[March 04, 2015] Ever witness your boss yell at people in a fit of anger? I have … and anyone with a boss likely has a story to tell about it. I believe it can be argued that leaders, if taken as a whole, are less likely to show anger in the workplace today than ever before. That is not the case, however, with politicians in America who clearly show more anger and do so publically.
On occasion there are a few benefits to anger in the workplace; although a very risky method of getting things done. For example, anger can motivate us against injustice and apathy.1 While often unpredictable, anger can also lead to improved job performance under certain conditions.2 These are exceptions to the basic rule that anger is destructive nearly every time a leader uses it.
Many military and business leaders in our country are concerned about a trend of ever increasing displays of anger by our politicians. The latest observation is our senators could be more effective if they were less “angry and demonizing.”3 Within the past few days, a number of U.S. Congress men and women reacted angrily to a speech by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Iranian nuclear weapons program by calling him names and insulting him repeatedly.4 When we see politicians like this publically angry, we will see this behavior in other citizens because our senior political leaders are role models.
Anger is a basic emotion that is best controlled; otherwise it will harm us and others. Anger in a leader can have additional negative consequences on others and will be detrimental to our organization’s mission. Some common outward signs of anger in leaders are:
- Hard to please; anyone who does not directly contribute is unimportant.
- Lacks humility and shows arrogance toward those subordinate to them.
- Divides people into friends (who always agree with them) and enemies (everyone else but especially those who may disagree, even occasionally).
- Uses fear as a tool to motivate others and seen as a bully.
- Quick to point out the flaws and problems in others, often publically.
- Rarely admits or apologetic for personal errors in judgment or actions.
These traits often lead to toxic work environments. Many will point to the psychological causes of anger in people5, but that is far less important that the negative effect of such behavior. What is interesting is that leaders who do display anger are rarely taken to task; they are often the boss and the courage to confront them is lacking.
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