Friday, March 29, 2013

What Do We Do With All That Anger?

Once when I was eight my dad came home and mom was angry. I mean really angry. Steamed.

He said, "Where is the grape juice?"

To which she replied, "You want the grape juice? HERE's the grape juice!"

And with that she brought a huge bottle of Kedem brand kosher grape juice down onto the glass-topped table. Shattering the glass. Shards flew all over the dining room.

As an adult someone once told me that their boss used to throw things at them - on alternate days. Literally, one day it was books thrown at the head and another day it was a gift card to Starbucks.

It ended when they said, "Next time I won't duck. I will call 9-1-1."

Most of us associate workplace anger with negative things:
  • Outburst 
  • Termination
  • Reassignment
  • Lawsuit
  • Depression
  • Heart attack or other physical ailment
  • Workplace shooter
However there are some more positive methods of handling it:
  • Conversation
  • Communication
  • Apology
  • Training 
  • Mediation
  • Employee assistance program
If only we would stop avoiding the reality of anger at work. Why not recognize:
  • Relationships and feelings are not a distraction - they are integral to productivity.
  • Conflict is a normal and sometimes even positive part of work because it points out problems as well as employee engagement, even in a negative way.
  • Conflict management is a form of cost avoidance.
Maybe it is true that what we need to know we learned in kindergarten. Sometimes all it takes is "circle time," to talk about the problem and what's happening in the group. To do this we have to take feelings seriously though, and be willing to solve the problem. 

When the organization is ready to do that - to save the cost of the inevitable problems down the road - that's not just smart thinking but a way to avoid the costs of absenteeism, turnover, low morale and even (G-d forbid) violence and litigation.