Venting at work is particularly prevalent because the hierarchy at many offices can make people feel like their hands are tied. Very few among us enjoy confronting someone with an issue, especially if the issue stems from an authority figure. Instead, most of us vent to likeable people who tend to agree with us. Unfortunately, complaining to people that we trust can keep our anger alive longer.
"The danger is that if you get a response that confirms a negative emotion, you can become a brooder," Behfar says. The brooder: another negative office personality, perhaps even worse than break room mess guy.
The best way to keep from egging on an upset person, Behfar found, is to offer a new take on a frustrating situation, or provide context that can help convince a co-worker that the problem isn't that big of a deal.
It's a rather anti-climatic way to cope with such a powerful feeling, and being told to calm down can deflate the rush that comes with feeling angry, which some people like. In fact, a couple of years ago, a producer for talk show The View called Bushman as a potential guest who would teach four angry women, the show's hosts, how best to vent. That would be the worst thing he could do, Bushman told the producer. The best way to deal with anger isn't to vent it or bottle it, he said, but address the emotion and then tone it down.
Some good methods include counting to 10, diverting angry thoughts with an activity such as a crossword puzzle, or doing something that makes it hard for even the biggest hot heads to stay enraged, like petting a puppy.
Those activities would not make for good television, the producer said, and Bushman was not invited on the show.
But the tactics Bushman suggested can be more productive ways to address anger than merely letting it all out to a colleague. So the next time you want to tell your co-worker about the coffee room disaster zone, make sure you find someone who will offer you new insight, or just tell you to calm down. That, or keep plenty of puppies handy.