You and your employees are the lifeblood of your business. Two-dimensional business plans, financial transactions, policy and procedure manuals become a living organism when carried out by human beings with talent, creativity and drive. However, along with these vital energies, people also bring into the workplace their own histories, often fraught with emotional baggage, insecurity, fear and resentment.
CEO and founder of Philadelphia-based Candor Consulting Tish Squillaro has 20 years experience in talent development. She advises executives drawing on her expertise in behavioral and organizational dynamics. She is co-author of HeadTrash and HeadTrash 2, which offers ways to handle the emotional issues that interfere with productivity. Here Squillaro discusses the serious and sometimes frightening issue of anger in the workplace.
Incidents of workplace rage turning violent capture headlines, but are rare. Does anger manifest itself in ways other than violence?
Absolutely, anger could be at its worst when it is not seen, but felt. There are three types:
- Nonverbal anger is the ability to scream without saying a word. Examples of the quiet hostility are the mad facial expressions, balled fists, clenched jaws and my favorite, big sighs. These often say as much if not more than a loud voice.
- Silent disappointment is when they don’t have the necessary difficult conversations to express dissatisfaction, and instead show more passive aggressive feelings. Examples include giving someone the silent treatment, avoiding people completely or unconsciously stopping a promotion or decision that someone wants to move forward.
- Resentment is the simmering anger that lingers for long periods on low burn, and all the while, it is heating up behind the scenes and setting the stage for a full-blown inferno.
How does anger in the workplace affect company culture?
Anger fosters a lot of paranoia and lack of trust. Employees will not feel comfortable or safe, and always be in fear of danger. There is a lot of “CYA” (Cover Your A–) happening to protect themselves from the anger leader, and that then creates the drama of mistrust of one another. This does not make for a healthy culture mainly because there is no ability to grow and learn. If you do anything wrong, you will never be forgiven.
In “Headtrash 2” you write, “I think anger is unique. It’s not like other headtrashes.” How is anger different from fear, insecurity, guilt and other “mental junk”?
Anger is harder to recognize in oneself because it is so embedded in oneself that it’s hard to see it. Anger is often justified by oneself because you are allowed to feel upset or angry with someone.
Short of firing an employee whose anger is interfering with productivity, what can an employer or fellow employees do to deal with the problem?
To help someone with anger issues, step one is to make them become aware of their emotional outbursts and the damage that is caused to them and others. Second, offer them some techniques to control that behavior so that it doesn’t manifest itself into violent outbursts or silent treatment with passive aggressive tendencies. Have them count to five, breathe deeply and then respond, or learn to walk away and give themselves a time out before responding.
The big one that really does help diffuse the anger: Ask them, ‘What are you upset about?’ As they talk through what it is, it usually starts to become less intensive and more manageable to address. Besides these internal techniques, there are external courses on anger management that employees can be enrolled in for their own recovery.
This article was written by Gillian Burdett of Examiner.com for CBS Small Business Pulse.