Don't confuse anger with aggression


Does the ability to get along with people on the job mean that you should never get angry? Hardly. In fact, managers who attempt to suppress their own anger and avoid confrontation may be seen as non-assertive and ineffective by their fellow workers at all levels.

Some people are reluctant to express anger because they confuse anger with aggression. Anger is not only a natural emotion but one that may have some positive outcomes, if handled appropriately. For instance, the energy that anger creates can be directed toward solving the problem at hand, clearing the air and reducing your stress level.

On the other hand, aggression toward others seldom serves a positive end and is unacceptable in the workplace.

Here are some guidelines to follow when your blood is about to boil.

Take a break - It will give you a chance to regroup and avoid and outburst that you'll regret later.

Analyze the situation - What are you feeling? Embarrassment, betrayal, frustration, hurt feelings can all result in anger. Imagine how the other person feels. Is he aware of the effect his behavior is having on you?

Focus on the results you want - Do you want an improved working relationship? Do you want the other person to change his or her behavior? Do you want a project to run more smoothly?

Focusing on a positive outcome will help you to take a calm, objective, controlled approach.

Hurling guilt, blame or insults is likely to spark a counterattack that will cause more anger on both sides. Ditto for the silent treatment.

Consider the risks - List your options. Look at the ramifications of each one and ask yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" If the negative consequences are too great, choose a less risky one. You have to be able to live with the outcome.

Keep a journal - If the risks are high or you're uncertain about what to do, keep a journal of the things that make you angry. A journal will help you blow off steam in a harmless way, and can be read at a less emotional time for the purpose of finding solutions.

Rehearse your approach - If you choose to confront the person, "I statements" can be useful here. "I statements" have three basic components: (1) a non-blaming description of the person's behavior; (2) an accurate description of the tangible effects the behavior has on you now or in the future; (3) how that makes you feel.

Here's an example of how to use an "I statement": Sharon, a co-worker, has been preoccupied with her social life and hasn't been doing her share of an important project for which you are both accountable. The deadline is fast approaching.

An "I statement" could be: (1) "When you don't get your share of the figures to me in time...," (2) "I can't complete that portion of our recommendations ..."; (3) "The deadline is so close, I'm very frustrated and worried that we'll both look bad."

Expecting Sharon to read your mind while you do a slow simmer, or accusing her of not being able to keep her priorities straight, is probably not going to get the results you're after.

Let the other person save face - "Winning" a confrontation usually means you'll lose something in the long run. Enemies in the workplace can make your life miserable and hinder your career progress.

Make every attempt to resolve the conflict without turning to a higher-up. You will win points for managing relations with others and be practicing an important skill that is necessary as you move up in your organization.

We take a comprehensive approach to executive coaching. We create a customized plan for each executive, based on the needs of the executive and his/her organization.  Call for more information about our executive coaching process at (800) 348-1944. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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