The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

All of our problems walk on two legs and talk back. I can’t recall when I first came across this expression, but it’s true, isn’t it? Most business problems can be fixed with more capital, technology, efficiency, patience, and time. People problems, though, are much trickier.

An after-work drinks session, for example, might erupt into an alcohol-fueled shouting match between two colleagues that doesn’t end there. The hostilities continue, and now the entire work atmosphere is polluted.

Perhaps the discussion about next year’s budget allocation turns nasty, as two strong-willed leaders start a very public stoush aiming for some advantage over the other. Frosty relations prevail between these two silos, and everyone becomes involved.

Or maybe an innocuous remark by a colleague causes offense, and now the boss has to deal with complaints such as “I can’t work with Taro anymore.”

Rather than trying to sort out the incidents, the rivalries, and the perceived insults, wouldn’t it be better if these didn’t arise in the first place? We are all adults—although sometimes you have to wonder! Why can’t individuals take more responsibility for their own actions and reactions, instead of wasting valuable time and energy on intramural feuding? We should be concentrating on beating up our business rivals, not each other.

Why do these problems arise in the first place? When you think about it, people have not been taught any methodology to control their emotions. We had better fix that. Here are six actions to take when you get emotionally charged.

1. Get cerebral
Collect your thoughts and take note of your emotions. Draft a message that really tells the offending party how it is, and why they are an idiot. Don’t miss anything. Make sure you give it to them right between the eyes. Don’t add a name in the To: field, and don’t send it. Writing will get all the anger out, so now you can relax.

2. Ask for input
Run the situation by someone impartial, and ask for honest input. When we are too deep into the situation, we can often fail to see the forest for the trees. A dose of reality from a third party can be helpful in improving our perspective. Even if it doesn’t, just sharing the burden with others provides some relief.

3. Get physical
Don’t punch them out, but get yourself out of there. Take a power walk or go to the gym. Burn that anger off, baby.

4. Reflect
Look at the situation from their point of view. Think about what you would do if you were under all the pressure they are under, or if you had to deal with what they are facing. Think about what you said and how that contributed to the escalation of hostilities. Are we each perfect? No. And the sooner we remember that, the better. It will help us separate our ego from the details of the issue or argument.

5. Sleep on it
Review your “I’m angry” note or email in the morning. Think about all the more important tasks you have that require you to be at your best and most energetic. Decide if this is a total waste of your valuable time? If it is, then let it go and work on some concrete projects that will positively advance your business.

6. Pick your battles
Make a balanced, strategic judgment about whether this is worth getting emotionally charged about. Should you metaphorically duke it out with them? Is it best to just take the high ground and move on?

So when things become highly volatile, don’t spontaneously combust. Pause and run through this list—like an adult!

Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business. But are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organizations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at

So when things become highly volatile, don’t spontaneously combust.