What is the Point of Anger?

Anger is an extremely powerful emotion that can leave people feeling quite devastated. But it has its uses and can be a catalyst for positive change when used responsibly.

Have you ever ‘lost it’ at work? The problem with any emotion is when it overwhelms us and we let the emotion control us. When anger is unleashed in an unfettered way it will trigger an immediate stress response. You will be flooded with adrenalin and cortisol, your heart will race, your blood pressure will go up, your whole body will tense.  You are a tiger ready to pounce. It is typical to release this anger externally through shouting, swearing, throwing, hitting out etc. All of this is perceived by the people around you, and can be quite intimidating and threatening, easily sending them into a stress response as well.workplace anger cartoon

In the workplace, unfettered anger can be very damaging. As a manager when you show that you can’t control your emotions you are showing people that you can’t be trusted; that they need to be on their guard around you. Even if you have a valid reason for being angry, and you feel that you aren’t responsible for the thing that made you angry – you are responsible for your own emotions; and being out of control emotionally is the fastest way to lose the trust and respect from your team.

Being out of control emotionally is the fastest way to lose  trust and respect from your team.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. You may think that I am suggesting that as a Manager you always need to be nice and mild mannered; even docile.  Not a bit of it!  That would be managerial suicide.

Sometimes being angry is the most honest and authentic response. And it can be a healthy response; it shows people you care; it shows people you expect excellence. And having a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude with people who are trying to mess with you, can help instil loyalty and trust in the people who are on your team for the right reasons.

Sometimes being angry is the most honest and authentic response.

However, there is a massive difference between someone who violently explodes with anger in an uncontrolled frenzy, and someone who shows genuine anger but is not overrun or controlled by their emotions.  The difference is in your emotional awareness.

7 Ways to  increase emotional awareness and Harness the Energy of Anger:

  1. Keep a notebook and write down your emotional responses and what triggered them and start to learn your triggers and reflect on why you respond emotionally. HINT; it is not the incident itself but what you make the incident mean.
  2. Learn to let go of the emotion quickly. Practicing mindfulness helps with this.
  3. Clarify your values and what is really important to you. Then share these with the people close to you. This will help people understand what you care about and why you may get angry over some issues and not others.
  4. Be willing to apologise if your anger seemed out of context when you reflect back, or if you realise you have upset others. An unreserved apology goes a long way. People know you are human.
  5. If you choose to ‘be angry’ stay focused on the one specific action or comment that you are angry about. Don’t make it a global ‘this ALWAYS happens.’
  6. Direct your anger (or any emotion for that matter) in the right direction. Don’t spray it over everyone
  7. Separate the emotion of anger from the threatening violence that too often accompanies angry outbursts.

We all need to practice emotional awareness. If you are used to burying your emotions you will always be susceptible to emotional outbursts that you can’t control. And that can be the death of your team.


Carol Hautot

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