Anger in the Workplace: Understanding the Causes of Aggression and Violence

Anger in the Workplace: Understanding the Causes of Aggression and Violence

Anger in the Workplace: Understanding the Causes of Aggression and Violence

Anger in the Workplace: Understanding the Causes of Aggression and Violence

Synopsis

Anger in the Workplace explores what it means to feel angry at work. Anger has its origins in anxiety that arises from feeling frustrated, humiliated, or threatened at work. Anxiety creates a biological and psychological readiness to act which is guided by whether it is acceptable to feel angry at work. Employees are more likely to act responsibly if they feel that their anger is acceptable. They may also act in ways that are destructive to self, others, and the workplace if they feel that being angry is not acceptable. Managing the development of anger and its expression in the workplace is an important aspect in designing a better workplace. The book defines anger and aggression by synthesizing biological, psychological, and social perspectives. The social acceptability of anger and the fear that it interferes with judgment and results in aggression are discussed, as are sex and gender-based differences in the experience of and expression of anger and aggression. Learning to cope with anger and the importance of owning one's anger, thinking it through, and acting upon it constructively are also discussed. Depending how anger is acted out, it can be the source of major contributions to innovation and productivity or a major blocker of change and work. The book explores how the workplace is a contributor to feeling angry because it promotes feelings of helplessness, alienation, and worthlessness. Hierarchical organization, power and authority relations, and leadership styles contribute to the development of these feelings. Desire for attachment and the fear of abandonment and desire for autonomy and fear of engulfment in the workplace must be managed to avoid anger. The book concludes by reviewing the relationship between anger and organizational dynamics.

Excerpt

This book explores anger and aggression in the workplace. A sobering statistic is that since 1980 postal employees have killed or wounded 60 fellow workers. A second equally sobering statistic is that there was a total of 111,000 violent workplace incidents reported in 1992 that resulted in 750 deaths and a cost to employers of $4.2 billion (U.S. News and World Report, 1993, 12). These statistics cover only reported incidents. Every day there are millions of instances in which employees become angry and act upon their anger in ways that are less destructive but nonetheless dysfunctional for the workplace.

Employees often come to work feeling angry. They also often become angry as a result of work. The sources of their anger are virtually unlimited. Some common sources are lingering anger from childhood; anger about personal relationships or personal flaws; anger about injustices that have occurred or that are believed may occur; irritating fellow employees, supervisors and managers; and organizational dynamics that are felt to treat employees poorly. When employees feel angry they may act angrily and become aggressive.

Who has not experienced flashes of anger about being treated like a child at work? Who has not become angry and even enraged about a personal or working relationship that has gone awry? Who has not been treated unjustly or expects to be treated unfairly at some time in the future? Who has not found others at work to be a source of chronic irritation, threat, and humiliation? Who has not been offended by an insensitive and perhaps poorly performing superior? Who has not felt intimidated by the power of top management and their ability to inflict unilateral decisions on those who are dependent upon them for insightful and caring leadership? And . . .

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