The Volcano Awakens.
“When anger arises, think of the consequences.” — Confucius, politician and philosopher.
Our most volatile moments come when we are angry. What can start as a simple office-meeting or one-on-one coaching can turn into a display of our worst instincts. Emotions turn into thoughts and thoughts turn into words; before you know it, there’s an avalanche of rage either emitting from your persona…or threatening to bury you in a river of lava.
You can point to the legal statements in company handbooks everywhere saying they do not tolerate verbal abuse — those of us who operate behind closed doors know better.
This isn’t just a factor in work. Family members will use anger to bend other family members to do their bidding. Whether it’s a snide-text-message, a passive-aggressive response, or outright shouting designed to intimidate, we can be constantly surrounded by anger and experience its negative effects on our lives.
Friendships can be lost and work-relations can be shaken: what should be resolved by diplomatic relations is instead thrown into a furnace of anger and unchecked passion.
How many times have you been asked a question by a family member — or a supervisor at work — and your response sends them careening into an out-of-control-display of hot rage. What if the situation didn’t even call for it?
What if they simply asked you a question about something you’re working on and when you said ‘it’s going okay,’ they respond with something along the lines of ‘why is it only going okay? Shouldn’t it be going great?’ (This may be more prevalent in the workplace as family members may be inclined to ask more private questions).
So why is this?
Why does anger continue to thrive and be tolerated in environments that might not normally permit it?
Is it the intimidation factor? The threat of physical violence? The ‘what if’ of ‘what may come?’
And is there anything we can do about it?
A Caldera Behind a Subduction-Zone.
“Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” — Gautama Buddha, monk and philosopher.
It should be noted that competitive personalities, irritation, frustration, and the occasional heated-argument are all the machine cogs that come with running a startup, office, service, or major company.
What we’re attempting to define is the line between an abrasive personality and a boiling one — a person or group whose toxic nature threatens to crash the Jenga-tower just by looking at it.
There’s already been research which backs up why the most successful leaders and business-people use anger to their advantage; by tapping into their emotions instead of slamming the door shut, they’re able to influence employees more readily than somebody who keeps their true intentions bottling up. Anger provides fear and fear provides urgency.
Those who maintain the day-to-day stress of running anything from an office to an entire company are used to using whatever means necessary to get workers motivated — even if it means showcasing their meaner disposition.
On the other side of the coin is how consistent anger can cloud judgement and lead to bad decision making. If employers and employees attach a negative atmosphere to the space for too long then it threatens to have long-term damaging effects.
Paul Russell, the founder and director of Luxury Academy, characterized the threat to an employee’s well-being as the key difference: while anger and frustration at a company development or product flaw can provide a strong focus for change, if employees see wrath as the pervading theme in a company culture, it offers a doorway to more systemic issues.
This is where problems such as worker-retention, motivation, and productivity come to rest. A domino effect leading to lost dollars and closed doors can threaten to take the company by storm.
So, if anger can be the impetus for growth or fallout, what steps can we take to make sure employers use anger justifiably?
Build Hot Springs Not Hot Magma.
“Sometimes you have to get angry to get things done.” — Ang Lee, film director.
In an article written for Greater Good Magazine, business professors Deanna Geddes (Ph.D) and Dirk Lindebaum (Ph.D) argue that the best way to utilize anger may not be in employee motivation but in trying to correct perceived wrongs in a company. Their rules for workplace-anger as a force for good — what they call ‘moral anger’ — operates in three distinct realms:
1. Company standards have been violated and need a desperate — and fast — restructuring solution. This is especially important for those in positions of power to use their ability to change things for the better.
2. Watching Out for Others — this is important for employees who feel that they are being mistreated or that other policies have been violated. They should be encouraged to use their anger rather than letting things slide.
3. Course-Correcting Action — it’s the responsibility for both the employee and employer to notice dysfunction when they see it and call it out as necessary.
The other side of the coin is the anger which spreads destructive flames. This runs the gamut of bad behavior by both bosses and employees; what may seem like a normal day of talking for one person can cross into the stream of discomfort for others. We all know that taking account of personalities is something we must do to survive — and those who may end up leading us may not be the nicest people in the room.
When it comes to setting emotions in check…
…perhaps anger should be used to make employees’ lives better instead of worse.
An Igneous Workplace.
“For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds peace of mind.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher.
Not everything in business is going to be a walk in the park. No matter what kind of industry you work in — retail, food-service, waste-management, big-tech, little-tech, education, social-work, technical consultation, maintenence, engineering — you will find people who rub you the wrong way. You will also find people who will rub everyone the wrong way; through their actions, behaviors, and words, many will want no part of what’s being offered.
Which is why — just as cooling magma turns into igneous rock — we should all strive to make any anger in the workplace cool in a likewise manner. While this may not serve the high-stress-cathedrals that dot Wall Street, Silicon Valley, or other lands known for volcanic behavior, we can all strive to treat our employees — and co-workers — better no matter the location or field.
If the heat continues to fester, it will make working there unbearable.
And as the walls continue to burn, they may threaten to collapse upon us.