Are You Always Getting Angry At Co-Workers? Try Laughing Yoga

BlogHer Original Post

In my last performance review as an employee, my manager said my greatest strength as a leader was my sense of humor. At that moment I knew I needed to get a new job.

This particular manager was devoid of people skills and definitely did not possess a sense of humor.So when she said I had a sense of humor I took it as a passive aggressive act. It was her way of saying she saw nothing valuable in my contribution to the workplace.

We parted company several months later.

Research shows that children laugh 400 times a day. Adults laugh 15 times. What accounts for the huge difference? One factor could be that adults spend a good portion of their day at work. Few offices encourage laughter. If you were to walk through an office and hear a lot of laughter chances are you would think that people are either goofing off, telling jokes and not getting their work done.

But now there is a growing trend that says more laughter in the workplace could be a substitute for traditional anger management programs.

Recently, Lorraine Candy, an editor for Elle was given an assignment to check out different types of anger management programs.

Ask anyone to keep count of the number of times they get angry in one day and my guess is the figure would head towards double digits pretty quickly. If you're a woman with a stressful full-time job, three children under six, a diabetic Airedale terrier, a pregnant nanny, a partner who also works full-time and a staff of 35 other women to manage then, believe me, that number easily surpasses double digits by lunchtime. But given our time-poor (and now cash-poor) "have-it-all" lifestyle, isn't a simmering level of female fury understandable? To be expected even? I thought so, until my colleagues suggested I take an anger management course.

Lorraine checked out four distinct programs ranging from hynotherapy to Laughing Yoga.

The theory is that you learn to fake laughter and thus fool your body into releasing feelgood chemicals that boost your immune system and help you deal with stress better. Laughter can lower blood pressure and produce endorphins that promote wellbeing. It is used in hospitals, especially with children, to boost immune systems and generate a positive attitude.

Julie Whitehead, a laughter trainer dressed top to toe in pink, teaches me how to laugh spontaneously, at nothing. We sing a song (All my cells are well), we "ho ho ho" while waltzing around the room and we try "humour aerobics", which is literally forcing your face into a smile. There's not much yoga, but apparently that would be included in follow-up sessions. I love the idea of laughter yoga (just thinking about it makes me, well, laugh) but I'm far to uptight for this kind of stress relief. Though I do try forcing out a spontaneous smile every now and again - it's especially effective in a tense meeting: weirdly if you smile everyone else does too.

When I was invited to an all day team meeting, no one warned me about Renee* - but her behavior was so un-corporate like that on our first bathroom break I cornered my friend Sandie and whispered, " What's with Renee?"

In the two hours that I was in the meeting, Renee had snapped at people, refused to answer other people's questions, and when introduced to me, didn't look up from her computer.

In subsequent meetings, Renee continued behaving badly.After each encounter I asked Sandie why Renee still had her job.

And then, several months later, Sandie came to a meeting smiling, laughing and actually talking to other team members.

Again, I turned to Sandie and asked, " What happened to Renee? She was almost friendly."

Sandie replied, " they sent her to anger management."

When it comes to showing anger on the job how much anger is too much?
Some managers will tell you that they won't tolerate anyone raising their voice. Others seem to think that an occasional slamming of a door or punching a wall is an acceptable since the anger is being taken out on an inantimate object and not a human.

Sending folks to anger management classes is what corporations do with employees who have temper tantrums at work--often a last chance GET OUT OF JAIL card before being permanently removed from the workplace.

It's too soon to tell whether Renees improved behavior will stick because there are some questions whether anger management is actually an effective tool.

DB'S medical Rants
( DB stands for Doctor Bob aka Bob Centor aka my brother) tackled that problem in 2004 post quoting a NY Times Article that says there is a lot of doubt whether Anger Management Classes actually make a difference.

The classes are based on a loosely defined set of principles and techniques thought to help some people settle or contain outbursts.

A pattern of hostile behavior is not considered a specific diagnosis by the American Psychiatric Association, something that limits research that could lead to effective treatment.

State and county programs have generally been set up without consulting research, experts say, and the result is an unregulated system without any agreed-on standards of what should be taught, when, and to whom. Recent studies suggest that the techniques can be helpful for some people, but that in many cases the classes have little or no measurable effect, and can potentially make the problems worse.

So if anger management classes do not have a measurable effect, why do so many businesses continue to send people to anger management classes?
Probably because they need to do something and the research indicates that it does make a difference for some people.

Chances are some time during your workday you will get angry. I did yesterday.I was having a conversation with a co-worker and something he said pressed every one of my buttons.

But because I had been reading about laughter I did something I normally don't do when I get angry, I broke into a big smile and started laughing( Think Obama and McCain in the debates)

Not only was it offputting to my colleague but I did find that it immediately calmed me down and allowed me to re-engage in the conversation in a professional manner that resulted in a meaningful conversation about our differences of opinion

So today, when someone makes you angry, try laughing. And let me know how that works.

 *Renee and Sandie are pseudonyms

Elana writes about business culture at FunnyBusiness