What is Workplace Anger?

Nick Doniger

Workplace anger is the general frustration an employee or employer may feel toward coworkers for a variety of reasons. Left unchecked it may pose a threat to worker performance, company liability, and a general positive work environment. Such anger often results from a lack of control over a task or situation, regardless of a worker's position in the chain of command. Several environmental factors may be at the root of occupational hostility, and it is recommended that these factors are addressed calmly and logically.

Workplace anger often involves some level of a struggle for power.
Workplace anger often involves some level of a struggle for power.

When actions are either not followed through, or are performed incorrectly, workplace anger often results. This situation could potentially create the sense that someone's control has been lost over a task or project, often at the fault of a coworker or employee. Rather than using intimidation and allowing this anger to manifest itself physically, it is recommended that logical problem solving steps are taken. Keeping anger under control is often essential for management positions, as employee turnover is likely to be higher under temperamental bosses.

In most professional workplaces, excessive expressions of anger are not tolerated.
In most professional workplaces, excessive expressions of anger are not tolerated.

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Small businesses particularly face an elevated threat of workplace anger and hostility. This results from the stress and the minimal chain of command often associated with such enterprises. It is recommended that small business owners have plans to address workplace anger, whether actually present or potentially present, in order to avoid legal liabilities stemming from hostile situations.

There are many causes of workplace anger. Public criticism, favoritism, inadequate resources or training for completion of tasks, and unreasonable demands paired with low pay or poor benefits may all contribute to hostility. Often, a lack of positive feedback makes for a significant contributing factor. Legitimate criticism is often necessary when dealing with poor work performance, yet such a distinction may not be readily visible to the upset worker.

Workplace anger often involves some level of a struggle for power. A supervisor may be inclined to exert his or her power to a degree that subordinates find overwhelming or disrespectful. This could lead to a situation reflective of bullying. Intervention by managers or owners may be necessary if an employee is unable to confront such a situation himself or herself.

Some of the causes of workplace anger tend to be more serious than simply working in a not-so-positive environment. Violence, racism, discrimination, and sexual harassment may either be sources of anger or forms of anger in the workplace. Most businesses, however, will not tolerate such behavior, and legal action is usually required in such events.

Angry outbursts may result from stressful, aggravating, or hostile work environments. Such outbursts could include simple yelling, abrupt quitting, or even vandalism. Some signs that a worker or employee is upset include irritability, sarcasm, anti-social behavior, inconsistent work quality, or an obsessive emotional attachment to the job or project at hand. Addressing such behavior may help to avoid an angry outburst from a coworker.

When dealing with a visibly upset boss or coworker, it is recommended that certain action is avoided. It is best not to argue or match the hostile person's anger. Additionally, it may be advantageous to avoid acknowledging the person's loss of control over the situation. Instead, acknowledging the simple fact that he or she is upset will give validation to the situation, and offering to help remedy the situation will offer an alternative solution for unproductive anger.

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