Anger Management

by Roisin Murray and Wallace Murray

Introduction

I wouldn’t have to manage my anger if other people would manage their f***ing stupidity.

In 2010, 70 per cent of shop-workers had been subjected to verbal abuse, and 37 per cent threatened with harm, according to one trade union survey that year. Another survey in 2012 showed a rise of 83 per cent in the number of reported incidents of verbal abuse, threats and violence against shop-workers the previous year (excluding the August riots).

Health effects

Anger is healthy when we put its inherent energy to good use. It helps us go into hyper-drive to achieve a goal or right a wrong. A good row can clear the air and help us move on. So anger itself is not a problem. The trick is to manage it to our advantage rather than letting it run away with us to destructive ends. That way it will actually help us achieve goals, solve problems and maintain good working relations.

Yet anger can kill you. That’s not just through the violence that uncontrolled anger can lead to. Chronically angry individuals tend to die younger and are six times more likely to die of a heart attack than people who let go of their anger. Long-term anger has been linked with serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and strokes, as well as substance misuse and common ailments, such as colds and flu.

The cost to the organisation

Organisations suffer the cost of individuals’ chronic anger, perhaps losing ground due to ill-considered risk-taking, poor decision-making and the effects of higher stress levels in staff. Anger can prevent people actively addressing problems, and can damage or destroy goodwill, relationships, careers and property. Underlining that point, one single form of uncontrolled anger, domestic violence, is estimated to cost UK society £23 billion a year in financial terms alone.

Problem anger is widespread

According to surveys reported in 2008 by the Mental Health Institute, roughly

  • One in two of us has reacted to computer problems by hitting or screaming at our PCs (or at our colleagues), and almost as many regularly lose our tempers at work
  • One in three has a close friend or family member with trouble controlling their anger
  • One in four worries about how angry they sometimes feel
  • One in five has ended a relationship because of the other’s behaviour when angry
  • One in five of workers is subjected to violence at work, according to the TUC
  • One in eight admits to having trouble controlling their own anger
  • Eight in ten drivers claim to have been involved in road rage incidents.

So for present purposes, let’s limit this topic to ‘problem’ or ‘uncontrolled’ expressions of anger in a working environment, the damage to the personal effectiveness, health and employability of the angry person, the effects on their colleagues, reportees and managers, the risks to the organisational outcomes, and how we might defuse situations and channel the energy more usefully.

Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way... that is not easy.

Aristotle