Anger Management in the Workplace

Ethical Issues in the Workplace – Anger Management

A few months ago, a friend of mine went on a job interview. He later told me that while he was waiting in the lobby for his interview, he could hear the not so muffled sounds of someone yelling from an office nearby. It was obvious that the person was an angry boss and was yelling at one of his employees. When it was time for his interview, the hiring manager came into the lobby to introduce himself and, lo and behold, that voice sounded awfully familiar. Yes, it was the same manager that had just uncorked on one of his employees.

My friend’s experience made me wonder, did the boss think that his angry rant was an effective management tool? Did the boss want his job candidate to hear him? Did he want my friend to know that part of the job requirements is that you have to incur frequent verbal floggings?

Anger Management in the Workplace – Recognizing the Negative Effects of Angry Bosses


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As an HR professional, I have counseled many employees over the years who have incurred the wrath of an angry boss and I have discovered some important leadership insights from these discussions. First of all, employees don’t like to be yelled at. Secondly, frequent angry outbursts damage the relationship between boss and employee. Thirdly, the employee will take necessary steps in the future so as not to incur the wrath of their boss and this leads to a breakdown in workplace communication not only for the boss and the employee, but for the organization. I find myself asking the question, does a person who supervises people understand the impact angry outbursts have on their effectiveness as a leader?

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The reality is that too much anger can cause a leader to fail. This can be a real challenge for the person in a leadership role who has frequent angry outbursts. Some people do seem to get angry easily. Their anger seems to “spike” up quickly and then, surprisingly, “spike” down just as quickly. I don’t know why some people are like this – I only know the effects their anger has on the people around them. You might hear their employees saying, “What kind of a mood is he in today?” Or, “I think I’ll wait to tell her about the new sales numbers.” Employees adapt to the angry boss by filtering information – not wanting to say something that might cause the volcano to erupt. This filtering of information can ultimately impede on the organization because important information may not get shared at the most critical times.

Anger Management in the Workplace – Reducing Anger When Giving Feedback

There are steps that a leader can take to improve their anger management in the workplace. They can:

  • Learn how to pick up on cues that other people are giving them (head down, quiet, not making eye contact, etc.).
  • Be more mindful of how their outbursts negatively impact those around them.
  • Take steps to do a better job of controlling angry outbursts in the workplace – there is a lot of good training material out there for how to do this.
  • Learn to speak less and listen more when they become angry.
  • Apologize to employees who were on the receiving end of one of their explosions to repair the relationship.

If you work for a boss that has frequent angry outbursts, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Don’t downplay their anger. Don’t say, “You need to calm down,” or “It’s not that big of a deal!” It is better to acknowledge the fact that they are angry with words like, “Well, I can see that this really upsets you,” or “I can see that you are angry about this!”
  • Stay focused on the facts and be the voice of reason. By doing this, you are helping them get past their anger. See if you can get permission from them to find out what makes them angry. Or better yet, see if they would be willing to get feedback from you about how their outbursts impact you and your work performance.

Anger Management in the Workplace – Moving Beyond Anger

Back to my previous question, does a person who supervises people understand the impact angry outbursts have on their effectiveness as a leader? The answer is that in order for them to be an effective and successful leader, they must understand the importance of anger management in the workplace. A leader must learn to express all of their emotions appropriately. Specifically, they must learn to manage their anger and use it sparingly and with the intent of solving a problem for the sake of the organization. When anger is used, it should be done in a way that maintains respect for individuals, not saying anything that is demeaning, inappropriate, exaggerated or untrue.

So is there hope for the angry boss? Yes, they can be effective leaders, but only when they are willing to practice anger management in the workplace, show concern for how their anger impacts others and use it more sparingly.

My friend didn’t get the job. I told him I was glad. He ended up somewhere else and really enjoys his new boss and the company he now works for. For those angry bosses out there, think about how much more productive those employees who work for you would be if you stopped yelling at them. Think about how much more effective you would be as a leader.


John Sporleder

Founder and President, Sporleder Human Capital

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