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What Is the Best Way to Deal with Anger in the Workplace?

Updated on September 13, 2011

Deciding how to deal with anger in the workplace isn’t always easy. For some people, there is an impulse to punish workers who have angry outbursts through formal reprimands, suspension, or outright termination of employment. However, a recent study by Deanna Geddes, chair of the human resource management department at Temple University's Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, suggests that a more compassionate approach is the best idea.

While her study found no benefit to punishing angry employees, she did find that support from managers and co-workers significantly increased the rate of positive changes in the workplace. A compassionate approach to anger management does not mean ignoring the situation entirely, since addressing the underlying issues that prompted the angry outburst appeared to be the most effective response to anger management in the workplace. Workplace tension was diffused without negative effects on employee performance or office morale.

Is formal treatment necessary for anger management? Everyone gets angry on occasion, so a single incident doesn’t automatically mean someone has a serious problem. Anger that is proportionate, deliberate, and specific to a particular problem is actually considered healthy. However, when an employee is prone to a pattern of outbursts and/or physical aggression, seeking treatment is a smart move. In addition to limiting workplace performance, dysfunctional anger can damage personal relationships and contribute to stress-related health problems.

Anger management programs use cognitive behavioral therapies to help patients develop coping strategies when they are faced with situations that trigger angry, aggressive, or hostile responses. This may include relaxation therapies, positive self-talk, personal time outs, or problem solving exercises. Anger management treatment can be conducted in a group setting or on an individual basis, depending upon the needs and preferences of the patient.


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