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Desk Rage - Dec 9, 2006

Desk Rage

December 9, 2006

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, CBS 11 News

Do you find yourself more short tempered at work especially during the holiday rush? Now psychologists are describing a new phenomenon called "desk rage" and it is now prevalent across America. Here to tell us more is Channel 11 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: What is this new phenomenon called desk rage?

Dr. Sylvia: Desk rage is a specific type of anger that is only shown at work. It refers to the raging behavior that causes people to yell, hit their desk, throw a stack of papers or even hit a wall. This phenomenon seems to be increasing. In a recent national survey of almost 1300 people, around 40% reported that yelling and verbal abuse took place at work and around 30% admitted that they had yelled at co-workers. This kind of anger is contagious

Q: Does this verbal abuse ever advance to physical violence?

Dr. Sylvia: It absolutely does turn into physical violence, although the most common targets are machinery like chairs, desks and computers and walls and doors. Occasionally, there will be strikes against co-workers, but this is not as common.

Q: Why are people getting so upset at work?

Dr. Sylvia: There are several reasons why this is so prevalent:

Extension of Road Rage: We believe that desk rage is an extension of road rage. If you are angry and frustrated on the road, it is all too easy to extend that into the office.

More Work in Less Time: American workers are putting in more time at the office than ever before. Research reveals that Americans prefer working more hours than taking a pay cut. With the improved economy, companies have rehired, but they expect more "bang for their buck." Fifty percent of people skip lunch to work and work more than 12 hours a day just to get their job done.

Describe Jobs as Stressful: Forty percent of American workers describe their jobs as very stressful. Impatience and irritability feed on stress and increase exponentially when we have been at holiday parties.

Crowded Conditions: One out of every eight workers sits in a cubicle all day where they are subjected to their co-workers noisy phone calls and sales pitches. Since they are working harder than ever to meet the quotas, they are increasingly irritated as the day goes on. Tempers flare when the space is too crowded.

Q: Why is this so common during the holidays?

Dr. Sylvia: Anger and rage brew in a mixture of sleep deprivation, too much sugar and a whole lot of alcohol. With the holidays upon us, many of us are hitting the party circuit and we are just drinking and eating things we shouldn't consume! As a result, we don't sleep well and we show up on Monday morning like a storm ready to happen!

Q: What happens if it is your boss who is showing desk rage?

Dr. Sylvia: Well, you have a problem, because companies tend to ignore office bullying in bosses, especially if they are producing profits. Unfortunately, employees who speak out or fight back often face retaliation. The company will try to "normalize" the verbal abuse by either failing to intervene, telling you to toughen up or labeling the whole issue as a personality conflict.

Q: What are the long term effects of desk rage?

Dr. Sylvia:

Physical Wear and Tear: Researchers have discovered that being the recipient of prolonged verbal abuse can lead to elevated heart disease, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, migraines, fatigue and stomach issues.

Exploding Anger: If you are the one experiencing desk rage, your long term health is guaranteed to be affected. The anger will flood your body with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Over time, your body is in perpetual hyper vigilant mode and your body will become used to living at a higher throttle. You will become quicker to anger over minor irritants. If you tend to explode in anger during arguments, you are doubling your risk of a heart attack.

Expensive to the Company: Pervasive raging at work is expensive to productivity. Negative environments at work have up to six times the lasting effect of positive workplace events. Stress due to bullying and verbal abuse is the leading cause--bar none--of employee absence and is more detrimental to health than overwork, long hours or even being unemployed.

Q: What can we do to avoid desk rage?

Dr. Sylvia:

Take a Time Out: If you find you are heading for an explosion, excuse yourself and take a personal time out. Count to 20 and breathe deeply for 10 minutes.

Take responsibility for our Reactions: People like to blame events and other people for their negative reactions rather than remembering that you have a choice in your reactions.

Consider Medication: A good anti-depressant can do wonders for soothing the "savage spirit."

Limit that Alcohol: Although everyone likes to party, the sugar surge enhances every emotion. Limit your alcohol and sugar during the holidays and get enough sleep. Remember that the holidays are a time of connecting with others, not losing your temper.