How Should You Handle Anger in the Office?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Kevin Lanahan 8 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #152521

    Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. – Aristotle

    It seems like a lot of people are pissed off these days.

    On GovLoop, there have been at least two posts in the past week that deal with anger and conflict. In addition, I happened to see a Forbes article last week entitled “The 10 Steps You Must Take to Use Anger Effectively.”

    It’s inevitable that we’re going to get angry in the office, but the key is how we direct that energy appropriately.

    So I’m wondering:

    Is it okay to visibly show your anger in the office?

    Or should you regularly stuff it and live to fight another day?

  • #152537

    Kevin Lanahan

    If you stuff it and live to fight another day, you end up like Milton in “Office Space”

    Milton Waddams [talking on the phone]: And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were merry, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…

    If you’ve seen the movie, you know how that turns out.

  • #152535

    My personal opinion – showing anger at work is a mistake. Most people know that. The question is really how to deal with anger without letting it show and without letting it eat you alive.

    The issue is particularly heightened for women I think. Showing anger undermines your credibility because it makes you look irrational. Even if you are right.

    There are a lot of things you can do to handle anger productively. In the short term, talk to a family member or friend. Go for a walk outside. Listen to music. When you have simmered down, reflect. Figure out a way to deal with the problem minus emotion.

    Often yiu misunderstand rhe other person’s intentions or motivations.

    Also read any book by the Dalai Lama. You really can have compassion on the person or situation that made you angry. You can know that anger hurts you more than them. That anger comes from your own ego. That you make yourself angry – the situation does not control you. Etc.

    BTW – never write an email when you are mad. We all know that, but just saying.

  • #152533

    Robert Bacal

    I think your take on expressing anger, for women, is right on, unfair, and a legacy of stereotyping. On the other hand, the issue isn’t really expressing anger, but HOW you do it. Given people are pretty good at identifying you ARE angry, anyway, I’d think a constructive, problem-focused approach is a better approach.

  • #152531

    Mark Hammer

    There’s a lot of different “angers”. I’ve seen tempers spill over and people get into fisticuffs, and long after its over there is an ickiness that pervades the office.

    There is righteous indignation and moral outrage.

    There are assertions of power that may border on harassment.

    There is frustration (you know those laser printers that don’t seem to know how to do anything except jam up?)

    And I’m sure there are others.

    I think the critical element is that when the temper subsides, steps be taken to restore social cohesion. Most people will not have seen yourself or whomever blew their stack get that angry before, so there is a need to reconfirm pre-existing relationships, and remind people that one IS the person they knew before the eruption.

  • #152529

    Eric Melton

    All good answers and points Dannielle.

    I had a boss who used to tell intense/angry people with a chuckle, “Hey, it’s only government work…” which I initially thought ran contrary to our values and pride in our work… but it was effective at diffusing many hotheads. I guess it was a play on the old “good enough for govt work”, which I am vehemently against (govt work is more important than other work, not less!!) but his twist on it did seem to work.

    Maybe a twist on his phrase could work?… “It’s only paperwork, let’s go get a coffee”, or such…

  • #152527

    Stefany M. Mercer

    LoL @ Kevin! I <3 “Office Space!” It’s totally cult classic! “I believe that’s my stapler…” Although I think my favorite scene would be more along the lines of the hypnotized guy telling the reviewers to basically take the job & stuff it…& then getting promoted to mgmt! (lol)

    Anyway, yes, I agree: suppressing one’s anger/irritation only leads to further problems down the road.


  • #152525

    I have been in many situations where I was angry. I was a young female coming into positions of power at a time when women HAD to wear skirts AND hosiery to work. Started wearing pants because working as a purchasing agent required I go out onto the catwalks to inspect defective equipment or materials out on the lines. Sat through many meetings when I was part of the negotiating team and had the other negotiators ask me to get everyone coffee. In some cases I had to tell people, “Just who do you think you are talking to?” or “We can continue this meeting when you develop some respect.” I’ve had people say insulting things or make inappropriate remarks. Most of the time people dissagree because they have opposing needs. Sometimes those needs have to be arrived at through some uncomfortable discussions and anger. Important part is to remember the other person and what they are trying to accomplish.

    My rule? Go back to my office, compile a memo of what I would like to say (but don’t send it or print it). Compile another memo with what needs to be covered with specific business related reasons. Make a list of pros and cons of what happened to help me assess the damage. Figure out what options are available for reconciling. Reconsider my needs and alternative options. Was the encounter damaging to my business life? Was it a personal assault? Does it need an apology? Private or public? Arrange a meeting with another person (mediator) to discuss issues and try to resolve.

  • #152523

    Kathleen Smith

    Great discussion and good points on stereotyping. I think first we need to understand what the anger is and where it is coming from. Many times the anger is fear or frustration which gets bottled up and we have no way of addressing this. The challenge comes from not learning how to handle anger individually and what is ok to be angry at. In our society we have gone from “never showing anger” to “showing our anger and getting over 21 million YouTube views for blowing up a laptop” Being able to determine where the anger is coming from and if it is an office issue how to address it that will create a more positive experience for you and your coworkers.

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