Kira Vermond: A little anger is not always a bad thing
- March 23, 2009 8:50 AM |
- By Kira Vermond
By Kira Vermond, a Canadian freelance writer and regular contributor to publications such as The Globe and Mail and Chatelaine.
(Listen to the original audio.)
Budgets are cut, your coworker just got the old heave-ho, and now you’re picking up the pieces at work. After so many late nights getting caught up, it’s enough to make anyone lash out.
But is losing your cool at work a good idea — especially if your job could be on the line?
Most of us wouldn’t think so. But according to new research published in the Harvard Study of Adult Development, those who repress their frustration are at least three times more likely to admit that they’ve hit a glass ceiling in their careers. And they say they have disappointing personal lives.
Now let’s consider those who let it fly from time to time. The same study found that those who learned to harness and channel their anger were far more likely to be professionally well-established and a lot closer to friends and family.
Apparently, the problem with putting a lid on negative emotions is that they will find other sneaky ways of getting out of that little jar we’ve pushed them into. We’ve all, say, worked with passive-aggressive coworkers who looked serene on the outside, but were obviously seething on the inside.
And in some ways that’s worse.
Now, no one is saying that unbridled rage has any place at work. Go too far and it’s not only intimidating for everyone around you, but throwing chairs or verbally assaulting a coworker is a one-way ticket to the closest EI office. Not to mention a heart attack.
But when anger is expressed properly, it can help shine light on relationship problems or change the way a workplace runs. Just think about what happened after women got angry in the 1960s. Or how South Africa’s political landscape changed when enough people said, “This is wrong, I am angry about it. We must do something.”
Acting on anger makes things happen.
Other research goes so far as to show that the very people who are targets of anger sometimes actually appreciate it. They say things like, “Now I understand what she was driving at.” Or “I had no idea he felt so strongly about this issue.”
There’s one caveat though. Getting angry at work can be good if you’re a man, but bad if you’re a woman. Men who fume on the job may be admired for it. But a woman? Well, she’s often seen as “out of control,” or “incompetent” or “unprofessional.” At least according to a study out of Yale University.
The research, however, offered one piece of advice to women: if you want to get away with tearing a strip off somebody after lunch, explain why you’re doing it. Anger — for a reason — seems to go over well no matter where you are.
So be loud. Be proud. Explain why you’re hopping mad. And don’t throw the furniture.
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