Managing Anger in the Workplace

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What Function Does Anger Serve?

The emotion of anger is often associated with negative perceptions. When we envision someone who is angry, our initial thoughts typically don’t involve positive memories or experiences. However, anger serves an essential function in our emotional toolbox, so positively managing angry employees is a crucial skill for any manager to have.  

Just as physical pain alerts us to potential bodily harm, anger can signal when something is wrong in our social or personal environment. It often acts as a call to action, inspiring us to address and rectify the issue that has triggered this intense response. 

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In our work life, anger highlights areas where changes may be necessary. If an employee consistently displays symptoms of anger, it could be a sign that there is a systemic issue within your organisation, such as poor levels of communication, unrealistic workloads, or a lack of recognition for hard work.   

So, although anger is rarely viewed as a positive emotion, it’s crucial to remember that not all anger is destructive and can lead to highly positive outcomes. It can catalyse change, spurring individuals to address issues and overcome challenges. It can lead to self-improvement and boost our sense of control. You’ll also find that feelings of anger can boost creativity among individuals.  

However, when left unchecked, anger can lead to conflict and negatively affect team dynamics, so managing angry employees requires a balanced approach that values emotional honesty while encouraging respectful and productive communication 

Why are Some People quicker to Anger than Others?

When managing anger at work, you must understand that some individuals may be quicker to anger than others and why that is.   

Many individual facts affect a person’s temperamental response:   

Personality Traits  

Some employees may inherently possess a hot-tempered predisposition. Personality traits such as neuroticism, characterised by emotional instability, often play a significant role in how individuals express anger. People with high levels of neuroticism tend to be more reactive to stressors and may express this stress through anger more readily.   

Stress Levels  

A team member under high stress may become angry more quickly than their colleagues. Stressors related to work, such as heavy workloads, tight deadlines, or interpersonal conflicts, can escalate frustration and intensify angry reactions. This is particularly relevant in high-stress industries or roles where pressure is frequently heightened.  

Genetics

Genetics also play a considerable part in feelings of anger. Research has shown that some people may be more genetically predisposed to anger, with specific genes influencing neurotransmitter regulation in the brain that affects mood and behaviour.   

It could also be hereditary. If a parent struggles with anger, a child may experience these emotions, too.  

While these factors may make some employees more susceptible to anger, it does not justify or excuse inappropriate displays of anger in the workplace, but understanding these variables may help businesses manage anger at work more effectively.  

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Common Causes of Anger in the Workplace

Understanding and managing anger at work begins with recognising its common causes. These can range from personal issues to workplace-related challenges.    

Workload  

One of the most common causes of workplace anger is actually one of the easiest to solve: excessive workload.   

Employees saddled with unrealistic expectations or tight deadlines often experience high levels of stress, which can easily trigger anger, alongside a range of mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression.   

A lack of support or resources to complete tasks can also cause feelings of frustration and resentment.   

Communication  

Another significant cause of workplace anger is poor communication. Misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and lack of clarity can lead to confusion and frustration among employees.   

Also, feeling undervalued and overlooked due to lacking open and respectful dialogue often brews anger.   

Relationships

Workplace relationships also play a crucial role in managing anger at work.   

Interpersonal conflicts, office politics, or perceived unfair treatment can quickly breed discontent and anger. Similarly, feeling unappreciated or experiencing a lack of recognition for hard work can provoke resentment.   

Decision Making 

A lack of personal control over tasks and decisions can lead to anger in the workplace. Employees who feel they have little autonomy or influence over their work may experience frustration. This, coupled with an inability to influence decisions that affect them, can often result in anger.   

These causes of workplace anger are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. There are many reasons a staff member would feel angry; it’s a very personal emotion.   

What triggers one team member may not even make another colleague flinch. So, it’s essential to acknowledge that anger is a normal human emotion and use that to create a culture where staff feel comfortable expressing their feelings in a constructive, safe manner.   

Consequences of Anger in the Workplace

No matter the root cause, unresolved anger can have severe implications in a work environment. Feelings of frustration and anger among employees can affect productivity and the overall well-being of an entire team.   

Here are just a few of the ways that anger can impact a working environment:  

Decreased productivity  

Anger frequently results in reduced productivity. When employees grapple with anger, their attention shifts from their tasks to their emotions, deteriorating both work quality and output.  

Conflict amongst employees  

Anger can foster a hostile environment, sparking conflicts among employees. These interpersonal issues can disrupt workplace harmony, escalating tensions and adversely affecting team dynamics. The conflict between two employees often creates a ripple effect, impacting more than just the individuals initially involved.  

Increased staff turnover  

The stress resulting from a hostile work environment can lead to increased employee turnover. The costs associated with hiring and training new employees can significantly affect a business’s bottom line.   

Reputation risk  

An organisation known for having angry employees risks damaging its reputation. Many job seekers now base their choice of applications on a company’s employee reviews. A business with a poor reputation and high turnover is not appealing to potential employees, clients, or customers.   

 Legal implications  

In extreme cases, if employees feel threatened due to the anger of others, businesses may face legal implications. It’s essential to have strategies for managing angry employees to avoid such situations.   

The consequences of anger in the workplace can be disastrous for a business, so managers must appreciate the significance of managing anger at work to keep a healthy and productive workplace.   

Managing anger in employees is about fostering a culture of openness, respect, and emotional intelligence. Creating a supportive environment where employees can express their feelings safely and respectfully can significantly reduce anger and its associated consequences.  

How To Manage Your Reactions to Anger

When managing anger at work, it’s not just about dealing with angry employees but also about understanding and managing your own reactions to anger.   

We all have different triggers and ways of expressing our frustration; the workplace is no exception. The pressures of an office environment can often worsen these responses, making it all the more crucial to have strategies to manage our reactions.   

When it comes to managing both our anger as well as our teams, you must remember it’s not just about controlling the emotional outbursts that come with anger and frustration. It is also about understanding and addressing its root cause. 

With all this in mind, it’s important not to forget that anger is a normal human emotion and use that knowledge to create a culture where both you and staff feel comfortable expressing feelings in a constructive, safe manner.  

Strategies To Manage Anger

1. Firstly, self-awareness is critical.   

You must be able to recognise when you’re becoming angry. You may feel that your heartbeat quickens, or you could feel a tightness in your chest. These are your body’s ways of alerting you to rising stress levels, and they serve as a cue to start implementing your anger management   

2. One healthy strategy for managing your feelings of anger is practising mindfulness.   

By grounding yourself in the present moment and focusing on your breathing, you can calm your physiological response and give your mind the space to process the situation more clearly.   

Remember, it’s okay to take a moment before responding.   

If an employee’s behaviour triggers your anger, take a step back rather than reacting impulsively. This could be by physically removing yourself from the situation briefly or simply taking a few deep breaths and counting to ten in your head.    

 3. It’s also essential to maintain open lines of communication.   

If you’re feeling angered by a situation at work, talk about it with the relevant parties involved. Often, a solution can be reached through discussion. Being heard and understood can really help reduce feelings of anger, stress, anxiety and overwhelm.  

4. Finally, remember the importance of self-care.   

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep can all contribute towards your overall emotional resilience, helping you to manage stress and anger more effectively.   

Self-care can mean different things to everyone, so figuring out what works for you is important. Whether going for a run, reading a book or pruning your bushes, your self-care can really make a difference in how you respond to triggering scenarios.   

Remember, everyone experiences anger, but it’s how we manage it that truly matters.   

Setting Boundaries with Angry Employees

When dealing with angry employees, setting clear boundaries is essential to ensure all staff members’ emotional well-being.   

This may initially sound intimidating, but you can set boundaries with your team in a few simple ways.  

  • Establish Clear Expectations  

From the outset, it’s crucial to outline what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour at work. This fosters a culture of respect and helps prevent conflicts before they escalate. You can do this through face-to-face meetings or physical booklets that staff can keep and return to when needed.  

  • Open Communication Channels  

Facilitate regular meetings where employees can express their feelings and concerns. This can help identify any potential sources of anger or frustration early. Ensure all staff know there is an ‘open door policy’, meaning they can come to management with any issues before they become problematic.  

  • Encourage Emotional Intelligence  

Provide training on managing anger and fostering emotional intelligence. These skills can help employees recognise and manage their emotions, especially anger, healthily.   

  • Confidentiality and Support  

Ensure employees know that you’re there to support them. Offer confidential sessions where they can talk about their feelings without fear of repercussions.    

  • Appropriate Consequences  

If an employee oversteps the boundaries, inform them of the consequences. This could range from a formal warning to mandatory training on anger management.   

  • Professional Assistance  

If an employee consistently struggles with anger, recommending professional help, such as counselling or therapy, may be beneficial.   

Effectively managing angry employees is never about punishment or control. It’s about creating a safe, understanding, supportive atmosphere where everyone feels valued and heard.   

By setting boundaries and offering the right kind of support, businesses can effectively manage anger in the workplace, leading to a healthier, happier team.   

Supporting Employees Who Express Anger in the Workplace

In any workplace, managing anger and emotional outbursts can be challenging. It’s crucial to understand that anger is often a manifestation of deeper issues such as stress, frustration, or feeling undervalued. Acknowledging this as a regular part of the business landscape is the first step in effectively managing angry employees.   

When supporting employees who express anger at work, it’s essential to maintain open, non-judgmental communication. Tackle the problem head-on but do it with empathy. Try to get where they’re coming from and what’s really bugging them. Regular one-on-one chats can also help build trust and make it a safe space for them to vent.  

Teaching managers how to be good listeners is another helpful approach.   

Encourage them to hear what employees say and be aware of emotional subtleties. This deeper understanding can make a difference in handling workplace anger.  

Making sure there’s a good balance between work and personal life is super important, too. Too much work and not enough downtime can pile on stress, which might turn into anger. Encourage taking breaks, keeping work hours reasonable, and using those vacation days.  

Also, offering resources for handling stress and getting emotional support is helpful. This might involve mindfulness workshops, counselling services, or sharing educational materials on dealing with anger. Giving employees these tools can empower them to manage their emotions, boosting overall harmony in the workplace.  

By creating a supportive and understanding workplace environment, you can better manage employees who struggle with anger, leading to a healthier, more productive work setting.    

Remember, it’s crucial to recognise that managing employee anger isn’t about stifling emotions; instead, it’s about understanding, acknowledging, and expressing them in a constructive and beneficial way for everyone involved.  

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