Anger in the workplace: the equivalent of emotional intelligence?
Many of us think of anger as a destructive emotion and often, it is expressed in destructive ways. But not expressing anger can be destructive, too, leading to increasing resentment and avoidance of issues that need addressing.
Great leaders are those that know the difference between blowing their tops, hurting relationships and authentically expressing anger in useful and productive ways.
Knowing how to channel anger is a measure of emotional intelligence, or EQ. Researchers Brett Ford and Maya Tamir found a direct link between EQ and the expression of anger in their 2012 study, published in the journal Emotion.
They found that people that understand their anger and express it are more emotionally intelligent than those that suppress their anger or disguise it. Those that understand their emotions and choose to express it are able to use anger in strategic ways.
Anger is a very powerful source of energy. It is used to prepare us for action and is vital to survival. Turned inward or expressed inappropriately, this energy can be destructive.
As EQI.org points out, it’s important to realise that anger is a secondary emotion. That means that we feel anger after we feel another emotion. Understanding what that primary emotion is can help you to deal with your anger in constructive ways. Anger is triggered when you feel “afraid, attacked, offended, disrespected, forced, trapped, or pressured”.
Jeff Haden of Inc.com reports that EQ researchers Henry Evans and Colm Foster claim that the highest-performing people and teams express anger in useful ways. They take the energy of anger and use it as a laser beam of focus to deal with a problem. They also harness the adrenaline and confidence that comes with anger to express necessary information that they might otherwise be hesitant to. Leaders can use anger to inspire and motivate others. They can use it to build stronger connections among their teams and rally others behind a purpose and vision.
The next time you feel angry, stop and identify the primary emotion behind the anger. Consider what others may be feeling. Think about what you can influence with your anger and what you cannot. Choose what course expressing your anger can take to gain the most benefit for all.
When you do express your anger at another person; show that you’re angry about a behaviour, action or result rather than personally attacking someone’s character. This leaves things open for problem-solving rather than shutting things down by creating defensiveness or bitterness in others.
Use your anger to transform your fear, insecurity or other primary emotion into a motivator, a source of excitement, action and passion.
Don’t hide your anger. Be authentic but express your anger in constructive ways, ways that preserve relationships and strengthen collaboration. Express what the primary emotion is behind your anger and convey what has made you feel this way.
Anger can teach you about yourself and help others to understand who you are and what you value. You can learn to harness the incredible power of energy for great use. Just take care to reflect before you act. With practice, this reflection can become habitual, increasing your self-awareness and your ability to be aware of and manage the emotions of others. You’ll find it easier to deal with anger and you’ll teach yourself and others that it doesn’t have to be threatening.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” — Victor Frankl