and response is critical to self-control. Imagine being late to an event and getting stuck behind a tractor on a country lane; the closer you get to the back wheels, the higher your heart rate goes and the tighter your grip on the steering wheel.

Now imagine dropping back 20-30 yards. You can see that it will be impossible to overtake the tractor for the next mile, so you try to relax and consider your approach more rationally.

Dealing with anger in social situations is the same. If we drop back and buy ourselves some time and distance, we often find a better solution. The traditional method of counting to 10 can be effective, as can excusing yourself to nip to the bathroom or a quiet place to calm own, or asking a deflecting question to give yourself time to prepare a considered response.

Some simple strategies to calm your physical reactions to anger can also help to calm the mind. Try, for example, to breathe more slowly and distract yourself by finding something interesting around you. Moving to a new position in the room or performing some distracting action, like squeezing thumb and forefinger together can also help.

Think ahead
While these tactics may save you in the moment, it’s worth also considering some longer-term strategies. Being able to communicate openly and honestly about what we value can prevent frustration from building up and spilling over.

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Owning your feelings is important too, as when we’re feeling angry we tend to blame others. By saying ‘I feel frustrated with you because…’ puts you back in control and identifies and explains the specific behaviours or actions behind your anger.

In a conflict situation, listening to the other person’s reasons and thinking before you pile in is also critical. Anger often mounts when we think our way is the only truth, so we need to hear other perspectives before we can come to a truly rational response. The way we see people in the approach to a conversation is also key. To explain this, imagine going to meeting with someone who you’ve been frustrated with and adopting these three mindsets: this person is the problem, this person has a problem, this person is the solution to my problem.

How would your approach change? Having the ability to reframe situations to question what you’re missing or how else you could look at this really helps.

Finally, the other long-term strategy is to look after your wellbeing, because nothing affects your mood like quality sleep, food and hydration.

Anger in your team: 5 tips
1.       Be a detective - watch for clues in how people talk to each other

2.       Get to know what makes each team member tick and what makes them flip 

3.       Keep scanning for frustration; who is feeling down, isolated or unfairly treated?

4.       Get people talking about what is making them happy, sad or frustrated, to prevent build up of anger and resentment

5.       When you see a situation boiling up, tackle it straight away and give the individuals the time and space to choose a better option.

To read the original article from our editorial partner, Sporting Edge, click here.


Sporting Edge is a high-performance consultancy which solves business challenges using the winning mindset from sport. Having worked with and interviewed many of the world’s leading sports leaders and teams, Sporting Edge has created a game changing digital library of insights to inspire and educate businesses and industry professionals on the requirements needed to achieve success in business through performance.

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