Published by Business Link
Right now we might be forgiven for feeling angry about something. Recession has impacted our personal and professional lives, and doing business is getting tougher. In the midst of such adversity, negative emotions could easily overtake positivity. So what should we do with such anger? Bottle up and battle on, or let it out?
The individual contextResearch suggests that, when properly managed, anger can become a productive and beneficial emotion which can aid career development and improve mental health.The Harvard Medical School followed 800 people over 44 years, and found that individuals who repressed frustration were three times more likely to reach a ‘glass ceiling’ in their careers. The study was however careful to point out that ‘outright fury’ is destructive, and emphasized the importance of remaining in control.
Professor George, lead author of the report, said:“People think of anger as a terribly dangerous emotion and are encouraged to practise ‘positive thinking’, but we find that approach is self-defeating and ultimately a damaging denial of dreadful reality. Negative emotions are often crucial for survival. Careful experiments such as ours have documented that negative emotions narrow and focus attention so we can concentrate on the trees instead of the forest.”
Professor Vaillant, director of the Study of Adult Development, the publishers of the research, comments:“Individuals who learn how to express their anger while avoiding the explosive and self-destructive consequences of unbridled fury have achieved something incredibly powerful in terms of overall emotional growth and mental health.”
The business context feelings of anger and frustration can quickly become destructive and undermine the morale of an entire company. But conversely, negative emotions can provide impetus for positive change and business improvement. According to Harvard’s research, negative emotions are often crucial for survival, and can help us narrow and focus attention to concentrate on the trees instead of the forest. Encouraging employees to express their negative emotions could therefore allow businesses to focus on specific problems and spur positive change. Such change could lead to improvements in product or service, or in customer or back-end processes. Turning negativity into improvement also has the important secondary benefit of improving employee morale, motivation and productivity.
Essentially, anger management requires an open and controlled company culture which encourages employees to express negativity in the least destructive ways. Effective employee consultation is key to ensuring this happens. And while the outcome of consultation may not always be mutually satisfactory, individuals will usually feel less frustrated simply for being given the change to have their say and listen to alternative perspectives.
In cases where anger or frustration is justified, businesses should take note and work to improve circumstances and minimize future grievances. Mechanisms for expressing anger could include individual feedback sessions, or group brainstorming , which aims to facilitate frank discussions on how to overcome difficulties and improve things.
Whatever the mechanism, it is important to listen, communicate fairly but firmly, and follow up with strong processes for responding to feedback.