Channelling Anger at the Workplace

“Although we claim to be a sophisticated being, man is still the animal he was. The seething anger that seeps through our daily lives proves that beyond doubt. This issue, we look at how we can harness anger and become better managers and individuals.”


On wildlife channels, we see animals reacting in interesting and rather intriguing ways when they are angry or intimidated. But unfortunately for us and fortunately for the others (in the situation), we cannot react as we like, for man is a social animal and not an animal per se. So this brings us to the question, then what do we do when we get angry? Is it always possible to bottle up the frustration? Well, the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

It is true that there is a lot of pent-up emotions at the work place, whether it is an office or an educational institution or maybe even an NGO. There are bosses who infuriate you with their arrogance and there are subordinates who test your patience with their eternal stupidity.

Situation A: you enter the boss’s cabin to remind him of a very important task, but he hollers at you at the top of his voice because he had just got off the phone after listening to the Regional Manager’s tirade. His anger is not justified and you do not deserve this. But, again, life is always full of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. You cannot shout back at him. You come back to your seat humiliated in front of the other staff. Your mood is spoilt, your concentration has gone for a toss, and before you even realise it your day has gone by without any productive work because of the seething anger inside you.

Situation B: The new overenthusiastic recruit has sent a business proposal to a client without consulting you. You have not explicitly given him any such discretion. Now you are not only angry with the silly guy but are also worried as to what he may have put in it and how the client would react. You curse the day you hired the guy and wonder what possessed you to hire the nincompoop. Again, you are distracted the whole day anticipating the client’s reply and playing out your defense if the client is displeased or upset with the proposal. In this situation, it is possible for you to shout at the subordinate just as your boss shouted at you. But, again, there would be no difference between you and your boss.

The situations may be similar or entirely different but the feeling of anger and the helplessness when you are not able to vent your anger are the major reasons for stress at the work place. Failure to control anger can trigger an unhealthy chain of reactions in the work place, ultimately telling on the quality of the work life.

Anger management can make all the difference between an ineffective and an assertive person. In an office where the employees are plagued by fear of the boss’s anger, there will be no effective team work, communication, trust, loyalty or camaraderie.

Anger management in the workplace can be a challenge for employees at all levels in the organisation. Your work life and personal life are greatly influenced by your capacity to control or manage anger. People’s reactions to stressful situations can mar a career. Some even throw away their jobs in the heat of the argument. And they become the least preferred type of co-worker or employee wherever they go.

Psychologists suggest three strategies, or combinations of them, that have the most empirical research behind them. The strategies are relaxation, cognitive therapy and skill development. Increasing personal skills in conflict resolution is valuable in anger management. Counseling is recommended for individuals whose anger is intense and chronic. These are new applications of existing concepts. But the key is to make people identify what makes them very angry.

The cardinal principles of anger management are (i) to identify what makes us very angry and take constructive action on the precipitants of anger, whenever possible, and (ii) when no constructive action is possible, to find healthy ways of discharging the strong physiologic arousal of anger through exercise, laughter or calming techniques such as meditation.

Habitual anger suppressors (often female) may need to learn that the honest expression of feelings need not damage relationships. Habitual anger venters (often male) may need to learn that the judicious use of assertive behaviour gets better results than yelling or cursing.

Research shows that there are notable health benefits in simply talking over an anger incident with a supportive listener, even if the individual cannot talk directly to the provocateur because of status differences (supervisory personnel) or because of situational constraints (inappropriate time and place). Individuals who regularly discuss anger episodes with a confidant have lower blood pressure and better general health status. Anger discussion is correlated inversely with stress and depression. In other words, less stress and depression are experienced when the individual discusses anger rather than harboring it and mulling over it.

Handling anger Headson

Some anger management tips that could come handy at the work place:

Recognize the triggers

Be sensitive to the triggers – the things that make you angry – and be sensitive to them. When you start to recognize these triggers, you can be better prepared the next time you encounter them. The triggers can be a certain type of personality or situations, or even e-mails.

Step back. Walk away or postpone

When you feel your blood boiling because of the presence of these triggers, step back or even walk away. Go to the washroom. Take a break from the situation instead of giving in to the primal impulse to retaliate. Postpone the confrontation; that way, your head will take over your heart and you will not end up mouthing unpleasant things that you may regret later.

Be positive. Be professional

Be positive about things and people. Most times, your anger can be triggered by negative thoughts about people, situations and processes. Think positive about these situations. You waste a lot more time, energy and effort by being angry than calm. And being angry is always very unprofessional.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

Learn to give in and be concerned about others. By understanding the problem or conflict from the other person’s point of view, you will understand the situation better, which itself will diffuse the tension to a great extent. When you care for others, you will also realise the effects of your temper on your colleagues.

Assertive but constructive expression of anger

When expressing your anger, care should be taken to see that you talk about the issue at hand and not about the personal issues or gender, caste community, religion, and so on. If you do not exercise proper care, then the problem will be taken to a different level altogether. So keep to the issue. This is very important in a multicultural country like ours.

To quote Aristotle, “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

That just about sums up the essence of anger management.


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