You’re allowed to get angry at work.

How, according to you, should the personality of an ideal employee be?

We imagine you’d say calm, focused, amicable, maybe even humorous. Somehow, most of us carry a notion that people should not express negative emotions. We think it undermines our credibility. However, research conducted by Henry Evans and Colm Foster, emotional intelligence experts, shows that the highest performing people tap into and express their entire spectrum of emotions. Including anger. It’s key to our well-being.

According to Evans and Foster, anger fuels two useful behavioral capabilities:

  • It creates focus. We don’t get distracted from the source of the anger. We aren’t tempted to multitask. All we can see is what’s in front of us. That degree of focus can be extremely powerful.
  • It generates confidence. The rush of adrenaline we feel when we get angry, heightens our senses and reduces our inhibitions. Anger–in small doses–can be the spark that gets us started.

Studies into customer complaint and negotiation processes show that angry customers are more likely to have their issues addressed, when compared with sad customers! Useful, right? The key is to express it right. Not submit to it, or repress it. Here are some carefully tested ideas, to ensure you own your anger, and channelize it.

  1. Say it out loud. When you know you are triggered, acknowledge it. Let other people know explicitly that you are experiencing intense emotions and because of this, it is more difficult than usual for you to communicate clearly. The aim here is to prevent other people from becoming defensive. When someone hears that you are in a tough space, it increases the likelihood of them being empathetic. 
  1. Set speed limits. Anger prompts us to act urgently. To make sure it doesn’t get the better of you, slow down. Either share that you are angry and need a moment to pause. Or visualize your anger as a car that’s driving fast, and you need to hit the brakes. This is Psychologist John Riskind’s most recommended technique. He is an expert in helping people with uncontrollable emotions.

Riskind has found that the experience of anger is not as problematic, as the consequence of the outburst. Add to it the events causing anger. Hence, we perceive danger everywhere, which pushes us to do something that might stop the immediate threat. Thus, hit the brakes, and dial down to 20 kmph.

  1. Focus on the problem, not the person. Personal attacks aggravate the issue at hand. Instead, practice mental empathy. Dr. Avery Weisman, Harvard University, sums it up as “having respect for another person’s irrationality.” This technique helps you guide your attention towards feeling at ease or peaceful later. Otherwise, research shows 69% still felt aggravated; 59 % unhappy; and, a third or more felt embarrassed, guilty, and anxious, after making angry personal remarks.

It is impossible to live in a world without negative emotions. And suppressing them, leads to health issues like substance dependence, increased heart rate and low stress tolerance. You’d rather express it, right?

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