When was the last time you got really riled up at work? I mean truly fired up. Let’s even call it red-faced and angry.
If you immediately answered, “Never!” then you may have a problem.
You may think I have it all backwards. After all, isn’t anger a negative emotion? Isn’t it better to keep calm and carry on?
Yes, it is critical to have self-control. But what about when your ideas go unheard or someone else takes credit for your hard work? Doesn’t that make your blood boil? (Even a little?) Well, it should.
If you never get angry about anything at work, it may be more than just self-control that you are exhibiting. It may indicate that you don’t care all that much about the outcome.
Elie Wiesel wrote that the opposite of life is not death, it is indifference. But you do not want to limp along in a sort of half-life. You want more than that, right?
Let me be clear that I am not talking about uncontrolled rage. I am talking about that healthy, natural emotion that rises up when something does not sit right in our souls. Constructive anger forces us to care, often moves us to tears, but ultimately makes us want to take action.
In fact, studies and clinical work by psychologists support the idea that anger has a positive side. Social psychologist Carol Tavris, who wrote a book on anger, was quoted saying, “The question is not, ‘Should I express anger or should I suppress it?’ It is, ‘What can we do to solve the problem?'”
I agree. Anger can be productive. Effectively channeling anger compels us to acknowledge problems, jump into places that might be uncomfortable, and work to find solutions.
When you can harness your anger constructively, you can bring the following to your work:
You may be surprised at how much you actually care about your work. Getting angry will spur you to work harder and produce more. And that passion will spill over into other facets, helping you to feel joy when you celebrate the wins and experience disappointment when things do not go well.
You may think you are avoiding trouble by skimming along the surface. But you are likely missing opportunities to take a deep dive into work — and find the place where you can make a meaningful and lasting impact. While you may encounter problems along the way, you can use that constructive anger to push through and find solutions.
The creative process is messy and full of sparks and energy — and there is a bit of anger and frustration tossed into the mix, no doubt. But when you throw off the emotional constraints, you will free up your creativity. Your team will notice that you are bringing more fresh ideas to the table. That energy can be contagious.
By denying your genuine feelings and pretending that nothing bothers you, you are lying to yourself and others. (And you are not fooling anyone.) When you show that you are emotionally invested in the work, your team may be pleasantly surprised — and finally feel like they are meeting the real you.
Work should naturally bring out a full range of emotion. Some days you will feel elation — and some days you will feel anger, or some other emotion in between. And that is more than okay.
The key is to allow yourself room to think and feel. Work is deeply personal — no matter what anyone tells you.
Your emotions — yes, all of them — are powerful and life-giving. And they can move you to a deeper connection to your work.
How do you feel about expressing anger at work?