Who doesn’t get angry from time to time? We may not think of ourselves as an angry person but anger can be a natural response to day to day irritations like missing a bus, getting caught up in heavy traffic, or receiving an unexpected tax bill. The response is human, normal, and sometimes good for us. Just let it all out, we might say, get it off your chest. But if anger is becoming a pattern of behaviour than
the response is not so healthy, especially when it affects other people. Ask recent Oscar-winner Will Smith. So what are the underlying causes?
Some people are naturally predisposed to getting angry with little provocation. We might call them hot-headed or that they have a fiery character. Outbursts can be common but for a congenial workplace they shouldn’t be tolerated. The individual concerned should understand how their behaviour affects others and start working on some self-help strategies. These include understanding where the anger comes from, and then dealing with causes.
In the Gallantium case studies we see a head chef in a new role resorting to anger as a means of controlling his kitchen staff. The cause stems from his inability to see his high standards replicated by his staff; he is over-controlling and unable to share responsibility with his staff. When he understands this and makes allowances, his angry demeanour subsides and the kitchen performs better as a result. In another scenario a company accountant, keen for a board promotion, sees every small setback at work as a barrier to success. Again, it seems to be a control issue, but when he brings colleagues into his confidence he finds a more constructive way forward. As with many battles, they are best avoided when we make a little time to find a way around them.
Overt angry behaviour is easy to spot and whilst it isn’t easy to rectify immediately when we’re on the receiving end, a good culture in an organisation would ensure that such behaviour is recognised and dealt with. That would mean discussion with the individual concerned so that the root cause can be understood and the characteristics of the behaviour minimised.
There is another form of anger however, when people who experience it are able to hold it in. That makes it easier on everyone else, but very damaging for the person concerned because unreleased tension can lead to a whole range of other psychological and physiological problems up to including damage to our physical health. It’s not very easy to see when people are angry if they don’t exhibit any recognisable, outward emotion, but we can try. When we see a colleague suffering certain setbacks or that they’re stuck in a difficult, ongoing predicament, our common sense should tell us how that person might be feeling. As ever, open discussion and showing empathy is usually the key. This is especially true of line managers who should understand the challenges and working environments of each team member, and offer support as needed.
Organisations should always ensure that their work culture never tolerates outwardly angry behaviour among its employees. However, that stance can only be sustainable if conscious efforts are built into systems and processes to avoid or alleviate the potential causes of anger in the first place. Beyond that, help, training and support should be offered to colleagues so that they can recognise symptoms in themselves and others, and feel able to discuss the condition openly and without fear of judgement. Getting it right ultimately leads to a happier workplace, improved morale, better staff retention, and overall improved performance.