Have you ever worked with someone that infuriated you?
Picture this…a busy, hot commercial hotel kitchen. The ventilation is humming in the background. You can hear the dishwasher going at full speed. Chefs are busy in and out of cool rooms prepping their stations for the dinner rush. Wait staff are running around looking busy (really they are just casually chatting while polishing cutlery and simultaneously sipping on their third cup of coffee) while deliveries are coming in. It’s frantic and service hasn’t even started yet. In a kitchen environment, there is no time for twiddling your thumbs. There is ALWAYS something to do. If you are caught by the head chef having a chat with another colleague, you get hit with a barrage of questions…
- “Is your station ready for service?”
- “Can you give anyone else a hand with their prep?”
- “Did you go through the specials for tonight with the wait staff?”
- “Have you taken a break?” (Just kidding about that last one, in a commercial kitchen a break is a luxury)
So then in walks your colleague, Amy, ready for her shift. (whose real name will remain hidden for this story) Amy storms into the kitchen. There is always something wrong in Amy’s world. She is angry at everyone, she takes out her insecurities on those around her. She manages to rattle everyone and destroy the happy kitchen environment by creating a dark cloud. No matter how nice you are, how understanding you are, how compassionate you are, Amy finds a way to bring her negativity to the conversation. Amy is toxic. I wonder, have you ever worked with an Amy? I have. It is not an enjoyable place to work. As a chef, I worked long days, weekends and public holidays. I missed out on Christmas 4 years in a row. It was not glamorous in the slightest. The only thing that would make the arduous hours bearable was working with an awesome team. When there is one bad egg in the bunch, it really shakes up the good vibes.
Over time, people like this wear you down. It’s exhausting listening to someone moan and complain and never do anything about it. It is tiresome trying to be an emotional support to someone who does not want to support themselves. It is also upsetting to have someone take things out on you for no reason or give you the silent treatment. In the past I have always taken the silent approach. I have kept my mouth shut. I think about what I want to say but the words never come out. (I am working on this) My mother used to say to me “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” Sorry mum, this time I needed to let off some steam.
The inevitable ‘SNAP'…
According to Google , the definition of “letting off steam” – to do or say something that helps you to get rid of strong feelings or energy. I was never good with confrontation or conflict so I avoided letting anyone know how I really felt if they made me angry. I simply turned the other way and bottled it deep inside. But then the day came, after 3 (long) years. After a lengthy, sweaty kitchen service, everyone was starting to pack and clean down their stations. Amy cornered me in the dry goods room and made a really hurtful accusation about me. It sent me right over the edge. I finally cracked it. I lost my s*%^t. I mean really lost it. My adrenaline was pumping. After screaming and shouting and reducing her to tears, I walked away feeling refreshed. I felt like a weight of emotional baggage was lifted off my shoulders.
Of course, I did feel slightly bad that I had made her cry but why hadn’t I done that sooner? Why did I bottle up all that anger for so many years? It was not healthy. It was only later in life that I realised, you can’t bottle up your emotions. Sometimes you just need to let people know how you feel. You need to for your own sanity and emotional wellbeing.
Bottling up years of anger, frustration and hurt can lead to mental illnesses such as anxiety or even depression. I am not advocating that you should let off steam in the explosive way that I did, but there are some healthy techniques from Reader's Digest you can adopt to let off steam effectively. Remember, you are in control of your own thoughts and behaviours. While it is healthy to let off steam at times, I have learnt that surrounding yourself with positive people will bring positive energy to your life and your well-being making you better equipped to handle stressful situations in the future.
Emma's Hot Tip: Take the break. You're entitled to it (especially working a 12 hour shift)
Experienced and written by Emma Samia (Queen of Operations)