angry-man-with-laptop
In our day-to-day business lives, we have to handle disappointment, anger, frustration, and, yes, even flaming emails.
Since work can take up a good part of our daily lives, we can run the gamut of emotions in the work place.  On our best days, we can step back and choose not to react.  We can even avoid being passive-aggressive as a response.  We can laugh at that flaming email, or better yet, just plain ignore it and move right on with our bad selves.  This is successfully keeping things in perspective.  Congratulations!
However, we all deal with those OTHER days.  The days that we can’t let anything go.  The days that when a typo on a draft document makes you just want to lose it.  The days when you feel that inexplicable sensation of falling, but no–you’ve been thrown.  Under the bus.  So the thrower could cover his/her own hide, even after you tried your best to help them.
You want to scream. You want to run.  You want to just tell someone off.  You want to flame right back in all CAPS! You might even want to quit!  “Take this job and shove it!” is playing in your brain on repeat.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale….
mad at work
It took me a while to figure out how I could avoid an unnecessary outburst, like the ones above.  About mid-way in my twenty-year career, I heard someone say, “I take three minutes, three hours, or three days if I feel I am going to lash out.”
Any time I feel like lashing out or doing something that might not end well, cost me a relationship, or hurt others…I take three minutes, three hours, or three days to determine my best course of action when my (or the flaming email writer’s) emotions are high.
Three minutes gives me the time to stand up, walk around, or step outside for a breath of fresh air.  It’s just enough to settle into a better frame of mind.
Three hours allows me to get into the head-space to think.  Yes, think through some of my options and the potential outcomes based on the actions (or reactions) I may be considering.  After some thought, I will likely choose my response more wisely.
Three days is a genuine break from the situation to create emotional distance and perspective.  I don’t want to say that emotions are to be shunned or are unwarranted in certain situations, but with this kind of pause, it is easier to express your point of view without coming off as reactionary.  It also gives you time to write and delete however many flaming responses you’d like so you can get it out of your system.  PROTIP:  Do your flaming email writing outside of your email platform so you don’t accidentally send something you’ll later regret.  Let’s just say without the three day pause, I might have written the biggest, baddest flaming email in *bold* AND in all CAPS and sent it off to the CEO.
And where would that have gotten me?  I would have vented, sure, but at what cost?  Even if the message is technically “correct,” that doesn’t mean it’s right (or smart) to send such a message dripping with sarcasm, self-righteousness, or vindictiveness.  A three-day break gives you a chance to consider the best, most professional course of action.
We have all been in a position like the above situations, so take a minute and write this down on a sticky note, at the top of your planner, or make it your new screen saver–someplace where you will easily be reminded:  “3 minutes. 3 hours. 3 days.” 
And if this does not help you rethink an action you might regret, go ahead send me a flaming email.  In all CAPS.
M. Thomas – Director, BPM Practice Lead