Careers

When the cubicle gets stormy

Anger in the workplace can impact employee productivity. Representational picture. Getty Images  

You’ve been passed over for promotion again. A colleague’s work has been offloaded on you. Your colleague hasn’t turned up on project release day. There can be a million and one reasons for you to walk out of the cubicle in a huff and register your protest. In contrast, there is only one reason — a strong one at that — for you to not react against every exasperating workplace event. Here’s it: Anger makes you less effective at what you are good at.

Let’s take the analogy of sailing. Every sailor wants to sail in fair weather. Yet, there will be times when they have to continue sailing after the waters have gotten choppy and the sea stormy. In such a situation, would they be reacting to the inclement weather and billowy sea or be focussed on dealing with it and saving their lives?

At the workplace too, there will be stormy situations and true professionals will learn to be performance-focussed in spite of them. That is not to say anger has to be kept entirely out of the workplace. Anger can be a strategic tool, if wielded properly. There is a place for anger and the challenge lies in knowing where that is. Even in its rightful place, the expression of anger should be graceful and come across only as assertiveness.

Choose assertiveness

“We ask individuals to convert their anger to assertiveness, which is being firm without being rude,” says Rohini Raju, managing director, Rave Institute, which conducts behavioural workshops for organisations.

With practice, professionals can check themselves when they are on the verge of an outburst and turn it imaginatively into an act of assertion, where they have stated their point of view, firmly but gracefully.

Analyse and defuse it

Saras Bhaskar, a counselling psychologist and coach, says with reflection, the edge can be taken off anger and the emotion converted into something positive. “Reflecting over the anger building up in oneself, in the light of the 5Ws and one H model of analysis — who, what, why, when, where and how — will defuse it,” she says.

Anger management is one of the key elements of “cognitive behavioural therapy” (CBT), which is based on cognitive science and helps people deal with emotions, stress, depression and behavioural problems. CBT is growing more popular as an intervention tool in the corporate world.

“We have taken the CBT model and converted it into a digital programme called ‘Stress control online’, available for employees as well as their family members. It has strategies and methodologies to deal with different emotions and actions. It’s a scalable model, and each person is assigned a coach,” says Saravanan Neel, co-founder and COO, Silver Oak Health, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) service provider.

Saravanan says a majority of the clients expect support from the EAP service provider during the performance appraisal season when tempers are frayed.

Negative behaviour by one person in a team can impact the entire team. “It also impacts productivity and employee morale,” says Rohini. So, how to get rid of anger or at least reduce it? It’s good to know the triggers of the anger and analyse over it.

Strategic tool

Anger has its uses; it can move things forward. For instance, Steve Jobs is said to have been “brutally honest in his meetings”. Those who weren’t serious about their work saw just an angry man. But those who were keen on improving themselves understood what he was driving at, and respected him for it.

There are three forms of anger in the workplace. ‘Expressed’ anger: when employees find constructive ways of voicing their frustration, such as discussing their concerns with the management. Two, ‘Deviant’ anger, which is channelling ire and releasing it in an ungraceful manner. “Three, ‘Displacement of anger’, which is the most harmful, as this is about venting one’s anger at those other than the ones responsible,” says Saras Bhaskar.

It’s all about knowing all these channels of anger and blocking those that contribute to a healthy work environment.


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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 8:54:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/when-the-cubicle-gets-stormy/article25670062.ece

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