Using Anger in the Workplace

Key Takeaways:

  • Anger can be useful in a work setting.
  • You can consciously shift your emotional state.
  • Uncover what is important to you and productively express yourself with colleagues.

Anger at work can be tricky. You have (hopefully) heard the advice not to send angry emails, but what else does anyone know about how to manage anger at work? This is an especially important lesson for leaders as they manage others.

For better or worse, I can say that I have experience with this topic. Generally we have “go to” emotions — and this was one that used to come up for me. I have worked to make a conscious shift here, but the awareness to shift did not come without expense.

Anger at work, can it be productive? One of the best discoveries I have made in my professional and personal life is the Nonviolent Communication model. It is superb to help make sense of why we have emotions, and it guides us to use them in a healthy way. Using this frame for anger, you can understand the feeling is a signal that something else is desired in a particular situation. Perhaps it is an outcome you seek or to be recognized/seen in a certain way.

Step One: Ask yourself what you are seeking. What is beneath the anger? Potential examples could be that you would like to make a contribution on a team, you want respect, you seek clarity, etc.

Step Two: Ask who is in control. Are you in control, or is the anger clouding your ability to see?

Step Three: If you acknowledge that the anger is in control, try having a glass of cold water or try deep breathing with an even inhale and exhale.

Step Four: After you have clarity about what you want, it could be possible that the anger is useful in a small dose; for example, to set a tone for the importance of a conversation to you. Try thinking from your colleague’s perspective — if they will be open to a conversation where you express your anger. If you do not have this type of rapport with a colleague, it may be useful to get yourself in a different emotional state completely. This may take time.

Step Five: How can you change your emotional state? Using your body is the best way. Stand up, breathe deeply, smile. Some people enjoy a walk in nature. Once you simmer down, you can be intentional about what emotional state you would like to have.

I have found that curiosity is one of the most useful emotions to express in a relationship, both professional and personal. When genuine, it acknowledges there is a lot of unknown to most situations and gives space for you to be open to the perspective of others. This opening, when well executed, can lead to increased vulnerability and understanding between persons — which is truly remarkable.

Anger is tricky. But it doesn’t have to be with the right approach.

Subscribe to receive weekly insights from Lead Read Today


Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.