Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Anger Management Issues & The Workplace
Anger is one of those emotions that everyone experiences at different key points in their lives. Anger is described as an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation or annoyance to intense fury and rage. Anger is often accompanied by physiological and biological changes; your heart rate increases (palpitations are likely) and blood pressure rises. Typically, when anger occurs energy hormones are also affected as well, such as, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Anger can be caused by both internal and external stimuli. Internal stimuli can stem from personal feeling of being overlooked for a promotion, reflecting on a past traumatic event, etc. External stimuli that can trigger an angry response can be caused by getting into an argument with another person, being lied to, etc.
Often when feelings of anger initially appear there is an instinctive desire to respond impulsively, giving into to what one’s feeling without thinking. Individual initial responses to anger also include an innate urge to respond aggressively, i.e., to hurt those that have hurt us. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to the perception of threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to not only fight but defend ourselves when there is a threat of danger.
Although, anger is a natural human response to things unpleasant and the threat of danger, how one manages the emotion can determine if our anger is natural or has escalated to something more significant. Healthy responses to anger consist of taking time between what triggers the response and our response. By taking time to reflect between the trigger and the response allows us to respond in a less reactive, less heated, and more appropriate manner. Time allows us to better process what has led to the angry response and develop better coping strategies to both manage the angry emotions as well as how to solve the problem(s) causing the anger.
The goal of managing anger properly is to express one’s frustrations appropriately, not inappropriately, and to get out negative feelings and thoughts fueling the anger. Unexpressed anger can create other problems related to physical and emotional health, and maladaptive behavior in response to the anger. Anger that is not expressed can also lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior or tendencies (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them directly) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile.
While frustrations in the workplace are common, inappropriate displays of anger can limit or interfere with both the career path as well as change the path unnecessarily. Maladaptive responses to anger in the workplace can convey a message to others of an inability to deal with challenges appropriately, low frustration threshold, negative engagement with others, and a general environment of hostility. Anger can also be attributed to self-sabotage as well as self-isolating behaviors preventing one from properly engaging with others, interring with and or limiting career goals. One of the reasons for this includes others limiting their interactions with someone that does not manage disappointments well, perceived as excessively reactive and combative, and generally unpleasant to be around.
The best way to manage disappointments and frustrations in the workplace include building better communication, acknowledging the root of disappointment rather that pretending they do not exist. Identifying triggers leading to feelings of anger is essential for developing appropriate strategies to cope with the emotion. Although, communication is essential component of managing anger it does not mean disclosing your feelings impulsively, without reflection, in an unfiltered manner that can be harmful to others. Expressing anger appropriately means you do not hold these feelings in but have developed appropriate means to convey them in a non-confrontational, combative, maladaptive manner.
Charles has been working at the same law firm for 15 years and he has been trying for the last year to make partner. Everyone at the firm agrees Charles is an excellent lawyer, however, they all agree he does not manage his temper very well. Charles has engaged in screaming matches with both colleagues and clients. Charles has become extremely angry when he feels his clients have knowingly withheld information pertinent to their case or with his co-workers for suggesting that he needs to calm down. After a scheduled meeting at the firm a new partner was announced, it was not Charles but someone that had been with the firm for only 10 years. Upon learning he would not be a partner, Charles immediately became reactive throwing client files and stormed out of the meeting. Has Charles history of poor anger management interfered with his ability to move up in the firm?