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Anger Management in the Workplace

Anger in the workplace is not unusual. We can all encounter situations that produce anger in us.

Who hasn’t experienced a difference of opinion, a rude customer or a break in trust and confidentiality?

We are human after all, we make mistakes and we are emotional beings.

Learning to manage your anger in the workplace is an important step in developing your emotional intelligence.  It’s also the first step to supporting you in being positively assertive, a topic we discuss in our Assertiveness course.

What is Anger?

Firstly, it’s important to highlight that anger is not always a ‘bad emotion’, but it certainly is one that is perceived as negative, especially in the workplace.

The Merriam-Webster definition of anger is: a strong feeling of displeasure or annoyance and often of active opposition to an insult, injury, or injustice.

Anger is an umbrella emotion that can capture feelings of deceit, frustration, attack and ill treatment.  It can help us identify problems, provide momentum to make change and release energy to defend ourselves if needed (forming part of our biological fight or flight response).

Anger in the workplace is not negative, but it’s actions make it so.  The yelling, arguing, sarcasm, breaking something (i.e. a pencil) and the lashing out at a person (as we saw recently with Will Smith at the Oscars), are all examples of inappropriate expressions of anger.

Why do we get Angry?

Anger is typically born of an injustice, when someone or something compromises your values and beliefs.

For example, if someone is unfair to you, and fairness is a personal value for you, then this can result in upset, frustration and ultimately anger.  It can invoke the “red mist” feeling that can slowly creep up your body until – bamm! – it takes hold and you start to experience anger.

Understand Your Triggers

One way to help you manage your anger response is to understand what your values and beliefs are.  This will highlight what your triggers are, enabling you to take action to manage your anger.

Knowing your values and beliefs is key to personal development and something that we address in a number of our workshops.

4 Tips to Managing an Anger Response

It’s important for you to learn to manage your anger responses.  In doing so this will allow you to approach your situation from a place of calm, essentially reducing (if not removing) the emotional reaction to the situation.

    Stop everything when you can feel yourself getting angry, and take 3 slow deep purposeful breaths. This will help flood your brain with oxygen, helping you to think clearer and calm you down.
  2. LABEL
    Try labelling your emotion to help you manage by disassociating the thought from its physical reaction in your body.   i.e. say to yourself “This is an angry thought that I am having“.
  3. MOVE
    Walk away, change the environment if you can.  Create space from the trigger so you have a chance to not act from a place of emotion.
    The classic example is do not reply to an email when angry.  Get up and take a break! This technique is called “break state”.
  4. TALK
    Sometimes sharing your frustrations with a trusted somebody can really help diffuse your anger.  It can provide some perspective and a re-frame of the situation that may help you manage your feelings of anger so you can move forward.

Our Golden Rule for Customer Service

For those of you in Customer Service roles our constant message in our training sessions is that “People respond to the role title of the person, not the person themselves.” Therefore, our golden rule for you is “It’s not personal, it’s the badge”.

Knowing this, and reminding yourself of this daily will help you to respond to customers from a better emotional space.


Managing Your Emotions

Being mindful of how you manage your anger in the workplace is an important part of your emotional intelligence. And having an emotionally intelligent team is essential for building strong relationships that support great teams and businesses.

For managers you will be providing feedback and having difficult conversations. Therefore you will not only be managing your own emotions, but those of your team.  It’s important as a manager that you feel confident in having these conversations.   These difficult conversations are what help to develop people, bond teams and address performance issues quickly.

Of course, sometimes people don’t even realise the impact of their anger in the workplace. This provides a further challenge to managing your emotions, and reinforces the importance of approaching all situations from a place of calm.

How we can help you

If you or your teams are dealing with difficult conversations with customers, colleagues and employees and would like the opportunity to practise these techniques, we have a range of workshops that can support you.

For individuals who are finding it difficult to manage their emotions or struggling with their own personal anger management, then we can support you with our 1-2-1 coaching.