How managers can transform their anger from liability to asset in the workplace.
The other day something popped into my head as I was dealing with a difficult coworker. That thing was anger. Good old fashioned, righteous indignation.
The experience got me thinking of all the times I’ve seen people get mad in the workplace and, as a result, all of the weird ways I’ve seen people twist and contort themselves mentally in order to deal with this uncomfortable emotion.
Today I’m here to tell you that anger is a thing and it is not the great evil thing you’ve been taught that it is.
Anger is a natural emotion for humans to feel. It isn’t bad or good. It can be both, depending on your relationship with it and how you choose to express it.
Anger has a seat right next to Love, Compassion, Fear, Anxiety, and more. It’s a part of our human experience and, like most of these instinctual parts of our psyche, it has a purpose to serve.
Anger, despite its bad rap, can be a huge catalyst for necessary action and, as long as you’ve placed your anger correctly, anger can serve as a massive impulse to change.
We get angry when we see people treated unfairly, when we see systems exploited at the expense of others, and when we sense that our dignity or the dignity of others has been compromised.
Anger can snap problems into crystal clear focus, bringing important elements to the forefront of our brain and cutting a super clear path forward to the correct solution to that problem.
Anger also reminds us that we’re human. It reminds us that we don’t always have control over situations. In these cases, the power of anger is, first, to allow us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and, second, to inspire us to work harder to alleviate the pain we’re experiencing in that moment.
Of course, anger can also cause us to act poorly, even harmfully, to those around us and even ourselves.
Anger like this is a dangerous bedfellow and is often a delusional, twisted form of the original, source emotion.
Anger can be used as a weapon of oppression. It can be manufactured to manipulate. Anger can even be used to transform the relationships around us and bend them to our will.
In the hands of a skilled practitioner, Anger can be a great asset. However, in the hands of an unhealthy individual, it can cause great pain both to the individual and those around them.
Validating the source of your anger and the means by which that anger is expressed is what I call “placing” anger. It’s a process of making sure that your anger’s source is genuine and that it’s expression doesn’t violate common standard of ethics and principles.
Anger is a difficult emotion for anyone, much less a manager of people. People are just so dang frustrating sometimes.
For managers, mastering the emotion of anger is a necessary skill despite the high level of emotional intelligence it requires. Some of your greatest successes and biggest failures will be determined by how you manage and place your anger.
So what are the practical steps to learning how to master this powerful emotion and harness its potential as a part of your managerial tool kit?
The first step is to get control of your anger altogether.
What I mean is, you should be able to control when and to what level your anger arises. A person without this level of control will be subject to their subconscious whims, the effects of their surroundings, and will likely be in a state of “non-control” more often than being in control when anger surfaces.
To gain control over your anger, first learn to interrupt it before it takes control.
Doing this requires a tremendous amount of mindfulness and self-awareness. For that reason, I usually recommend that managers under my training take up a regular practice of mindfulness meditation.
The goal with this practice is to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, the first step in being able to control their influence on your life.
When something happens that arouses anger, you should be able to notice it and identify it quickly, if not immediately.
You may be surprised at how often emotions overtake you without your knowledge. Being aware of the presence of your emotions is a deceptively difficult and powerful skill.
The second step depends on the intensity of the anger being experienced.
If the anger is overwhelming and too difficult to control, remove or diminish the thing causing the emotion.
Accomplishing this may be as simple as leaving the room where the person or thing is that caused you to experience anger. However, that may not always be possible. In these cases, I find that it’s most helpful to practice counting breaths to bring your focus back to controlling your emotion.
If the anger you’re experiencing is somewhat mild, release the anger. What this means is that you’ve noticed the anger, you’ve interrupted its process of taking control of your mind, and now you’re letting go of your hold on it because you’ve effectively controlled its influence on your state of mind.
Contrary to how this may sound, this doesn’t mean that the anger goes away. In fact, it may hang around for a while and that’s totally fine. The point isn’t to get rid of the anger, the point is to have control over the anger and, in a sense, be able to coexist with the anger functionally.
When you have control over your anger, you’re able to direct it toward something productive, or simply let it fade if you wish. The important thing is, you’ve controlled the emotion and are then capable of willing it in the direction that you deem most appropriate.
I really can’t over emphasize the importance of learning how to master your anger.
I’ve seen work relationships shattered and operations ground to a halt because a manager did not have control over their anger. I’ve seen potential, catalytic energy wasted on pettiness and vindictiveness.
Most depressingly, I’ve watched as a single person in management has systematically dismantled an all-star team, playing a massive part in ruining the reputation of a business and costing the same business thousands of dollars in turnover costs and lost revenue.
Anger may well be the most difficult of the emotions to master, and many people never bother.
But, if you’re a manager or you have people reporting to you, you should know that mastering your anger is not an option. Learning how to control your anger can be a matter of life and death for a business and, in my professional opinion, a manager that can’t or won’t learn this skill should not be a manager in the first place.
Newberry Consulting Services exists to help clients learn and implement skills like this one and many more. We pride ourselves on cultivating technically proficient and emotionally intelligent business owners and managers.
If you want to supercharge your business by making the most of your management, give us a shout. We would love to talk to you more about your business and how we can help you succeed.