Michelle Fay Cortez contributed an important Management & Leadership tip in the December 7, 2009 edition of “BusinessWeek” (P. 057). Entitled “A Little Anger Is a Good Thing”, Ms. Cortez sites a study that appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in which a team of Swedish researchers found that “men who suppress their anger in the workplace are two to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease”. Let your anger out the study suggests.
As a long time practicing manager, I believe that is extremely sound advice whether you be a man or woman. Suffering in silence or pretending you actually aren’t angry at all is foolish, self-defeating, and as the study above suggests, potentially physically harmful. Moreover, if your anger is legitimate, somebody needs to hear about and learn something from it.
In addition, Behavioral science warns us that if we fail to directly address the source and cause of our anger, we almost invariably end up acting it out in behavior that appears to others either overtly hostile or passively aggressive. Those around you will sense your anger and frustration, yet may need to guess at its cause. Worse yet, workplace anger that builds up over time often finally gets expressed in an explosion of emotion directed at the wrong target and far exceeding the severity of an event that actually unleashed it.
Anger is a powerful and profoundly human emotion, whose cause may be entirely justified. The question is how to respond. Some of us are direct and respond almost at once. Others prefer to think carefully so as to insure a measured response appropriate to the provocation and the situation. Expressions of anger usually make all parties emotionally uncomfortable so it’s always wise to make them as productive as possible. For many of us, anger management to insure appropriate expression is a life-long challenge.
In the long run, I believe the absolutely worst course of action is to internalize all that emotion with no external outlet at all. The urge to avoid conflict is strong in many of us but the psychological, behavioral, and physical consequences of suppressing anger are far too great not to overcome that urge. While ideally the intensity of expression should be in keeping with the seriousness and legitimacy of the cause, the important thing about the emotion of anger is to “let it out”.
TERRY JOSEPH BUSCH