Managing Anger At Work

Has anger ever caused trouble for you at work? At most work sites, many people must interact and cooperate to meet the goals of the organization. They may work in close physical contact, share equipment or staff members. In any worksite situation, frustration and anger can flare up from time-to-time. When people are angry, they're more likely to forget safety precautions, cause or have accidents, make mistakes in their work, develop conflicts between coworkers, and be less productive.

There are Two Kinds of Anger

If you have ever found yourself in situations where you have become very frustrated or angry, you may be looking for a few suggestions on dealing with your anger in an appropriate manner.  First, it helps to recognize it. Anger usually takes one of two forms:

  • Suppressed Anger:  Because many people have been taught since childhood that it's not appropriate to show anger, a common response to anger is to deny or suppress it. The angry person may withdraw giving others the silent treatment and refusing to talk about the situation or concern. This kind of smoldering anger interferes with work and can raise the stress level for everyone. People with suppressed anger may find an indirect outlet for their feelings by gossiping about others or sabotaging a project. It's a mistake to try to ignore such anger in yourself or in others.
  • Explosive Anger:  Some people deal with the discomfort of anger by blowing-up or blaming others. Attention is focused on blaming and punishing rather than on finding a solution. It's easy to react to these people with even more anger, and that can exacerbate the situation.

Getting to the Cause of Anger

Anger is a normal response to stress and can lead to positive results. The first step is to acknowledge the anger. By recognizing anger in yourself and others, you can begin to understand its cause and what to do about it. Give yourself some time to cool off.  Then, be sure of the cause. Are you looking for someone to blame because you burned the toast or cut yourself shaving before work? Or do you have a legitimate gripe with another employee--one that needs to be talked out.

Act Positively

Once you've cooled off, express your anger to the appropriate person and work with that person to solve the problem. Be sure to stick to the subject addressing your own feelings rather than attacking the individual. Here are two possible responses to a coworker who was late to an important meeting: "You're never on time! Why can't you be more organized?" or "I am really upset. I missed a deadline because you were late. How can we keep this from happening again?" Which response do you think might get better results?

Sometimes there's nothing that you can do about the situation that's causing your frustration or anger. When this happens, talk about the concern with your supervisor or trusted friend and decide how to best deal with the situation. Even if you end up making a decision to live with it, you'll probably feel more in control having made that decision consciously.

When Others Get Angry

When you see suppressed or explosive anger in another person, avoid reacting to that person's anger with more anger. Remember that listening carefully and acknowledging the person's feelings go a long way toward defusing their anger. This may be all the person needs to start dealing with the anger effectively.

Have a Question About Anger?

Sometimes it’s not as simple as it sounds - recognize it, and then deal with it.  Once in awhile it can be helpful to have a confidential discussion with an impartial third party.  The HealthQuest EAP has been helping employees deal with stress at work since 1988. Call us confidentially 24 hours-a-day at 1-888-275-1205 (option 7).