· 2 min read · News

Dont make me angry

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<b>When everyone is working hard and under pressure, tempers can very easily become frayed. Stefan Stern reports on ways of managing your own anger and that of your colleagues</b>

Ours is an impatient age. We press the close doors button on the lift to grab an extra few seconds time. We microwave our meals and eat them at our desk, or while dealing with paperwork brought home from the office. We have forgotten how to sit still and wait. We want it all, now.


An exaggeration? Not really. Impatience and lost tempers in the workplace are a genuine hazard, and one that people managers above all cannot ignore. A lot of this has to do with stress, and with people feeling out of control, says Angela Baron, policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Colleagues are much more likely to lose their temper if they are struggling to hit targets or are having difficulty maintaining a work-life balance.


Losing your cool and shouting may seem a bit unBritish, but in some workplaces aggression is commonplace. Shouting is the norm among City traders, for example. But in calmer, quieter offices, even a slightly raised voice may be upsetting for many staff. Being able to deal with any challenges without blowing your top is bound to serve you well in the eyes of not only your colleagues but also the powers that be.


What can you do if you are prone to losing your temper too easily? It could be that your business or organisation is going through confusing change or difficult trading conditions. It may be that your workplace fosters an aggressive blaming culture. But it may be a sign that you, personally, need some help. A burgeoning array of anger management courses are on offer that look at a range of causes and techniques to keep tempers under control. If your own behaviour is getting out of control, you will need to call upon your companys written procedures to get a grip on it.


You can clarify a lot of these issues if you have a proper harassment policy in place, says Baron. If peoples behaviour has become threatening and intimidating it can be dealt with. Counselling may be necessary as part of an employee assistance programme. It is better to offer some support for people who have a problem than simply to confront them with a complaint. This support might take the form of a course or, in the short term, some extended leave.


Experts agree that anger at work is a serious and widespread problem. The psychologist and author Oliver James says we need to think a little harder about the causes and origins of aggression. It is highly likely that people displaying a propensity for aggression may also be suffering from a certain depression, he says. The two are related. Anger and frustration may be directed against the self or outwards towards other people, he explains.


Policies can help keep some order and discipline at work.


But HR professionals need to maintain a sophisticated approach to understanding the anger that may rise


up from time to time.


And perhaps, very occasionally, there is a place for some urgency, for raised voices and a bit of aggression. As somebody once said, if you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, youve probably failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.