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Anger in the Workplace Leads to Benefits

By slaytanic killer in Culture
Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 02:03:53 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Individuals who express their feelings with controlled anger rather than sadness tend to garner more respect, status, and higher wages, according to a recent study at Stanford's Business school.

One quoted analyst cautions that while displays of anger only give short-term results, they may pave the way to long-term benefits.

This is certainly an effect that I've seen in my professional life and even on some websites I frequent. Even in the case where an intentional community or organization is based on consensus, there is much talk of "empowering" its members to strongly speak their mind, when there is a general feeling that little has been accomplished recently.

Should this be seen as just a tool for hacking one's way through a subconscious society? Or should this effect be well-known, so that people are not overly-impressed by displays of anger?


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Is this a black mark against the nature of human relations?
o Yes, you'd think we'd have evolved past the caveman phase. 28%
o No, people must instead be raised to not fear confrontations. 53%
o Ino... whatever 17%

Votes: 67
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o study
o short-term results
o websites
o consensus
o subconscio us society
o anger
o Also by slaytanic killer

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Anger in the Workplace Leads to Benefits | 29 comments (27 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
what what? (3.57 / 7) (#1)
by rebelcool on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:15:56 AM EST

you mean people with emotions, social skills and convictions get treated better by other people?? absurd!

Who will stand up for the social skill lacking? When will this injustice stop!

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Emotions and social skills (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by aphrael on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 01:27:29 PM EST

Displays of anger equate to social skills? That's an interesting take .... I find that, by and large, displays of anger are counter-productive in the short term --- they make it harder for people to work together. Thus, the idea that displaying anger leads to increased status and success is *interesting* ... because it seems to suggest that other people will just do what the angry ones want in order to avoid the confrontation.

[ Parent ]
theres many types of anger.. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by rebelcool on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 04:02:55 PM EST

theres the anger of which just exploding and yelling at coworkers..then there is the productive anger that drives people to fix things when they are done wrong. This is the type of anger the article is pretty much describing.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Ahem, what a POS (3.10 / 10) (#3)
by Signal 11 on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:27:32 AM EST

I'm sorry, but this report goes against basic common sense... and extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. Tell me, when have you ever known someone to become angry at work and do something productive and useful? It's so rare that I doubt many of us can come up with a good, compelling examples. I've probably worked with maybe 400 people since I started my career in IT, and in every case where someone got truly angry the result was not positive in any way.

When people get angry, they act irrationally. They also anger other people. Anger is usually a prerequisite for violence, something most civilized people believe is a Bad Thing. More often though it results in extensive politic'ing in the workplace - a cold war between "them". Sometimes it'll be between middle and upper management. Sometimes it'll be between, say, IT and the CTO for wanting to move to Lotus Notes, or maybe IT wants to remove Powerpoint there's 40GB of powerpoint presentations on the main server.

In addition to all of that, anger leads to stress, and stress causes definate negative physiological conditions such as depression, high blood pressure, and an entire class of neurological disorders. It also tends to lead to social isolation if practiced regularily.

So, Mr. Researcher... are the exaggerated benefits better than the practical and real consequences? Lastly, Intel does something similar wrt using anger at work and their workers have a few things to say about that.

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Agreed (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by lucas on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:42:28 AM EST

Yeah, I have to agree with Bojay...

Showing an angry temper does not often mix with the more favorable aspects of a co-worker.

Sure, you gain respect out of fear, but the same people you disrespect and take your anger out on will be the first to backstab you and kick you in the ass when you falter. The environment one creates around himself can make a big deal when it comes down to the root of things.

You might get somewhere monetarily by promoting anger, but at what cost to the other things in life? Your physical/mental health? Your friendships? Your marriage? Your kids? It just doesn't seem worth it.

[ Parent ]
Calm down, now. (3.66 / 3) (#9)
by marlowe on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:44:55 AM EST

Not all anger is irrational. It is possible to be angry with just cause, and to express that anger in a calculated way.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
No, it doesn't. (3.50 / 2) (#11)
by Seumas on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:46:46 AM EST

Alpha males become leaders and accomplish things precisely because they assume that alpha-male role (and, likewise, females). This is why someone who lays down expectations and holds people to them (whether they're superiors or co-workers or what have you) demands more respect from those around them than someone who just says "gee, I really wish you hadn't done that and I wish you guys would all get this part of the project done so I can move on with my aspect of it, golly gee, you know? *sigh*".

But I would say anger is less of a successful dominant trait than assertiveness. I don't yell or throw things when I'm angry, I assert expectations.
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

Anger (4.50 / 4) (#14)
by Nyarlathotep on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:57:40 AM EST

Road rage is not the only implementation of anger. Specifically, the article said "controlled anger." You need to understand exactly what these researchers mean by anger before you start talking about emploies yelling or Intel beating up it's emploies. The research most likely describes controled anger as angery tones of voice, angery facial expressions, and slightly elivated volume (not yelling). There are plenty of ways to get angery without causing any damage.

Also, you should recognize that they are compairing "anger" and "sadness." This means they are most likely looking at situations where everyone would react strongly and it really is a choice between anger or sadness (for most people). Generally, these types of research focus on the reactions of average people and do not consider the possible stoic behavior of a serious Seven of Nine fan. :)

Note: If you really feal that the article is being sensationalist and that people will missunderstand and act irreponcibly then you should ask the author to repost with a good defintion of "controled anger" and maybe a descripotion of the experement.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
My thoughts on "Road Rage" (none / 0) (#27)
by DeanT on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 10:30:23 AM EST

Since you mention road rage...

I could probably be accused of acting in a road rage manner on some occasions, but what it all boils down to is common courtesy. It's actually not all that common anymore.

Suppose you are at a bank. You have waited in this long line and are next to see the teller. Now suppose that someone comes bursting up and walks up to the desk just as it becomes your turn. What do you do? Why, calmly let this intrusion pass, right? After all, he must have some reason to do this, right? Bullcrap. He can get his butt back to the end of the line where all the rest of us started.

This happens all the time on the road. Here you are in a slow lane because it's an interchange. Perhaps it's stop-n-go. Then some schmuck whizzes all the way past all these cars waiting and tries to wedge in the line at the very front.

Then there's the guy who looks at you, sees you coming, AND then pulls right out in front of you in no particular hurry to get out of your way. I mean, really, at least make an effort to match the current speed of the flow of traffic.

And I know I'm not the only one that grow weary of watching my green-light time tick away while I'm waiting for the intersecting traffic to clear the intersection. My direction doesn't even get the green until the other direction has been red for at least a second. Why am I waiting for 3-4 cars to clear the intersection when they clearly have a red light?

I think a horn honk, flashed lights, and sometimes some generous hand gestures are warranted in some situations, although I usually just let it slide.

It's no wonder people are getting blasted, though. If you act like a self-important twit all the time, it's no surprise that sooner or later you'll run into someone who take major offense at the assertion that you're "better, in more of a hurry, and more important" than they are.


[ Parent ]

mandatory radios (none / 0) (#28)
by Nyarlathotep on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 11:55:38 AM EST

I've oftin wondered if mandatory 1/2 mile radios between cars would solve the various road problems by forcing people to communicate. Amuzing..

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
How are Point-of-Sale machines relevant? (3.50 / 4) (#16)
by 0xdeadbeef on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 12:09:57 PM EST

You're overlooking one thing: most people do not like confrontation. They will go out of their way to placate angry and demanding people. The structure of human society has people at the top who get what they want because they are used to getting what they want, and they don't tolerate not getting what they want.

[ Parent ]
If only those people would go out of their way... (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by marlowe on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 12:30:37 PM EST

not to piss me off in the first place, I'd be a much more pleasant person.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]

Anger (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by jabber on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 02:00:33 PM EST

Anger is a great motivational force. It results in remarkable, though not usually sustainable focus and concentration on a goal.

There is a big difference between using the energy of anger (which is very close to 'excitement', only with a touch of 'frustration') and losing one's temper and lashing out at others.

Applied, controlled anger is a good thing. Controlled anger is not the loss of self-control.

What sort of employee is more likely to get the job done? One who cares enough to become emotionally invested, or one who only goes through the motions? One whose energy increases with adversity, or one who becomes despondent at the prospect of a challenge? Or worse yet, a passive-aggressive who willfully, albeit unwittingly, sabotages progress?

People who 'get angry' when attacking a problem are similar to a sports team that gets fired up and 'hyped' (angry) before a game.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Proof (none / 0) (#26)
by tzanger on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 10:50:48 PM EST

I'm sorry, but this report goes against basic common sense... and extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. Tell me, when have you ever known someone to become angry at work and do something productive and useful?

Well you can look at me. I often force things to move in a direction when they fail to move and I get upset over it. Be it a specific design aspect, website "look/feel" or corporate decision.

The key is not to show you're angry but rather dissatisfied and (if you have the power) to make a decision and stick with it. How many times have you been in the "Yeah we should do something" conversation? Someone like me usually gets pissed off and declares "Ok, we're doing this." and there is no arguement because I am (usually) right.

I got upset at the COO of the parent company of the company I work for (read twice, I think that makes sense.) -- I had been doing pure software for eight months, despite my (loud) preference to hardware. I went to my boss who promised me the moon and stars. I went to the president of the company I work for but unfortunately his hands were tied. So I went to the COO of the parent company. I now have what I want. No I didn't blow up at him; I wrote (okay printed) a 2-page letter describing my feelings, my past record and what I wanted. Sent it off and the day he received it the president of the company I work for got the power to give me what I want. Things moved forward because I became angry/upset enough to do something.

Now on the bad side... The thing I wanted has mysteriously and very quietly disappeard off the list of projects for 2001. If it was an oversight, no problem. If it wasn't, I will once again be angry enough to do something about it; I will find employment elsewhere.

What exactly is so against common sense here? The squeaky wheel gets the grease (or replaced). Seems pretty common sense to me.

[ Parent ]
what about the... (4.88 / 9) (#4)
by cbatt on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:30:34 AM EST

Argumentative automatons. The ones who know their topics inside and out and fight to the death to prove their points. You know the type I'm talking about.

Coldly logical. Extremely ruthless. Nearly emotionless. Nothing but the facts ma'am. Fearless about confrontation. Unflappable in the face of ignorant displays of loud anger.

They don't care if they're right or wrong. Just that if you're going to contradict them, you'd better have the endurance, ammunition, and skill to outlast them.

The ones who, when they are proven eventually wrong, simply say "okay, I agree with you" then move on.

I'd like to see a study around that group of people.

Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

Case study (4.87 / 8) (#10)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:45:36 AM EST

I know of one, offhand. Douglas Ivester, a recent CEO of Coca-Cola. A bad leader, but was part of the reason for Coke's success before he became CEO. A quote near the end of the article:

"Ivester was never one to show signs of weakness. "I just don't know what it's like to feel a lot of stress," he told FORTUNE last summer in the heat of the Belgian crisis. And he has adopted an almost breezy attitude since turning in his resignation."
Another one that strikes me is Jack Welch, who is a bit more emotional, but more successful as well. Finally, the fourth chapter of this Cold-War analysis has some analysis of the tension between being a ruthlessly analytical strategist, and a good leader.

[ Parent ]
fantastic (3.75 / 4) (#19)
by cbatt on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 12:47:21 PM EST

I'm impressed that anyone would go out of their way to provide links to further information. Thank you.

The Ivester info

Scary. Deffinately a pure tactician. Hardly personable at all and not political enough. A very good case study in how not to perform when all eyes are upon you (as CEO), yet how to perform when no one cares about your humanity (COO).

The Jack Welch story

Holy crap. He really is the opposite of Ivester though. He might be a knowledge maven, but he's obviously intensely passionate about growing his business. Ivester seems more passionate (if that word can be used) with engineering a solution rather than growing one.

That's a really good comparisson between two very similar, yet very different approaches.

From personal experience, I know that when I'm coldly emotional I don't get results. It's always when I throw emotion into the mix that people start to dance to my tune.

Great information.

Once again. Thanks.

Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

[ Parent ]

such irony (4.00 / 6) (#5)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:31:05 AM EST

Someone using the name slaytanic killer says that Anger in the Workplace Leads to Benefits. I'm sure it does as long as one does what the little voices tell one too. . . .

You see... (4.33 / 3) (#15)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 12:07:15 PM EST

The voices in my head are all split on what to vote in the poll. They are not as united as you think.

[ Parent ]
-1 Um Duh? (3.77 / 9) (#6)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:35:15 AM EST

I voted +1, but I nearly voted -1 because this was so mind numbingly obvious.

"Individuals who express their feelings with controlled anger rather than sadness tend to garner more respect, status, and higher wages..."

Huh, so you say people who are unwilling to accept something and then get up and do something about it are more likely to get things done than people who mope around? Wow, stunning work.

Play 囲碁
beat me to the punch (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:39:14 AM EST

I was just about to comment on this, that if one looks at what the study really says and bear in mind that it is speaking of controlled anger in specific situations, it comes as no surprise.

Now if the study had the same results for full-fledged temper tantrums in response to any situation, I'd be worried.

[ Parent ]
RE: Gettings things done (4.00 / 4) (#13)
by tailchaser on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 11:55:38 AM EST

people who are unwilling to accept something and then get up and do something about it are more likely to get things done

What's that one quote? Something to the effect of, "The reasonable man adapts himself to suit his environment while the unreasonable man demands that his environment adapt to suit him; therefore, all progress in this world depends on unreasonable men"?

I wonder why the study focussed on anger in particular. Expressing an opinion with either sadness or controller anger is emotionally charging the conversation; how do you think the results would have differed if it focused on people who argue logically versus people who argue emotionally? I know that certain people have proven in certain other discussion forums => that emotional arguments tend to draw larger and more increasingly emotional followings, but I'm not so sure how this model would work in a business/corporate setting as opposed to an open public forum.

-tailchaser rambles

[ Parent ]
obvious psychology (4.00 / 3) (#20)
by Nyarlathotep on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 01:04:32 PM EST

Actually, there have been experement which demonstrate that people falsely believe the results of psychology experements are obvious. If the article had been posted with the opposite statment we would have gotten someone posting "Man, I almost voted -1 becuase this is so obvious" and he would have 3 replies saing "Yep, it was obvious."

Now, there are some psychology experemnets which might be obvious, but it's not really so easy to tell the diffrence once the results are published. Really, you should ask the researcher "did you do this experement because you did not know the anser or because you just wanted to test a well working theory."

Note: Frequently it is a good idea to do the experement even when you think the results are obvious because you want to check yourself and your theories.. it's just good science to check everything that you can.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Obviously (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by vectro on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 09:50:04 PM EST

Well duh, of course people would think the results of a psychology experiment would be obvious. I mean, that kind of result is so mind-numbingly obvious I can't believe someone would do a study on it. ;)

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Of course things could be reversed... (4.20 / 5) (#17)
by SIGFPE on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 12:22:47 PM EST

...in that someone in a position of power is in a better position to express their anger. If you're a mere peon you can't afford to lose your temper because you may be risking losing your job. If you own the company you can lose your temper as often as you like.

Losing your temper is a pretty complex signal that depends on context. One of the main supervisor's here loses his temper all the time and people just filter it out. It's fine. When I lose my temper, which is very rare, people tend to respond because it's out of character and it freaks them out!

i've been there... (3.75 / 4) (#22)
by tralfamadore on Thu Feb 01, 2001 at 01:32:46 PM EST

it's interesting, because at my last job i was known for having a bit of a temper, and i got called to the floor on it by my manager(s) a few times. funny thing was, that's all that really happened. my temper rose because of the incompetence of my fellow coworkers, and when this was explained to my bosses, they knew where i was coming from and realized that until i did not have a valid reason to get upset and show it, they wouldn't do anything.
even after all of that, i was known for being the better skilled worker and i rose in the ranks quicker than the whiners.

Anger or Losing Temper (none / 0) (#29)
by Fred Nerk on Wed Feb 07, 2001 at 06:53:06 PM EST

I think there's a big distinction between getting angry and expressing yourself in an emotional way, and losing your temper and screaming at people.

I quite frequently get angry at work.. Mostly at the wasted resources, there are so many people doing mindless menial jobs because people here don't understand the concept of automating jobs. I get angry and I make it plain and I eventually get permission to fix things.

On the odd occasion that I lose my temper (usually dealing with really stupid people), I tend to get ignored, or at the very least fobbed off with a "Whatever, just go away" attitude.

Anger in the Workplace Leads to Benefits | 29 comments (27 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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