The people you work with are driving you nuts and you’d love nothing more than to scream at them at the top of your lungs.
Sure, you’d feel so much better venting your rage, but overt anger remains a taboo at the office. In some cases, it could get you fired. Most of us instead keep a tight lid on our fury.
Still, ‘office rage’ is real and a growing concern, according to experts. “It’s a sort of jokey title, but … everyone knows what you’re talking about,” says Lucy Beresford, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, who studied the phenomenon in a 2007 report for Canon Europe.
Office life is increasingly frustrating and many workers feel powerless with little control, her research found. Eighty-three percent of us have seen a colleague lose their temper at work and 63% of us have lost our temper, according to her study. Other studies show similar statistics.
We’re giving people permission to get angry in a safe environment
Among the worst office irritants: computer crashes, uncooperative printers, annoying, lazy colleagues and inconsiderate bosses. Unsurprisingly, receiving after-hours work emails had a similar effect according to a 2015 study from the University of Texas at Arlington.
But there might be a better solution to bottling up the boiling waters, one that lets off steam and keeps you employed. Enter rage rooms, a trend for a safe space where you can unleash your full anger – sometimes with the help of a baseball bat. Here, the stressed-out pay to smash items of their choosing and leave someone else to clean up the wreckage.
“We’re giving people permission to get angry in a safe environment,” says Ed Hunter, founder of The Break Room, which opened in Melbourne, Australia, in March. “It’s a fairly natural rebellion.” Work stress is a growing concern for both Aussie employers and employees according to a report by health insurer Medibank Private. Work-related stress costs Australian business AUD$10 billion a year, according to a 2013 report by independent body Safe Work Australia.
People love to smash printers. We go through more than 15 printers a week
“We’re always told not to break things, to control anger, to be well-behaved,” says Stephen Shew, co-founder Battle Sports in Toronto, Canada, which has a Rage Room amongst other offerings and opened in July 2015. “Or, ‘if you break things you have to buy them’. But in the rage room, they can do just that and not get in trouble.”
Plus, it’s fun.
Rage against the machine
Battle Sports discovered that office equipment draws particular ire. Trashing it as part of the ‘Office Space’ package, which costs CAD$44.99 ($35), is popular.
“People love to smash printers. We go through more than 15 printers a week,” says Shew. It’s the quintessential representation of an office environment, he says, and destroying one is quite satisfying – think printer demolition in the 1999 comedy Office Space.
Others catching on to the destruction trend include the Rage Room in Budapest and several businesses in the US such as the Anger Room in Dallas, Texas; Tantrums LLC in Houston, Texas; and the Smash Shack in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Customers must typically sign a disclaimer and don protective gear such as a face mask, overalls and work gloves to get smashing.
Packages typically cost between $20 and $100 for sessions lasting 10 to 45 minutes. Some clients book a longer session so they have time to arrange their chosen items in a particular order, build them into a pyramid or pause for selfies, says Shew.
Fuel to a flame
So is this kind of aggression really an effective salve for stress? Well, no.
It is like using gasoline to put out a flame. It just feeds the flame
Rage isn’t the best way to deal with your anger, says professor Brad J Bushman of The Ohio State University, by email. Bushman published a study in 2002 that showed Catharsis theory – acting aggressively or viewing aggression is an effective way to purge anger – just doesn’t work. Indeed, doing nothing at all was more effective.
“It is like using gasoline to put out a flame. It just feeds the flame. Angry people are highly aroused (heart rate, blood pressure), and venting keeps arousal levels high. It also keeps aggressive thoughts active in memory and even strengthens them if people ruminate about what made them angry,” Bushman says. “It also keeps angry feelings alive as people relive them.”
Bushman suggests instead using delay tactics to let the anger dissipate, distracting yourself or doing something incompatible with anger such as such as watching a (non-violent) funny movie.
Of course, rage room customers prefer the more smashing approach to trying to resolve workplace anger, jilted love, heartbreak and mire.
The rage room is not a cure-all for your anger
Shew says there’s a broad customer base when it comes to Battle Sport’s Rage Room, starting with people as young as 19 years old right up to those over 50. Women make up about 60% of rage room partakers.
What’s more, he says, anger fests aren’t limited to just individuals. Corporate away days are also popular.
The Break Room similarly has a professional clientele, including lawyers and government workers, Hunter says, and about 70% of customers are women.
- Don’t get Hangry: The emotion people have the most difficulty controlling is anger. But with the fuel obtained from healthy foods, the brain is better able to control it.
- Delay: Let the anger dissipate, count to 10 before responding. If really angry, count to 100!
- Relaxation: Chill out, take deep breaths or listen to calming music.
- Distraction: Think about something else, try working on a crossword puzzle.
- Self-distancing: Adopt a “fly on the wall” perspective — see yourself from a more distant third-person stance.
(Source: Dr Brad J. Bushman)
“The rage room is not a cure-all for your anger,” warns Shew. “We always tell people that we’re not therapists and we’re not doctors. We’re not saying we’re going to control your anger. Neither are we saying it’s fool proof.” Instead, he says, rage rooms are simply an alternative for dealing with stress.
“We’re here for a good time,” Hunter explains.
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