3 Good Reasons For Eliminating Anger in the Workplace

© Thomas Perkins - Fotolia.com
© Thomas Perkins - Fotolia.com

I’ve written before about jerks at work and the negative effect of bullying and bad behavior in the workplace. In those posts, I’ve explained some of the research behind how such behavior also negatively impacts the bottom line.

Robert L. Johnson, founder and president of the RLJ Companies, explained this even more fully from a CEO’s perspective in The New York Times “Corner Office” column, especially why anger has no place in the workplace:

The one thing is that I just don’t want people to get angry. … I just don’t understand anger and conflict in a business. If you think about it, in a business you’re working to make money for somebody … If we’re not angry, and we work together, we make more money. If we get angry and we have conflict, we make less money. So let’s not get angry. Let’s just work it out. …

And by the way, even if you do get angry, it’s not going to solve the problem. All it’s going to do is reverberate around the office that so and so made a mistake and so and so is angry at them. Then a whole cloud of frustrations and anger pervades the office. And so all of a sudden you get a breakdown in the culture of cooperation and collegiality, and the common mission goes out the window. And it’ll take you a week or so to get everybody back together.”

3 clear reasons for eliminating anger

Mr. Johnson succinctly teaches three clear lessons about why anger should be kept out of work:

  1. Anger costs you money.
  2. Anger doesn’t solve the problem.
  3. Anger breaks down your positive culture in which the work gets done better and faster.

So why do we allow people to get away with anger and similar emotions at work? I think it’s because we justify these behaviors as “passionate.” After all, someone who gets so angry must care a good deal about the work or the results, right?

It increases retention, too

Mr. Johnson gives the lie that that argument:

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I’ve never had the emotion of anger. Some people think I’m sort of not passionate or I’m kind of cold or disinterested because I don’t rant and rave and everything else. I don’t do that. And I think it’s a simple rule — more insecure, more anger; more secure, less anger. I think really great companies are populated by people who are confident, secure and less fearful.

Just think about companies that really stay at the top all the time. They don’t have a lot of turnover. There’s a lot of continuity because the environment is conducive to people wanting to be there, and they want to stay there.”

And with that parting shot, Mr. Johnson gives us a bonus reason to eliminate anger in the workplace: increased retention.

Does anger pervade your workplace? Is it condoned or does leadership actively work to promote an environment that dissuades anger?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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2 Comments on “3 Good Reasons For Eliminating Anger in the Workplace

  1. Natalie, comments are very insightful and on target. Unfortunately, the article is insearch of utopia. It would be nice if all our workers had superpowers too. While I uncategorically agree that inappropriate anger in the workplace can be disruptive and negatively impact the business to suggest that ‘anger’ shold or can be eliminated in the workplace is pure hyperbole. Anger is naturally emotion which cannot be eliminated. The issue that the are totally misses is that anger is not the problem, it is how people choose to behave when they are angry. Acting aggressively and inappropriately is the issue we want to change. And, the good news is how we behave when we get angry is learned behavior which means we can unlearn the bad behavior and replace it with more appropriate behavior. This artilce unfortunately is another example of someone writing an article on a subject he/she found interesting , but does know much about their subject.

    Barry Nixon
    National Institue for Preveniton of Workplace Violence, Inc.

  2. I doubt that ‘eliminating’ anger is doable but I wonder if Mr. Johnson actually said that or if he was speaking about inappropriate displays of anger that create harm? People feel emotions and you can not dictate that-but you can deal with harmful manifestations of the emotion using whichever appropriate method makes the most sense.

    When conflict arises (and it will) the choice is to use methods to redirect the anger towards problem solving that is not focussed on the person but on the issue that created the negative reaction. Sometimes you have to send the person displaying the anger to cool off and then tackle the real problem.

    I think it helps to define precisely what you mean when you use words such as anger and conflict because different people/cultures see these things from different perspectives.

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