Circuit Breakers: 3 Effective Techniques for Managing Your Anger or Frustration at the Office

In my previous blog, I introduced two concepts related to managing frustration and anger:

  • Daniel Goleman’s concept of the Amygdala hijacking – where a person's temper or frustration can go from 0 to 60 in a split second.
  • Circuit breakers -- intentional shifts in behavior than can disrupt an amygdala hijacking and provide opportunities for behavioral resets.






Here are three of my favorite circuit breakers that my clients have used with great success:

  1. (Use when seated) Place both feet squarely on the floor.  Make sure your hips are relaxed and that you can wiggle your knees in and out without restriction.  Find your sit bones and gently rock forward and back on them.  Make sure you're sitting squarely and that your shoulders are relaxed.  Maintain this position until you've cooled off.  
  2. (Use when seated). Place the palm of your non-dominant hand over your abdomen or belly button and gently expand your belly into your palm. Continue to breathe full breaths into your palm for several minutes or until you’ve cooled off.
  3. Call a brief, 5-minute time out for a bio-break and go to the rest room.  This gives you time to get up, move around, cool off and regroup.

At first, you might resist trying these out but why not do a small experiment see if they work?  After all, which would you rather do -- apologize and figure out how to dig yourself out of a hole you just dug for yourself? Or, enjoy receiving positive feedback for taking your leadership effectiveness to a new level?

I’d say that’s a no-brainer.




Andy Satter
Founder | CEO
Andrew Satter & Associates, Inc.
(845) 256-0995 (direct) 


Why Noticing Red Ears Can Help You Manage Work-Related Frustration And Anger More Effectively

My previous blog focused on personal triggers – things that set us off and can sometimes result in our saying or doing things we wish we hadn’t.  

“It’s like an out-of-body experience where I’m watching my temper go from 0 to 60 in a split second and I can't do anything about it.”

Sound familiar?

My last blog also discussed how awareness of our personal triggers is the first step for positive behavior change. In other words, what are the circumstances and specific events that set us off?

When working with clients who want to better manage their frustration or anger, I ask them to identify exactly where in their body they experience tension before they react and “go off.”  

“My ears turn bright red and begin to burn.”

“I unconsciously draw my shoulders upwards and clench my fists.”

“My breathing becomes shallow, my gut feels like it has steel bands around it.” 

And there are many more. 

Skeptics take note.

A CEO once asked me: "What does this touchy-feely stuff have to do with managing my anger?" 

Well, actually, a lot.

Best selling author Daniel Goleman introduced the concept of an Amygdala hijack, when the amygdala -- an almond-sized region of the brain responsible for the expression of fear and pleasure -- is activated and overrides the frontal lobe or brain region responsible for executive function. 

Most people have one or two seconds from the moment they've been triggered to when their amygdala takes their brain hostage. But, if you're aware of being triggered, you can actually disrupt that stimulus-response connection and have a different outcome. And that's what I call a circuit breaker.

Circuit breakers are tactics and strategies that disrupt the normal expression of a negative response and give you an opportunity for a reset.

Look for my next blog where I’ll share three effective circuit breakers that my clients have used with great success.

How you can develop greater self-awareness.

Since behavior change begins with awareness, why not get a jumpstart and start to identify the location in your body where you hold tension. Some of my clients find keeping a notebook or journal helpful in this process. At first, this may be awkward or difficult, but in the end, it's well worth the effort.





Look for my next blog-  Circuit Breakers – 3 Effective Techniques for Managing Your Anger or Frustration at the Office”

Andy Satter
Founder | CEO
Andrew Satter & Associates, Inc.
(845) 256-0995 (direct)  


Personal Triggers & Circuit Breakers - How to Keep Your Cool at the Office

Have you ever been in a situation where you suddenly become angry and say something that you later regret?  If you’re like me, this can feel like an out-of-body experience;  my words seem to by-pass my brain and it’s as if someone else uttered them.

Fortunately, I very rarely go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye, but I’ve worked with leaders who do.  And we all know that ultimately this behavior is a potential career derailer.

Awareness is the first step for positive behavior change.   

Before you can change a behavior, it’s essential to understand the context surrounding it.  For example, what were the circumstances and what are the triggers (i.e. specific events) that typically set you off?

In my next two blogs, I’ll be exploring personal triggers and circuit breakers – specific things you can do to interrupt an undesirable reaction and increase your odds of responding in a rational and professional manner.

Building on my 25-years experience as an executive coach, I believe you can have positive results  by applying these time-tested guidelines.

In the meantime, please take this quick 2 question anonymous poll below  -- I’ll share the results in my next blog.  







Why You Should Dump The Annual Review


Most people would rather endure root canal surgery than participate in one of their company’s annual performance reviews.  Sadly, the annual review does little to help the employee grow because the die has often been cast by the time the review rolls around. 

So why do so many companies stick to this tired formula that frequently breeds a trifecta of anxiety, cynicism, and fear? 

Bestselling author and business thought leader Peter Block describes the annual performance review as an expression of patriarchy: “The boss holds the power card and you better listen up or else.” Block believes the review is designed to keep the employee in his place and to shore up power and authority and hierarchy.

Let me suggest a more effective approach. 

Smart leaders jettison the formal performance review and carve out time for frequent coaching conversations that both provide feedback to their team members and solicit feedback from them – a practice that 33Across CEO Eric Wheeler calls “always conversations.”  


Wheeler makes it a practice to initiate informal conversations on a daily basis. That way there are fewer communication gaps, his direct reports always know where they stand, and there’s greater alignment of priorities.

Maureen McGuire, the former CMO of Bloomberg, who participated in a research study I co-authored on mentoring, once told me: “Coaching doesn’t have to be formal or time-demanding -- it can be a quick cup of coffee in an airport lounge, or a drive-by conversation in the hallway.”

Think of it this way: you’d never wait 12 months to provide P+L data to one of your key business leaders, so why would you wait that long to talk to your people about their leadership effectiveness and career development? No one likes to be on the receiving end of a “gotcha.”

Timely and specific positive performance feedback increases the likelihood of that behavior being repeated. Similarly, timely constructive feedback increases the likelihood that non-reproductive or problematic behavior will not be continued.

8 Guidelines for Effective “Always Conversations”


1.    Make them a weekly or daily practice

2.    Keep them relaxed + informal; meet in your employee’s office or in a neutral space

3.    Be honest

4.    Listen more than you speak

5.    Start positive; describe behaviors and accomplishments that you like, respect, or appreciate

6.    Ask open-ended questions. For example, ask your direct reports:

  • “Describe a recent win you’re proud of – what do you attribute your/our success to?”
  • “Looking forward, where do you want to be in the next 12 – 18 months?”
  • “What do you like most about your role?”
  • “What keeps you up at night and how can I support your efforts?”

7.    At the end of the conversation, ask your employee to recap their takeaways from the conversation and agree on topics to be placed in a parking lot for follow-up discussion

8.    Thank them for their time and for sharing their thoughts with you


The good news is that when you replace formal annual performance reviews with regular “always conversations” you, your direct reports, and your company will reap big benefits from real-time feedback, greater alignment, and increased engagement.


Andy Satter
Founder | CEO
Andrew Satter & Associates, Inc.
(845) 256-0995 (direct)  


Got Anger? Here’s Why You Should Be Grateful

Anger is an emotion that results from the perception of having one’s boundaries – physical and/or psychological – transgressed. And when this happens, a normal human reaction is to quickly go into fight or flight mode – responses that served us well when we dwelled in caves and spent much of our day avoiding becoming dinner for lions and tigers and bears. 

Flash forward 20,000 years.

Deborah (not her real name) is a coaching client who is brilliant at her job in finance.  She's smart, quick, and personable. And she has a short fuse for her large temper.

In our work together, Deborah recognizes the negative impact of her anger on those around her; fear, intimidation, and the lack of trust are a few of the consequences for her aggressive style. Deborah is no fool -- she understands her ability to control her anger is mission critical to her long-term success.

Awareness Is The First Step

When she notices anger coming on, Deborah knows she has about one second to disrupt her “fight” pattern before angry words fly off her tongue -- words that damage her business relationships and she often regrets later on. 

Deborah has learned to recognize the early warning signs in her body when her temper is about to blow– an increased heart rate, dry mouth, and a burning sensation in her neck. She also knows from experience that her tolerance for frustration plummets when she's overly fatigued and hasn't been exercising. 

Simple Approach. Surprising Results.

Last year, I encouraged Deborah to try something out of her comfort zone and suggested a simple daily practice of expressing gratitude to those around her. I also suggested she start exercising several times per week.

Why would I do that? 

Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that expressing gratitude increases empathy and lowers aggressive behavior

Research by David DeSteno at Northeastern University suggests that tapping into “gratitude can also help us control our behavior in favor of a delayed payoff.” I interpret this to mean that delaying a short-term impulse to express an inappropriate amount of anger now – creates an opening to focus on building positive business relationships that will serve one in the future.

Regular exercise is a proven tonic to help lower stress.  

Results Are In

Deborah has made a commitment to resilience.  She regularly exercises 3x per week and has started taking mini-vacations to prevent burn out. Not surprisingly, Deborah and those around her have seen positive results –her outbursts have been few and far between and her mood around the office has become more even keeled.

Here are 5 ways expressing gratitude can help make you a more effective leader: 

1. Expressing gratitude demonstrates your awareness of and concern for others -- cornerstone behaviors for establishing and building trust.

2. Gratitude increases the likelihood of a favorable response from the other person. 

3. Great leaders model effective leadership in what they say AND do. Demonstrating gratitude is a core behavior of servant leadership.

4. Focusing on gratitude is an effective way to disrupt your own anger before you say or do something you'll regret. On a neurological level, expressing gratitude -- either silently or to another person -- helps short circuit what author Daniel Goleman refers to as an amygdala hijack or behavior that results in unnecessary anger or rage.

5. Gratitude can help cultivate patience and self-control.


So the next time you notice your heart rate spiking during a conversation with your boss, a direct report or a client, try contemplating something positive in your life. This simple practice just might help you cool down and produce a very different outcome.  

And that’s something to be grateful for.





Andy Satter
Founder | CEO
Andrew Satter & Associates, Inc.
(845) 256-0995 (direct)