How To Control Anger In The Workplace

by | Sep 28, 2012 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

Have you ever been in a meeting at work that included more yelling than calm discussion?

Or have you witnessed a co-worker throw an object across the room out of frustration? Maybe you’ve had to hire a criminal defense attorney to fight a case against a boss who was out of line. Anger in the workplace is so common that managers and HR departments are often trained to identify anger issues in employees. (The number of workplace-related shootings over the past decade has been evidence enough of the need to be proactive.)

On the flip side, supervisors can also be the problem, taking their frustrations out on their employees and creating a hostile work environment. Either way, workplace anger is costly. In a five-year workplace study out of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, more than half of those surveyed said they were distracted by rude behavior at work and got less done while fuming or worrying about it. This scenario equals reduced productivity, increased use of sick days and leaves, and employee departures.

How Anger Rears Its Ugly Head

Anger at work is evident in a number of ways, although the reason behind the frustration is more nebulous. Situations may include:

Workplace bullying by a supervisor or co-worker Shouting, yelling, and insults among employees Property destruction High anxiety among the workplace team Lashing out (walking out of meetings, slamming doors, etc).

When these events occur, you must take steps to abate the frustration before a problem escalates to the point of needing a defense lawyer. Whether you are facing outbursts from others or experiencing anger yourself, here are some tips for handling anger at work.

Managing Anger Directed At You

If you are the victim of someone’s fury, you need to protect yourself. “It’s a terrible thing for employees to have to deal with anger and inappropriate emotions at work, but it is a significant and real problem for many people,” says Paula Agee of Integrity HR. Agee has written the following advice for clients:

1.  Document accurately. Write down issues that are affecting you and your ability to meet your goals in the workplace. Present them in a diplomatic, practical way. While it is unfortunate if your boss or other associates are jerks, it’s not necessarily illegal unless their particular behaviors become unlawful or harassing. You need to be able to show that the manager’s behavior is negatively impacting the performance of the workplace.

2.  Remain objective and professional. Don’t get emotional when preparing your argument, and don’t get angry. You need to remain professional throughout the exercise and show that while you are looking out to be certain you are getting the respect you deserve, you are also looking out for the betterment of the company as a whole.

3.  Talk to the boss or colleague. He or she may not be aware of the behavior that is causing him or her to be disagreeable. Be courageous – many people are afraid to confront another employee, and justifiably so. Ask for a meeting so that you will have time to discuss without interruptions, and have an agenda with notes prepared so that you won’t get flustered when it comes time to talk.

4.  Watch for signs that are cause for alarm. If at any time you feel that another associate’s anger has escalated to the point that you or anyone else in the organization is in danger, seek help right away from HR or upper management, Agee said. Do not try to handle the situation on your own or wait to see how things play out.


Download Our FREE Resources

A list of our useful HR resources