Reflections on Workplace perspective…..
Harvard has recently released the findings of a study linking anger to career advancement. This study may cause employees and managers to reconsider how anger is addressed in the workplace; after all, it seems that anger in the workplace may not be such a bad thing. Kira Vermond, reporting for Money Talks, writes enthusiastically about this new study. Based upon the findings of this study, Ms. Vermond suggests that “a little anger is not always a bad thing”. It seems that those who repress their anger tend to report less fulfilling careers and lives, while those who periodically express their anger in the workplace, are more likely to report successful careers. The study, however, suggests that anger must be expressed appropriately, particularly by women.
This is clearly an interesting finding, but raises so many red flags for me. I can see someone reading this encouraging result and strutting into work on Monday morning with a new attitude, convinced that a display of “controlled anger” will inevitably promote his upward mobility and the most satisfying and harmonious relationships. And that is even before we address what “controlled anger” means.
Although I do not have the full study before me — and some of my concerns may be thoughtfully addressed in the complete report — I encourage readers to slow down and carefully assess the preliminary findings of this work. So, on this joyful and exuberantly peaceful Friday, I will be suggesting five reasons why you should entertain these findings with a grain of salt:
1. The Assertive Personality: Assertive and confident people tend to have a greater facility expressing their anger. Because they often let it all hang out they are more likely to express themselves overtly and anger is one of their emotional outlets. They also learn techniques for expressing their anger systematically. That is, anger becomes a management tool. While many assertive managers must often learn how to tone down their behaviours, the submissive styles need to strengthen their self-esteem, their positive attitude, their strength of character and constructive ways of expressing concerns.
2. The Career Orientation: People who express their assertiveness and determination tend to have a stronger career focus. Because they are confident and priority driven, they are more likely to succeed and seek out promotion opportunities. Managers can sense their belief and will often groom them to take on greater responsibility. Submissive personalities tend to be hard working and focussed on the corporate goal; they tend to overlook themselves because they have little belief in their own capacities. Of course, managers do not see them because they blend in nicely with the wallpaper.
3. The Power Relationship: People who express their anger typically do it where they know they are safe from repercussions. They will bully employees who have no authority over them or they will act out when colleagues and even peers in other areas of the organization cannot influence their careers. In this domain, there is little difference between anger and strong directional language — both are meant to intimidate and control. The submissive style will simply avoid conflict because they abhor it; they would prefer to be anonymously working.
4. The Buddy Relationship: Those who use anger would define the CEO and other senior managers as friends and allies. They would typically use behaviour that would strengthen this relationship and nurture an “us versus you” mentality. The submissive personality avoids authority and in fact has little respect for those who exert control over others. They tend to commiserate with their peers complaining about those who exert control over them.
5. Consequences: If you want to share something with a peer or a manager, carefully weigh the implications of your behaviour. If you understand that the negative outcomes of your outburst, like being marginalized or fired, and can live with these results, then by all means, “fill your boots”!
I would love to get your feedback on this persepctive on anger. Clearly anger has a very complex dynamic. Have you had experience with expressing your anger in the workplace? What happened?