Employees who seek guidance on controlling their anger in the workplace can find a multitude of resources online, in print, through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or via training courses related to anger management. However, fewer resources exist for employers who want to learn how to cope effectively with anger in the workplace.  It is critical that they do so because displays of anger can have a significant impact on employee morale and productivity, and, in more serious cases, lead to bullying and violence.

Any discussion of coping with employee anger must start with the simple fact that it is a human emotion that will occur to some degree and cannot be avoided entirely. Given the stresses inherent in today’s uncertain economy, one can reasonably assume that anger and irritability in the workplace may escalate.  

Of course, some employees handle their anger issues better than others do. In some cases, employees channel it into creativity and productivity. In the other cases, employers can help defuse or redirect manifestations of anger with these tips:

  • Allow Employees to Vent.  It is very difficult, when faced with an employee experiencing a fit of temper, to remain calm and not argue with him or her.  But keep in mind that the venting will help the employee get over the anger, at least to some degree.  If the employee is shouting, a supervisor or colleague can politely request that he or she keep his or her voice down, noting that it is difficult to listen carefully when voices are raised.  After the incident has occurred and venting has taken place, the manager can then determine whether this was a one-off event or is becoming a pattern.  In certain situations, a referral to an EAP may be appropriate. 
  • Propose a Cooling-Off Period.  If a fit of temper or heated argument takes place during a meeting, suggest a break.  Employees who take this time to stop and think about what took place – and why they are angry – are likely to be more reasonable upon their return.  The break could be as short as 20 minutes – enough time for an employee to go outside, take a walk around the block or get a cup of coffee.
  • Analyze Incidents from an Organizational Perspetive.  Sometimes employees simply have problems controlling their anger, and have unreasonable reactions to reasonable occurrences.  At other times external factors, such as family conflicts, may play a role.  In some cases, though, employees’ feelings of anger may reflect organizational dysfunction.  Employers should take a step back and objectively analyze what has happened and why.  Is the employee overstretched?  Is the he or she receiving sufficient recognition or compensation?  Is the employee receiving appropriate direction?  If there is a systemic issue underlying the employee’s anger, employers should seek to rectify the situation, if possible.  

No matter the source of the anger, it is important for employers to take action when faced with it.  The risks of inaction are serious – ranging from decreased productivity and low morale to bullying and more extreme incidents of workplace violence. 


About the Guest Blogger:

Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 27 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace.  Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce OptimizationTM solution.  Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services.  Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees.  With 2012 revenues of $2.2 billion, Insperity operates in 57 offices throughout the United States.  For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.