Are you the office ogre or silent assassin?

The Daily Mail ran an article on office behaviours

For me this area is really worth a look at in more detail.

The article had some really interesting statistics from a Pru Health survey. It said

  • Half of us admit to regular meltdowns at work, whether it’s ranting and raving, or throwing staplers — or even punches.
  • Forty-eight per cent of us have snapped at a colleague
  •  36 per cent shouted at colleagues.
  • More than a quarter admit to physically taking out on their rage, on their computers, by slamming phones, throwing something or banging their fists on desks.
  • Three per cent even say they’ve been physically aggressive,
  • One in 13 has witnessed a physical assault at work.

The article went on to tell us some very interesting stories giving people life experiences.

Because the article wanted to grab attention and draw the reader in it did not really go in to the areas that I know to be true about workplaces all over the world. The experience that I have with my clients is almost universal, that they do get really angry at work but they do not feel able to express it. Subsequently they take it home with them to an environment where the consequences of losing their temper are less severe and let it out on the families.

Why is this?

To answer it we need to examine the three main ways that we communicate our anger and which is encouraged in the workplace.

The most obvious and most stereotyped anger is that of Aggressive Anger. This is portrayed in the article because that is what most people are comfortable with indentifying anger as. Commonly described as the exploder who throws their anger outwards against anyone who is there or towards inanimate objects.  They lose their temper, infect everyone else with their anger and then calm down or storm out.

The style of anger that we spend our lives here at Beating Anger, coaching, teaching and challenging our clients to aspire to is Assertive Anger. This is where, when I am angry with you, I will sit down calmly and tell you what you did, how I feel about it and how I would like to be treated in the future. My estimate is that less than 5 percent of the population use this method consistently.

Finally, we are left with the Passive Aggressive form of anger. This is where I pretend to you and I pretend to myself that I am not angry. I pretend it will pass and I am not bothered. In reality I am stuffing my anger inside myself. The problem is it doesn’t stay there. It leaks out. It leaks out in the form of bitchy comments, and back biting. It leaks out when I have a coffee machine conference about you and tell everyone how badly you have treated me. It leaks out when we are in a meeting and you table an important piece of work for discussion and I pull it apart. It leaks out when you need to bring in a project on time and on budget and I withhold my support so that it comes in just over time and just over budget. That’s Passive Aggression (the silent assassin) for you. You know something is wrong but you are not actually sure what.

So, which type of environment is encouraged in your workplace?

Is it one where –

  • Everyone is encouraged to be aggressive and explosive when they are angry with each other? I doubt it, just from a health and safety and employee wellbeing point of view it is unlikely to be encouraged. Just sit back and wait for the charges of bullying to come flooding in.
  • Where anyone, at any level, can sit down and honestly and safely tell anyone else how angry they are with them? This is rare. It is often talked about but not acted out.
  • Where you are encouraged to be honest but not angry. Where people are afraid to express themselves truthfully because of the consequences.

Whenever I give talks and I ask for a show of hands I almost always find 90% of the people in the room indicating they work in a Passive Aggressive environment. Of course the problem is that by holding onto my anger eventually I do explode and that’s where the ladies in the article come in. Perhaps we are beginning to reap the whirlwind of years of suppressed anger in the workplace coming out.

The real issue here though is efficiency. If you take a few moments to reflect on the cost of a passive aggressive environment at work you will come up with a list that looks something like this –

  • Loss of efficiency due to the time spent bitching, back biting and having coffee machine conferences
  • The projects that may have been a success but which for whatever reason were sabotaged from within.
  • The sickness levels due to stress and depression
  • The level of staff turnover (a recent survey estimated it costs a year’s wages to replace, train and get up to speed a replacement for an experienced member of staff).
  • You can dress this up as employee engagement, staff morale, health and safety or employee wellbeing. The fact is, it is something that goes on everywhere and costs a lot.

The positive side of this, of course, is that the organisation that gets to grip with it will be one that takes leaps forward in efficiency and that springs out of this recession feeling fit, healthy and emotionally resilient.

Calm People deliver a range of interventions to help you and your teams deal with a stress, conflict and the pressures of change. We can measure stress and anger and help you develop an emotionally resilient workforce. Based in Derby & Birmingham we work all over the United Kingdon

If you would like a confidential chat call Calm People East Midlands  07850614042 and ask for Julian or Calm People West Midlands 07950344658 and ask for Paula

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