How to Have a Long and Rewarding Career in Just About Any Field (Except One)


She walked into my office and dumped a bunch of half-filled balloons on the floor.

I had asked one of my employees at a small startup to come into work on her day off, and she was quite livid. "Are you crazy?" she asked me.

It was as though I had asked her to run a marathon in the dead of winter.

Back in my corporate days, I wasn't always the best manager. I made abrupt decisions, and there were times when I struggled to communicate about the vision and strategy for my department. (That and I hoped people could read my mind.)

Yet, this employee was always angry. It didn't seem to matter which project was underway, or whether I gave her enough notice. Anger was the norm.

It's pretty obvious to me now, looking back, that this person was not going to stick around for long. She eventually did leave, attempting to cross over to another field.

It didn't work out.

The problem is that many of us do react with flaring emotions, especially in situations when we are wronged or feel like the world is against us. Those who avoid the anger trap tend to stick with a career much longer, even their entire lives.

Meanwhile, those who make frequent outbursts are on a short leash. The boss won't like it, your coworkers won't like it–you won't like it yourself. People who get angry at work are their own worst enemies, and it makes you stick out in a way that most bosses don't like. A lack of professionalism is a quick way to get you noticed for the wrong reasons.

And it creates a form of workplace dissonance. Anger perpetuates and infects others. They won't like working with an angry person and they won't like working period. One day, they will figure out that there is someone creating discord, resentment, and toxicity.

So will the boss.

Many other factors can contribute to your success or lack thereof. Not having enough training, being the person who sits silently during meetings. Yet, you can still likely find your way in a job or in a career long enough, especially if you have a good attitude. Not true with anger. It seems to create a festering, lingering vibe that makes you dispensable. The counter-approach is to always have a good outlook, to smile and act like nothing is ever that big of a deal when conflict arises. It's to see work as just work.

There is one exception to this rule, however.

In high school, I remember one of my basketball coaches as easily as I remember one of my children. (Well, almost as much.) He had thinning gray hair and he knew the game better than anyone. What I recall most about him was that he failed to motivate anyone, and he was so mild-mannered that it seemed like he didn't really care whether we won or lost.

I'm not sure how this all works in the law enforcement field, or in the nursing profession, or as a graphics designer, but at least in coaching the strategy of never showing emotion never works. I ended up leaving the team partly I didn't know if the coach even knew I existed.

That's not the norm. While it's true that infrequent displays of emotion and even anger can work in athletics (although a very controlled, deliberate form of "anger" that is more like passion or strong emphasis), in every other field it will work against you. Big time.

If you do struggle with anger, work extra hard at managing those emotions. Everyone already knows, and it's just a matter of time before anger leads to a pink slip.

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