Have you noticed that there seems to be more anger today then a few years ago? It seems that people are more on edge and react more vituperatively than ever before. It seems that no matter what happens, someone or some group is outraged and angry. I often wonder how long this anger can last. After all, doesn’t anger take so very much energy?
Someone once said:
“When anger gets the best of you, it usually brings out the worst of you.” – Anonymous
I have found this to be very true. It seems that when a person gets truly angry, all of their worst character attributes come forward… bad language, hate, envy, animosity, and negativity. In return, the target of that anger often naturally expresses or feels repulsion, hurt, vindictiveness, and revenge. Anger usually begets more anger. It seems that every negative element of an individual is revealed when they are consumed with anger.
Is it possible to have “righteous anger?” Yes, it is certainly possible. We should be angry when we see injustice, ill-treatment of others, and intentional destruction. However, even righteous anger must be managed and controlled.
Anger in the workplace, when not properly managed, can impact morale, productivity, employee engagement, job satisfaction, and work quality. For example, I have seen numerous examples where individuals or entire teams have been demotivated, demoralized, and defeated by the angry outburst of a manager or leader.
So, if anger can be so destructive, how can we control or manage it? Is it even possible to control our anger? Well, as you might guess, I believe the answer is a definitive “yes.” It is possible to at least tame our anger and control it to the extent that it is not a device of destruction or division. Let’s look at seven approaches to anger control or management that I have observed to be effective:
- Walk away without striking back – By putting some distance between you and the source of your anger, you can avoid responding when your anger is most volatile.
- Put some time between you and the source of your anger – Time, it seems, takes the edge off anger. It gives you a chance to consider whether the issue is significant and what the best action might be other than expressing your anger.
- Re-position your anger in the form of questions – Instead of striking back to the source of anger, ask probing questions that might help diffuse the immediacy of the situation. Examples of such questions might be:
- Do you understand what position this puts us in?
- Did you consider alternative actions?
- Do you have a suggestion as to how we might mitigate this issue?
- What have you done to keep this from re-occurring?
- What do you suggest we do next?
- Keep things in proper perspective – Before saying or doing something that you might later regret, consider whether the issue is really that important or not. For example, is it really that important that someone else beat you to that close parking spot? Will the issue matter in an hour, or day, or month? Is there a logical reason why this might have happened?
- Direct your anger toward the event or situation, not people (if possible) – It is often helpful to put yourself in the shoes of the individuals involved. Placing your anger toward another individual will rarely produce the best eventual outcome. Identify the event or situation and direct your energy toward a solution to the problem, not degrading or embarrassing individuals.
- Remember your position – others are watching you – Your actions often set the tone or help establish the culture. Someone once said, “The culture of an organization is defined by the worst behavior that is allowed to occur.” When you consider that your actions may produce long-standing memories for others, you might better manage the anger of the moment. I am sure that each of us can cite numerous examples of how expressed momentary anger produced permanent scars.
- Act with mercy/give a second chance/use it as a teaching moment – We all deserve a second chance. An individual is more likely to learn from their mistakes and grow from the situation if they are treated with mercy and you use the situation as a learning experience. When you strike out at another individual, the potential learning is overwhelmed by the negative reaction you gave, rather than how they can learn from it.
I hope these suggestions can both help you see the potential damage your anger, if not controlled, can cause AND offer some practical advice for managing that next major event.
Do something today to make a positive impact on someone else! It could be your very best day yet!