Anger. Everyone feels it at some stage in their lives. Putting a person – any person – in the pressure cooker that is the workplace for a period of time and they are guaranteed to get angry at some point. That includes you, the manager, as well. A strong leader knows how to identify anger within themselves and others and knows what steps to take in order to rectify the situation.

As mentioned, there are two types of anger in the workplace: yours and that of your people, each with their own two separate sub-types, overt and covert anger. Overt anger is visible and easy to spot, both within yourself and your people. It is out in the open, most likely used in a confrontation.

Covert anger is the anger that nobody was able to spot in time and became overt anger. This is the one to look out for. It is annoyance, irritation or passive aggression.


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Feelings we have all been told not to show, to grin and bear, to the point where sometimes, we don’t even notice they are there. But, they still manifest in a variety of different ways:

    • Procrastination
    • Perpetual or habitual lateness
    • A liking for sadistic or ironic humour
    • Sarcasm or cynicism
    • Frequent sighing
    • Clenching of fists or jaws
    • Facial tics
    • Passive aggressiveness

If you’ve noticed any of these within a member of your team, you will want to subtly investigate the cause so you can decide what to do next.

The best way to approach this is by being casual. Instead of pulling the person into your office for a chat, which may only exacerbate the situation, align your lunch with theirs, ask them about their day, their lives. Allow them to open up to you. If it is an issue at work, work with them to address it.

If it is an issue at home, be patient with them and allow them time to sort it out, and of course, offer your support if you can and it is appropriate. For anybody, having a manager that they can confide in and is understanding is of great comfort. It makes it much easier for them to “leave it at the door.”

And the same applies to you, the manager too. If you notice these feelings or signs, talk to someone about them, even if it is a member of your staff (showing that you trust them helps build their trust in you). It is important not to let this anger bubble under the surface, because it will eventually explode and either you or a member of your staff to will find themselves in a very compromising situation.

All overt anger was once covert anger. However, the length of time it has been bubbling under the surface can vary. It can be built up over weeks or months, or it can boil over in a matter of minutes. If confronted with this sort of anger in a member of your staff, it is important to remove them from the situation immediately. Again, taking them to the intimidating confines of your office for a chat has potential to make matters worse, therefore, it is best to take them for a walk or a coffee and talk to them calmly about what is making them feel this way.

Getting angry yourself will only make matters worse.

It is important to be a calming influence. Again, this is done by showing patience and care. Having a calm, rational and friendly chat with the employee will allow them to open up and tell you their grievances in order for you to help resolve them.

If you find these feelings boiling over within yourself, it is important to remove yourself from the situation, compose and control yourself and let the initial anger dissipate before you confront the source. This is especially important if the source of your anger is a member of your team. Taking a breather, whether it be for 5 minutes or leaving it for the next day is invaluable as it will allow you to confront the situation calmly, rationally and maturely – ensuring you don’t hurt or break the trust and respect you have worked hard to build with your team.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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