Unleashing the full capacity of your people

As a leader, you will get angry – How you handle that anger is critical to team productivity

Unengaged employee

Does this person look receptive to your engagement outreach? What is making her angry right now?

Anger is a natural emotion. Some people reach the boiling point faster than others, but everyone occasionally gets frustrated and pushed to the point of losing their cool.

How do you handle that moment? Have you anticipated it, and put a mental plan in place to “manage the moment” constructively?

Anger is a close companion of passion. You will not get angry about an error, a conflict, a critique if you don’t care about your role in the enterprise. We work very hard with our clients to kindle passion for the organization’s mission through employee engagement, so we cannot expect to eliminate all angry reactions to events.

We can, however, train people how good leaders respond to events, and how to channel angry energy in positive directions.

To be an effective leader, you need to have a plan already in your head for how you will channel any strong, energetic emotion like anger in positive directions.

This can be as simple as a “Stop and Think before Acting” mindset. Give yourself a chance to clear your head and act in a way that improves the situation, instead of adding fuel to a destructive fire!

Address the root cause of the anger, not the person responsible. Never lash out just to make yourself feel better for a moment.This seems obvious, but the perspective can be lost when angry, so you have to train yourself to respond the right way when your temper is triggered.

You also must give your team the permission to get angry, as long as they also channel that emotion constructively:

  • Validate with your team that emotions are a part of us, and are valuable as motivators.
  • You need to learn the behaviors that your staff, peers and bosses exhibit when they are angry, so that you may respond to their anger by helping them to channel it in forward-thinking, positive directions. Some are more outwardly emotive than others, but introverts have as much passion in them for what they care about as anyone else. They simply exhibit it less openly. You need to develop the ability to recognize a wide variety of signals that different people give off when they are upset, so that you can address what is upsetting them.
  • Address the cause of the anger, not the person.
  • Never assign blame. Seek resolution that finds common ground, or fosters a reconciliation.
  • Address it promptly. Validate concerns and assess whether a discussion is appropriate now, or after a brief cooling down period, but do not ignore the signals.
  • Provide active intermediation if you are not the cause of the anger. Ask for intermediation from a third party if you think you are.

At Bovo-Tighe, we strive to help our clients foster aligned, passionate action in operational teams. This includes learning how to best handle difficult interpersonal moments. An angry employee presents an excellent chance to exhibit strong leadership and build trust with everyone, especially the person feeling the anger in that moment!

What is your mindset for dealing with anger in your workplace? What steps do you take to deal with it constructively? Do you hold yourself to the same measuring stick as your team members in dealing with anger (as you should)?

If you can add more thoughts to this topic, please share them in the comments section. Thank you!


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