One of the most common challenges that my clients tend to face is dealing with anger. Not just their anger, but with the anger of other people.

Honestly, this kind of temperament at work is an age-old issue.

It has only slightly improved in the past couple of decades, despite an increased focus on self-awareness and emotional intelligence. However, people who have learned to control their anger have experienced some fantastic responses from their teams and have been able to have a much more significant business impact.

But the critical thing around learning to control anger, first and foremost, is to understand it. Where does it come from? What’s the source of it?

I want to start by stating that anger isn’t always a bad thing. It’s an emotion that propels us to take action. And taking action can be a great thing, especially when it’s productive and helps us achieve our goals. The issue with most anger is that it propels us to take unproductive actions – actions that work against us when we are trying to achieve our goals.

For example, imagine a team member showing up to a meeting unprepared and their team leader getting angry and shaming them in front of the rest of the team – clearly not a productive action.  What we want to do first in these situations is determine what the real source of the anger is so we can deal with it and minimize unproductive actions going forward.

In my experience, a perceived threat to oneself is what often triggers anger.

In the example above, the team leader’s anger may be triggered because they now believe the project won’t move forward as planned and they will have to explain this to their leadership – so the perceived threat is that they will look bad to their leadership and that will negatively impact their career trajectory.

Anger Can Be Sneaky

It may seem that the larger the perceived threat the stronger the anger; but that’s not always the case.  Some perceived threats can be subtle or lie below the surface, yet still have a significant negative impact on us.

For example, let’s say you’ve been working towards a promotion, and you don’t get it. On the surface, not getting the promotion in and of itself doesn’t create any perceived threat to you.  However, not getting the promotion may negatively impact your own self-esteem or self-perception and things that negatively impact our own self-esteem and self-perception often trigger lots of anger.

The key thing to be aware of is that many things may cause us to get angry. However, identifying and understanding what’s triggering our anger enables us to take control of it and consciously determine how we want to handle it.

Going Forward …

  • The next time you get angry about something, take five and think about what’s triggering it and the negative impact or personal threat to you that might be behind it
  • Pay attention the next time someone else gets angry and try to understand what negative impact might be behind their anger, and try empathizing with them

If you’re trying to better understand your anger or trying to figure out how to respond to someone else’s anger, I’m here to help – please feel free to schedule time to connect with me by clicking here.