How to handle anger in the workplace

We need emotions. They provide a vital function for interacting with others and the world.

How to handle anger in the workplace

Emotions provide a vital function for interacting with others and the world. But we must be careful when expressing anger because of the potential negative effects on others. 

Showing anger at work is not advisable. The important thing is to understand further and learn more effective ways of coping in the workplace. 

Anger and its impact

Anger is an emotion that arises, for example, when someone belittles us. Problems can arise if aggressive behaviours then ensue. Triggers for anger will vary from person to person. Some will be internal, e.g. worry, and others external, such as being passed over for a promotion, constant micromanagement. Some people have a low tolerance for frustration and become angry more easily than others.

Over fifty percent of employees have experienced rage and lost their tempers at work. Demonstrating anger has negative knock-on effects on staff and teams. While some may work more, a negative culture may follow, e.g. an increase in malicious gossip. 

Managing your anger will help your reputation and relationships at work. It can also enhance productivity and performance.

Patterns for anger

First, we need to understand our anger pattern. Find a quiet time and place to do this reflection. Think of one or two instances when you were angry. Write or draw your answers to these questions. Who or what triggered you? What was the pattern for your anger, e.g. became upset, got cross, said something regrettable, felt guilty and talked to your partner? What is the usual outcome for your anger, e.g. speaking to someone, feeling sad? How do you deal with other emotions? What is positive about you and your life that could be helpful in managing anger? 

Leave your answers for a while and do something positive. Then, perhaps with a trusted person, look at your answers. What have you learned? What would you like to do differently?

There are very few instances when it is acceptable to show anger. So we need to find healthier ways of coping. And here are some strategies.


It can take twelve weeks to change a habit. Rehearsing the new behaviour and having physical cues in your environment to remind you to use the new action can help, e.g. setting an alarm for times to take a quick break. 

Know that if we are not ready for change, we may self-sabotage. Think about what could motivate you to change constructively. 

Before each exercise, stop and reflect on your positives. They will help as you explore. 

A different response to triggers

From the exercise above, make a list of your triggers and prioritise them. Which ones are most damaging to you and others? Choose one and think about how you could respond differently? For example, walking away from the situation, saying something that is positive rather than negative. Look at your communication style. How can it become more open and positive? Remember to rehearse and practice to embed the new actions. Imagine yourself as this new person. 

What thoughts come to mind when you think of a trigger, e.g. someone who micromanages? What alternative thoughts could you have? Remember to use low emotion words such as I can cope rather than I WILL DEAL WITH THIS.

If the trigger is a person, then understand that you cannot change their behaviour, but you can shift how you respond to them. Remember, as David Sheff said, ‘I didn’t cause it. I can’t control it. I can’t cure it.’ You can, however, manage how you react. They will reply more positively if you remain calm and composed. 

You should apologize and explain if you become angry while trying to change. Perhaps ask for support from managers and colleagues to help you. Stop and reflect on what happened, emotionally and cognitively. What have you learned? Perhaps forgive yourself. We are all human and fallible. 

Better expression of emotions

Sometimes we suppress emotions and then allow them to be expressed through anger. Think about why you suppress and what would happen if you stopped. Seek professional help if necessary. 


Often, we forget to look after ourselves. Review your self-care plan for sleeping, eating, consuming fluids, emotional support, health, work habits and problem solving. What needs to change? Would it help to learn to relax, e.g. breathing exercises? How could you improve your work habits and problem-solving skills?

Sometimes what makes us angry is outside our control. How can you inform senior people in the organisation, e.g. that there is too much to do? 

We can all change if we give ourselves permission.

Anna Eliatamby
Anna Eliatamby

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