RSS Dear Leader – A “Dear Abby” Knock-Off

In today’s installment of Mitch’s Musings, I’d like to ask those who follow my blog to comment with a leadership “dilemma” – a question, problem or concern that keeps you awake at night. I invite my readers to then thoughtfully respond to the dilemma. In order to get things started, I will pose a question that I sincerely hope elicits feedback:

“Is anger ever appropriate in the workplace? If so, when?”

It’s an interesting question. Anger is a natural emotion, and it is typically associated with some type of grievance between two or more individuals. The workplace is rife with opportunities for grievance; examples include poor performance, poor production, poor supervision, poor communication, poor strategy, and poor execution. You get the drift. Some unintended or unexpected negative outcome has to occur in order for feelings to grow to the point of anger.

According to Tristan Loo, an expert in conflict resolution, “It is important to understand that not all anger is unhealthy. Anger is one of our most primitive defense mechanisms that protects and motivates us from being dominated or manipulated by others. It gives us the added strength, courage, and motivation needed to combat injustice done against us or to others that we love. However, if anger is left uncontrolled and free to take over the mind and body at any time, then anger becomes destructive.”

I don’t know how I’d feel if I worked under a boss or leader that I believed was quick to anger. Conversely, I’m not sure how I would feel if my leader, once angered, acted in a manner that was inconsistent with what I believed to be an appropriate response given the circumstances.

As I think about it, I can understand how circumstances could arise that would create a feeling of anger from someone in a position of leadership. Stresses on the job can heighten frustration levels, and as those levels rise, our tolerance to additional negative stimuli lowers. In my mind, there is probably a point in which each of us becomes angry enough to react harshly to minor irritations of the day.

That said, I think leaders can and should be held to the highest standards of performance when it comes to how they respond during these moments of anger. If a leader responds in a manner that is inappropriately harsh (or lax), it could have a lasting negative impact to the morale of those involved. And, if the anger was directed at the organization as a whole, this type of reaction could create a divisive work environment.

I look forward to additional thoughts and comments on the topic of anger in the workplace. But, more importantly, I look forward to readers posing additional questions that will generate a constructive dialogue!

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One Response to “Dear Leader – A “Dear Abby” Knock-Off”

  1. Mark Wall says:

    I think ‘feeling’ anger is inevitable in the workplace, the question is what is done with it.

    Healthy anger galvanizes us to action. For example Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) was born out of the anger mothers had at their children being killed. Their response, in raising awareness and changing legislation to create meaningful consequences for drunk drivers has changed drinking and driving in our society.

    On the other hand, reacting toward co-workers or customers in anger violates trust and safety.

    I don’t think we need to hide it, it’s probably better to let those around us know that we are feeling angry. A healthier response would be to step out of the situation until we cool off before responding. Somethings should trigger anger, but not necessarily a reaction.

    Anger is also often a ‘secondary’ emotion – because we don’t feel comfortable experiencing the inital emotion. If I feel hurt or betrayed, it may be easier to rest in the power of anger, than the ‘helplessness’ of hurt. However, resting and responding from the primary emotion may be far more transparent and effective for a leader. The question is then, how do we react when we feel ‘weak.’

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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