How to get angry at work
Tue, 14 Aug 2012 | By Julian Hall
Have you ever been angry at work? Have you been offended by a colleague? Have you felt like telling the boss exactly how you feel? Those words, ‘exactly how you feel’, have that power of euphemism which means they will feel the power of your feeling but not in a good way.
What if I offered you an opportunity to let that anger out? What if I gave you that chance to tell the boss exactly how you feel? ‘Is this healthy?’ I hear you ask. Please read on....
As someone who helps people deal with their unhealthy relationship with anger, one of the most common situations I come across is the relationship that is being ruined by one or the other partner’s anger.
Commonly, when we look deeper it becomes clear that a lot of stress and anger is generated in the workplace but is not expressed there. As a result the stressed and angry partner brings the negative energy home and acts out towards their partner and children. Does that sound familiar? You may have been heard to utter the words, “I just seem to take it out on those that I love the most”.
I know that sounds true when you say it but is shouting at your partner and children the way to show you love them? The reality of the matter is that you take out the frustration, irritation and stress that have built up on those you love the most, those who are prepared to put up with it and still love you.
There are broadly three ways anger gets expressed at work. Let’s see which applies to you.
Exploding or aggressive anger
This is where you can’t hold on to it anymore — it’s been building up for weeks (see passive aggressive) and the anger just comes out. It’s explosive, raging and high energy. It is offensive, scares people around you and breaks several written or unwritten workplace rules around behaviour. Afterwards you feel shame, remorse and find it difficult to look your colleagues in the eye for a long time.
You are angry (you may just say you are frustrated but you are angry) but you contain it in a vain attempt to fool yourself and the person you are angry with that you are not angry. The problem is you can’t hold on to it and it seeps out. It seeps out in the form of sarcasm, backbiting and withholding of support. In its extreme form, you will actively undermine the colleague you are angry with. It takes up unnecessary emotional and mental energy, and can last for days, weeks, months or even years.
This is where you sit down with the person you are angry with and explain what they did that triggered your anger. You calmly explain how you would like to be treated differently and take responsibility for the part you may have played in getting angry. Crucially, your purpose is not to change the person you are angry with but just to let the anger out of you in a controlled, empowering and healing way.
Imagine working in a culture where the third option was openly encouraged. A workplace where people are able to agree to disagree, where people don’t take things personally and where it is safe to express your feelings. A culture of trust only builds where there is a culture of honesty. Complete honesty. Imagine how much more efficient your workplace would be if the backstabbing, undermining, positioning, sarcasm and in-fighting was removed.
This vision of the future is achievable. It takes time. It takes commitment. Most of all, it takes responsibility for your own behaviour.
Want to know more? Take our anger test and see what your score is.
Julian Hall is an anger management, conflict management and stress management specialist. He delivers behaviour-changing and life-changing workplace solutions that reduce reduced stress, tension and absence. For more details visit www.beatingangerderby.co.uk or www.StressExperts.co.uk