Feeling anger is not uncommon but how can we harness the emotion in the workplace?
As an industry, we are getting better at understanding and talking about the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence.
Terminology around confidence, collaboration, teamwork, wellbeing and support are more part of everyday vernacular, and our people and projects are benefiting as a result.
But we never really talk about the uglier emotions we encounter at work. Anger, rage, frustration, irritation, anxiety – emotions like these are commonplace in our offices and on our sites, but there is huge stigma attached to admitting and discussing them.
Anger is not necessarily all bad. The emotion is a natural, evolutionary reaction to things we see as threats. Like the fight or flight response, anger has been necessary for human survival.
Heated emotions can also be a sign that someone cares and that they are passionate about their work. Used with the right timing and dosage, anger can be even used to fuel progress.
The key is finding ways to express anger that are constructive and professional, and that do not cause any physical or emotional damage.
According to Mind Your Anger, 65% of UK office workers have experienced rage at work and 45% of Brits regularly lose their temper at work.
Surveys conducted by the British Association of Anger Management conclude that 80% of people believe Britain is becoming angrier.
This is not good because expressing anger in an uncontrolled way can detrimentally impact health, productivity, motivation, wellbeing, morale and progress.
So, how can we prevent our anger from spiralling out of control? How can we accept this normal human emotion and tailor it for the professional environment?
- Learn to spot the symptoms. When you get angry does your heart race? Do your fists clench? Do you start to feel hot? Does your brain default to feelings of anxiety, irritation, resentment or humiliation? Learn to spot the mental and physical symptoms you experience so you can recognise them.
- Identify the triggers. Analyse the situation and establish what is causing the emotion. Then eliminate, avoid or reduce your exposure. If that is not possible, remember that even if you cannot change the situation, you can change your response. Write down how you would like to respond to moments of anger and train your brain to override its default.
- Find a suitable way to communicate what you are feeling. Give yourself permission to feel the emotion, but ask what outcome you are actually trying to achieve. Be objective and calm, and express the emotion in a way that will create a positive outcome and move you towards achieving your desired objectives.
If you suffer from anger at work, remember that you are not alone. Do not bottle it up – this can be dangerous to yourself and others.
Instead, acknowledge what you are feeling and talk to a friend or colleague. Do some research. Seek some help. Take time to spot the symptoms and triggers of your anger so that you can modify your response.
It is time to change the narrative and normalise talking about anger so we can destigmatise this complex emotion and start sharing ways to deal with it properly and proactively.
Rachael Keeble is the founder of project management course BuiltWell, and a trustee of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)