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Angry at Work

On the surface, a business can seem to be about profits, strategies, products, innovations, capital, investments—the impersonal processes and goals of an operation.

But behind all those core components of an ongoing enterprise are individuals in relationship with one another, trying to think, create, make decisions, and make things happen.

Business runs on relationships— relationships individual people have with each other as they go about their work.

Human relationships.

And these relationships are, by nature, inevitably bound up with emotion, personal history, temperament, and the needs of each person involved.  The more pressured the work environment, the more intense the emotional reactivity will be.

Because of all this, there will inevitably be times at work when emotional anger surfaces.

Anger at Work

Anger at work can manifest itself in many ways.  One of the two most notable ways is of the manager who overly controls their emotions.  They are never happy, sad, elated, or furious.  Think of Mr. Spock on Star Trek.

The other extreme is the manager who explodes at every opportunity.  A typical conversation quickly dissolves into a profanity-laced rant covering every perceived personal injustice and offense ever given.

These two extremes are somewhat exaggerated, but similar personalities can easily be found in most workplaces.  Because the emotion of anger is present in our workplaces, it is an emotion that must be addressed, not ignored or covered up.

Dangers of Anger

Bad vibes in the workplace are not only detrimental to staff morale and productivity, it will also have a negative effect on staff’s health and wellbeing, not to mention their career prospects. Additionally, the angry person often loses all credibility and respect with their coworkers and peers.

Benefits of Anger

Interestingly, there is a positive side to anger that few people are willing to acknowledge.

First, angry reactions to incompetence or unethical behaviors are more likely to motivate a proactive response to inhibit such problems as opposed to complacency or indifference. Seeing or experiencing unfairness, inequity, or injustice at work should make us angry. We depend on that anger to replace the status quo with a more just and moral state of affairs.

Secondly, a more controversial benefit of anger is its ability to propel people to leadership roles. Although we should have more leaders with higher levels of emotional intelligence—which, in essence, is an anger-control trait—many individuals, particularly men, are regarded as more leader-like (tough, assertive, aggressive, and strong) when they showcase anger. Anger can be a strong status-enhancing emotion

Thirdly, anger is also an effective weapon for persuasion, as anyone who follows politics will have noticed. For all the concerns about combative and divisive political leaders, they may just be serving as vessels for the anger of the masses. Research shows that anger effectively augments the expression of moral outrage to drive social change.

Finally, studies also show that suppressed and repressed anger is often more painful than their expressed form. In the words of Mark Twain, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

The Bible

The Bible addresses all aspects of anger.  Most famously, Jesus expressed anger at the money changes in the temple (John 2:13-25).  When you read this passage, you will see that Jesus was not angry, He was furious.

In balancing the emotion of anger, the Bible has many passages about controlling and not acting on your anger.

Ephesians 4:26 says,

             “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

Also, James 1:19 says,

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Leaders must know that anger is an emotion to be managed. 

We must save using our emotional anger for times when the situations, such as incompetence and injustice, demand it.  Otherwise, being angry at work damages that work environment and loses its effectiveness, which results in a complete loss of credibility.

Let God help manage and direct your anger.