Anger in the Workplace

Posted by: Dr. Justin D'Arienzo, Psy.D., ABPP

The Origin of Anger and Managing

Anger in the Workplace

The Origin of Anger and Managing Anger in the Workplace, Written for D’Arienzo Psychological Group by University of North Florida (UNF) Psychology Student and Future Industrial Organizational Psychologist, Brandon Araujo, December 2013. 

Anger is one emotion that everyone experiences in their life, but many people misinterpret the origin of their anger. The majority of individuals will label a situation or a person as the source of their anger; however, this is incorrect and is the base of many anger management issues. Situations or people do not make us angry; what drives this emotion is our own interpretation of those events and people. We make ourselves angry by becoming overwhelmed with our sense of cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is the incongruence of our thoughts and expectations in relation to the events of our lives. In other words, when we expect something to happen but it does not we become frustrated. The retail business is a prime example; retail managers tend to set daily sales goals, and when these goals are not reached the managers become angry and frustrated. In turn, the managers direct these emotions towards their employees, even though the underachieved expectation is the actual source of their anger. Misdirection of anger can lead to multiple negative consequences in the workplace, such as, job dissatisfaction, counterproductive behaviors, and an increase in the company’s turnover rate.

Instead of directing anger towards their employees, the managers should analyze the expectations they had set and determine whether or not they were reasonable. If they were reasonable, they should examine why the goals were not met and what they can do in the future to assure that upcoming goals are reached. This type of reaction, in which we analyze and question the reality of our expectations, puts us in control of our anger. With this control we are able to direct our frustration to the actual source and use it as a tool to solve the problem.

Although this type of controlled reaction is ideal, we occasionally let our anger consume our thoughts and actions. This is especially true in a stressful work environment; the more stress that a job puts on an employee, the more likely they will have feelings of frustration and anger that they may direct towards other co-workers. This has a very negative impact on job satisfaction and productivity. Therefore, the ability to properly deal with an angry co-worker is a very important skill to have.

When an employee recognizes that a co-worker is angry and is directing that anger towards others, there are certain actions that the employee should and should not take in order to deal with the situation. The first and most important action they should take is empathizing with the co-worker, try to understand why they are mad in a genuine and compassionate manner; however, it is important not to force them to open up. After learning about why they are mad, the employee should try to help the co-worker gain control over their anger by assessing the reality of their failed expectations as previously stated in the sales goal example. After implementing this, one should provide minor assistance to help accomplish their co-workers newly assessed expectations, as long as doing so does not cause their own stress to increase. This strategy can also be used individually to help control one’s own anger. This type of empathic social-support within the workplace tends to increase job satisfaction and productivity among workers.

At D’Arienzo Psychological Group, we offer online anger management training and classes as well as in house anger management training at your place of business. We also provide individual anger management counseling and therapy offered by either, a licensed clinical social worker, licensed mental health counselor or licensed clinical psychologist. Please contact us today for services that will be matched to your specific needs.