Understanding and effectively managing anger in the workplace is not just about preventing conflict; it’s about fostering a culture of emotional intelligence, resilience, and mutual respect.
Understanding and managing emotions at your place of employment, particularly anger, is crucial for personal growth, productivity, and workplace harmony. Anger manifests in many ways, from overt expressions to internal rumination, affecting not only well-being but also your interactions with colleagues and overall job performance. This blog post, draws specifically from the research by Maltby et al. (2023) and from psychological research on anger in general. It offers an in-depth look at the five-factor model of anger and extends the model’s relevance to organizational settings. We share various self-help strategies, including conflict resolution, enhancing emotional intelligence, and stress management techniques, to effectively manage anger. Recognizing and addressing these aspects of anger allows one to convert potential conflicts into opportunities for personal and professional development, contributing to a supportive and positive work environment.
Understanding the Human Emotion of Anger:
Anger is typically defined as an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. It’s a natural, though sometimes unwanted, emotion that everybody experiences from time to time. Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a coworker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a canceled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.
The feeling or emotion of anger is often seen as a response to a perceived threat to ourselves, our loved ones, our property, our self-image, or some part of our identity. Anger can be a response to feeling hurt, frustrated, rejected, or powerless, among other triggers.
A complex emotion, anger can be constructive when it helps you address problems or issues, whether by resolving conflicts or by motivating you to make positive changes in your life. However, uncontrolled anger can lead to stress, health problems, and can harm personal and professional relationships. As a complex emotion, anger has physical, cognitive, and emotional components. Anger affects our minds, our bodies and our behaviors. Understanding anger and managing it in your life and in your employment or work environment is important for personal, interpersonal and professional growth.
Maltby et al. (2023) provide a comprehensive analysis of anger through a five-factor model, offering a detailed perspective on how to understand and manage the all too human emotion of anger. The principles of this model can be applied to the experience and manifestation of anger in the workplace. The basics of the five anger factors are as follows:
- Anger-Arousal: This relates to how openly we express anger, such as showing irritation or raising our voice. It’s about the intensity and immediacy of our angry reactions.
- Anger-Rumination: This is when we dwell on past events that made us angry, replaying these moments in our minds.
- Frustration-Discomfort: This factor is about our reaction to challenging situations or discomfort, including feelings of entitlement and intolerance towards unmet goals or discomforts.
- Anger-Regulation: This involves strategies we use to control our anger, such as avoiding confrontations or trying to view situations less seriously.
- Socially Constituted Anger: This type of anger stems from social interactions, like when social norms are violated or when we feel our reputation is threatened.
Applications of the Model in the Workplace:
As an employee or a member of an organization or team, it’s beneficial to understand and manage these aspects of anger in your professional life. The five-factor model offers a practical framework for identifying and addressing anger-related issues at work.
- Managing Anger-Arousal: Recognizing and controlling overt expressions of anger, such as frustration in meetings or disputes with colleagues, is crucial. You can learn to establish better communication strategies, seek support, and engage in emotional intelligence and conflict resolution training.
- Overcoming Anger-Rumination: Constantly thinking about past conflicts hinders your ability to move forward. Techniques like personal counseling, mindfulness practices, and stress management can be effective in processing and overcoming these feelings.
- Addressing Frustration-Discomfort: Developing a higher tolerance for frustration and discomfort, and understanding your reactions to challenging situations, are important. Learning to set realistic expectations for yourself and embracing adaptability and resilience can help in this regard.
- Enhancing Anger-Regulation Skills: Improving your ability to manage and moderate anger is beneficial for handling workplace stress and conflicts. Fostering self-awareness and learning anger management techniques can enhance your professional interactions.
- Navigating Socially Constituted Anger: Understanding how to deal with anger that arises from social interactions, especially in response to perceived unfairness or breaches of workplace etiquette, is essential. Emphasizing fairness, transparency, and respect for diversity and inclusion can improve your social interactions in the workplace.
As managers, employees and team members, you can use these strategies to better manage your emotions and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace. Engaging in training sessions on anger management, building a respectful communication culture, utilizing support systems like counseling services, actively seeking feedback, and understanding conflict resolution mechanisms can be highly beneficial.
The model of Maltby et al. (2023) draws upon fifty years of psychological research on anger and anger management. Their five-factor model offers a comprehensive guide for recognizing and addressing different expressions of anger in the workplace. Utilizing this model can help everyone develop strategies that not only reduce conflict but also enhance emotional intelligence, communication skills, and mutual respect. By integrating practices such as feedback, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence training into your professional life, you can reshape your approach to anger. This transformation allows you to use your emotions constructively for personal growth, improved team dynamics, and a stronger organizational culture.
Effective self-management of anger, goes beyond conflict mitigation. It represents a commitment to your emotional well-being, enriching your work experience, and contributing to the success of your organization. As proactive members of your organization, you are encouraged to consider adopting these principles, building a work environment that is not only efficient and productive but also emotionally supportive and enriching for every employee.
Maltby, J., Norton, W. H. J., McElroy, E., Cromby, J., Halliwell, M., & Hall, S. S. (2023). Refining anger: Summarizing the self-report measurement of anger. Journal of Personality Assessment, 105(6), 752–762. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891.2022.2152345