The Office

Regaining Trust after a Loss of Temper


Dear DW,

I lost my temper in a meeting. How can I regain my team’s trust?

Signed, Short Fuse

Dear Short,

If it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one who has had this experience. In fact, more than half of employees have lost their tempers in the workplace at some point, according to one study. With that said, it’s important to recognize that losing your temper at work can damage professional relationships, decrease camaraderie among your team, and, in the worst-case scenario, derail your career. Some workplaces even consider angry outbursts a warning sign of potential violence, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, so it’s important that you address the situation head-on.

To start, make sure you’re clear on why the outburst happened in the first place. Are you under a lot of stress? Are you experiencing challenges in your personal life that are spilling over into work? Is this the only time this has happened?

Many career experts agree that it’s important to acknowledge what you did, and in doing so, let colleagues know that you’re aware the loss of temper was not an acceptable way to communicate.

A sincere apology can go a long way toward repairing relationships. Your apology should encompass these points:

•  Show that you have regret for your actions.

•  Let colleagues know you accept responsibility.

•  Express your desire for their forgiveness.

•  Get across that you intend to change.

•  Give your colleagues the opportunity to share their thoughts.

If extenuating circumstances contributed to your loss of temper, and you’re comfortable sharing them, your vulnerability may help to rebuild trust and give you the opportunity to strengthen your emotional intelligence skill set.

Finally, consider looking for training sessions or workshops to help you improve your communication skills so you can find better ways to get your point across. And if losing your temper is a regular occurrence, think about talking to a therapist or seeking other professional help.

—Tamara E. Holmes

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