Desk Rage: Stressed Out Workers Go Off

Desk Rage: What is it?

With the economy continuing to cause workers to experience increased anxiety due to ongoing downsizing and corporate restructuring, a new phenomenon is taking place with American workers who are being asked to produce more and unfortunately, work for less. This phenomenon is called Desk Rage and is more common than you might think. Similar to other rages such as road rage, “Desk Rage” causes a person to act aggressively, often checking in patience at the office door. According to Dr. John Moore, a behavioral specialist and Chief Executive Officer of Second Story Consultants in Chicago, Desk Rage is a very real problem.

“You have a very toxic mix right now of legitimate job loss fear, increased demands for more worker productivity, and corporations asking its employees to do more with less. When combined, all of these create a difficult, stressful work environment, which is increasingly being expressed in fits of anger and rage.”

Current research

Desk rage is not a topic that gets a lot of attention because companies often do not like to publically address the issue. There is however a 2001 survey of 1,305 workers, commissioned by Integra Realty Resources in New York City, which found that 42 percent of workers surveyed said there was yelling and other verbal abuse in their office. Another 23 percent said they have been driven to tears because of workplace stress and 10 percent said employees have actually resorted to physical violence.

Moore suggests that part of what compounds the problem of desk rage are work environments that have been reconfigured to smaller, more “efficient” spaces as a result of downsizing. “Not only do you have fewer employees doing more work, you have less space in which to do it. I have toured work environments where cubicles are basically stacked on top of one another, with zero privacy. It’s not particularly a healthy environment.”

Are there symptoms?

Warning signs and symptoms of desk rage include:

* Raised voices, often using curse words
* Little patience
* Increased irritability
* Poor work attitude
* Disregard for the feelings of co-workers
* Using a harsh tone of voice
* Engaging in put downs and insults

How to work through Desk Rage

“Losing your temper or going off on a co-worker can not only make matters worse, it can also cause you to become unemployed,” cautions Moore. He suggests the following when you feel that sudden flash of frustration coming on:

* If possible, get up from your desk and go outside. Then take a few deep breaths and use your senses to focus on what is happening in the here and now, such as sounds or sensations. Once you feel a little calmer, then go back to your desk.
* Consider creating a journal that allows you to write down some of your feelings. Pull the journal out whenever you feel the need to let out some of your feelings.
* Take your breaks and lunches, regardless of how much work is sitting on your desk. This means not eating at your desk and reading e-mail during designated break periods. The point here is to get away from the job


Desk rage is a problem that seems to be affecting more and more workers as they try to survive in a difficult economy. If you feel desk rage has become a problem for you at work, consider speaking to a helping professional, such as a therapist or counselor.

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