Anger is a normal, natural emotional and physiological response to an attack on our personal safety, on our self-esteem and safety.
Anger modifies our perception, interpretation of events, and affects our communication and behaviors.
Some people aggressively lash out, some withhold and deal with their anger internally, others become passive aggressive.
Anger is difficult to handle in the workplace because:
- Relationships in the workplace are complex. We spend most of our working hours with perfect strangers, with different levels of power and with whom we thrive to build a trustworthy relationship.
- Our interests often competes with those of others.
- Our financial and psychological security is at stake.
- There are many factors within the organization that are beyond our control, which tends to make us feel vulnerable.
The consequences of anger in the workplace
Anger in the workplace can damage your mental and physical health, your career, your work performance, your reputation and your relationships. In extreme cases, anger can result in violence or even suicide.
Furthermore, anger not only affects individuals life but also negatively impacts those around them. Because they worry about the situation and want to avoid the at all costs, anger reduces their commitment and productivity at work.
People around the angry person experience feelings of “fear, sadness, diminished self-esteem, preoccupation with the conflict, increased caution, and thoughts of revenge”. If the behavior is tolerated by management, people will start to lose trust in their organization and in the capabilities of their leader. From there, a toxic workplace is built.
The benefits of anger in the workplace
Anger is always painted in a negative light but managed properly, it can have a positive aspect to it. To visualize the productive aspect of anger, create a conflictual fictional scenario and think about the possible healthy responses to the situation.
Anger helps to identify conflicts, problematic issues, to resolve them, to demonstrate or create employee commitment and involvement, to generate better results.
Specifically, channeling employees anger can improve the work experience by:
- Sustaining employees for long intensive hours at work.
- Augmenting perseverance.
- Acknowledging change and diversity in opinion.
- Driving healthy competitions, productivity and quality.
- Updating policies and procedures.
- Improving conflictual relationships.
- Speaking up against wrongdoers and against unfair treatment.
The signs and symptoms of anger
Some people over-express their anger and others under-express it. Both are unhealthy and have long-term negative effects on individuals and on the organization. In order to deal with your anger issues, it is necessary to identify the signs and symptoms of your anger. Expressions of badly managed anger can easily become aggression, can be direct or indirect, active or passive.
In addition, in the organization, expression of anger is either modeled from the higher hierarchy and cascades down the line, is only allowed to high performers with bad behaviors or is repressed to create a culture of polite exchange and respectful relationship.
The source of anger
It is detrimental to focus on the source of the anger in order to resolve it. There are five main sources of anger:
- The cracks in the system that make us feel out of control, constantly “threatened and insecure”, frustrated.
- Perceived unfairness and injustice in treatment, in salary and in work load within the organization.
- Arrested goals because of everyone’s competitive interest.
- Difference of core values.
- Difference in power. On one hand, subordinates fear the powerful, are angry that the powerful has authority over them. On the other, the powerful appreciates the control and security, is angry when their authority is questioned, generally retaliates when that happens.
Addressing your anger in 6 steps
- Do your best to avoid angering situations and people on a typical day. Also, assess yourself, your relationships and achievements. Then, invest in your well-being and learn to speak to assert your needs and rights.
- Detect the early physical symptoms of anger. Then, learn to dissipate your anger with physical and mental exercises.
- Anger has a habit of distorting your thought pattern and memory of a situation. It is therefore necessary to calm ourselves down and to logically assess the events.
- Gather your thoughts together and the recipient of your anger to disclose the reason for your anger. Don’t hesitate to prepare your speech.
- Take action and seek solutions to the situation by changing your perspective and your reactions.
- If the situation is not worth your time and energy, maybe it is time to let it go and swiftly move on.
Addressing other people anger in 5 steps
Dealing with someone else’s anger is a whole new territory and is a case by case study. One has to keep in mind the person idiosyncrasies, your relationship with this person, the way that person directs their anger (inward or outward), the level of anger involved, the source of the anger and the personality type of the person.
Also, avoid ignoring the person’s feeling, attempting to control their anger, shutting the person down or overpowering them. Instead:
- Master and assess your own feelings of anger.
- Identify “the underlying source of anger”.
- Schedule a meeting and prepare the conversation.
- Listen without interruption but without allowing the situation to escalate.
- Take action to reinforce positive behavior, to address the problem and find a solution.
Addressing anger in the organizational culture
Anger is unfortunately inevitable in the workplace. It is important to assess the state of anger in your workplace and on your team, to get people focused on the mission instead of personal differences, to establish a code of conduct, to require model behavior from leaders and to provide anger management classes.
Managing Anger In The Workplace by Donald Gibson and Bruce Tulgan is a valuable, eye-opening and instructive book, filled with case studies, practical guidelines to understand your anger, to analyze your response to challenges and the dynamics at work, to gradually and successfully handle your anger.
Needless to say, there are so many things that are out of our control, that make us lose our cool: a coworker says or does the wrong thing; a team member doesn’t meet deadlines; your superior yells at you or is unfair to you for no good reason.
Anger is neither good or bad but a natural emotion. Anger in the workplace can open us up to malicious attack where people feel that they can control your reaction or it can create a toxic workplace. That it’s why, it is important to manage and express that anger before it translates into physical symptoms.
This book offers tools and exercises and is genuinely helpful. It was written in 2003 but is still current. It is not an overnight miracle worker but it gives great tips to take discipline yourself, to take control of your anger and monitor your progress.
anger is a normal, fundamental, and even healthy emotion rooted in our instinct for self-preservation.
In cases where poorly managed anger is routinely tolerated and accepted by leadership, the organization may assume an angry culture, with negative effects flowing up the chain of command covertly and cascading down the chain of command all too obviously.
That’s why anger is often seen as the forbidden emotion. People who express anger are considered to be “irrational,” and “out of control,” two of the worst things that can be said about a person. This is particularly true in organizations, where people are supposed to leave their emotions at the workplace door. What many people don’t realize—or never consider—is that anger in itself is neither positive nor negative. If managed effectively, anger can be a positive and productive emotion.
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