Tag: Anger

Do’s and Don’ts of Responding to Anger in a Team

Do’s and Don’ts of Responding to Anger in a Team

Anger is a natural, unavoidable, and instinctual reaction, and is important to respond to anger appropriately when it shows up in the team. In this blog post, we will discuss the do’s and Don’ts in responding to anger.

Unhelpful Ways of Dealing with Anger in a Team

The following are unhelpful ways of dealing with anger:

  1. DON’T ignore the anger.

Some team members respond to anger by not admitting, even to themselves, that they are angry. Defense mechanisms often used to ignore anger include laughing an issue off, distracting one’s self from the problem, and trivializing the trigger’s impact.

  1. DON’T keep the anger inside.

There are people who do recognize that they’re angry. However, they choose to obsess about their anger in silence rather than express it. They can bear grudges for a long time. People like this, also called ‘stuffers’, are more likely to develop hypertension compared to others. They are also likely to just ‘explode’ one day, once the anger has built to the point that they can’t keep it inside anymore.

  1. DON’T get aggressive.

The right to vent your anger doesn’t extend to doing it in ways that can hurt others, hurt yourself, and damage property. Aggression can be verbal or physical.

  1. DON’T get passive-aggressive.

Passive-aggressiveness refers to indirect and underhanded means to get back at the person who made you angry. Examples of passive-aggressive behaviors are gossiping, tardiness and backbiting.

  1. DON’T use non-constructive communication styles.

Avoid the use of indirect attacks and unproductive statements. These include blaming, labeling, preaching, moralizing, ordering, warning, interrogating, ridiculing and lecturing.


Helpful Ways of Dealing with Anger in a Team

The following are helpful ways in dealing with anger:

  1. DO acknowledge that you are angry.

It is important that you know how to recognize that you are angry, and give yourself permission to feel it. This can be as simple as saying to yourself “I am angry.” Remember, you can’t control something you don’t admit exists!

  1. DO calm yourself before you say anything.

There is a biological reason why anger can feel overwhelming — our body is engaged in a fight or flight response. It helps then to defer any reactions until you have reached the return to normal/ adaptive phase of the anger cycle. Otherwise, you might end up saying or doing something that you’d later regret. Count 1 to 10!

  1. DO speak up, when something is important to you.

This is the opposite to ‘keeping it all in.’ If a matter is important to you, so much so that keeping silent would just result in physical and mental symptoms, then let it out. If it’s not possible to speak to the person concerned, at least look for a trusted friend or a mental health professional.

  1. DO explain how you’re feeling in a manner that shows ownership and responsibility for your anger.

Take ownership and responsibility for your feelings. This makes the anger within your control (you can’t control other people).


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Dealing with Anger in the Team by Separating the People from the Problem

Anger is not just personal. It can be relational as well. When managing anger that involves the team, it helps to have a problem-oriented disposition, setting personal matters aside. This way the issue becomes an objective and workable issue.

In this blog post, we will discuss ways to separate people from the problem. Specifically, we will discuss the difference between objective and subjective language, ways to identify the problem, and how to use I-messages.

Objective vs. Subjective Language

One way to make sure that a discussion remains constructive is to use objective rather than subjective language.

Objective language involves stating your position using reference points that are observable, factual, and free from personal prejudices. Objective references do not change from person to person.

This is the opposite of subjective language, which is vague, biased, and or emotional. You are using subjective language when you are stating an opinion, assumption, belief, judgment, or rumor.

The use of objective language keeps the discussion on neutral ground. It’s less threatening to a person’s self-esteem and therefore keeps people from being on the defensive. More importantly, objective language can be disputed and confirmed, which ensures that the discussion can go towards a solution.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Here are some guidelines in the use of objective vs. subjective language:

Subjective: You’re an inconsiderate supervisor. 

Objective: You approved the rule without consulting with us first.

  • Avoid vague references to frequency. Instead, use the actual numbers.

Subjective: You are always late!

Objective: You were late for meetings four times in the past month.

  • Clarify terms that can mean differently to different people.

Subjective: You practice favoritism when you give promotions.

Objective: The employee ranking system is not being followed during promotions.

  • Don’t presume another person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions.

Subjective: You hate me!

Objective: You do not talk to me when we are in a room together.

  • Don’t presume an action you did not see or hear.

Subjective: She stole my wallet. 

Objective: The wallet was on my desk when I left. It was no longer there when I came back, and she was the only person who entered the room.

Identifying the Problem

You can’t separate people from the problem if you don’t know what the problem is. A good way to move forward, in a discussion where anger is escalating, is through identifying the problem.  

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Identifying the problem focuses all energy on the crisis at hand rather than the persons involved in a conflict. The two parties focus their energies on a common enemy that is outside of themselves, a move that puts the two opposing parties back in neutral ground.

There are many processes you can use to identify the problem. Here is one of them:

STEP ONE:  Get as much information as you can why the other party is upset.

STEP TWO: Surface the other person’s position. Reframe this position into a problem statement. Example: “I can hear how upset you are. Am I right in perceiving that the problem for you is that you weren’t informed of the account being sold?”

STEP THREE: Review your own position. State your position in a problem statement as well. Example: “The problem for me is that I don’t have the resources to contact you. The phone lines are not working because of the storm.”

STEP FOUR: Having heard both positions, define the problem in a mutually acceptable way. Example: “I hear that you’d like to be informed of any sales. On my part, I’d like to inform you, but for as long as the phone lines are dead, I can’t see how I would do it. I think the issue here is about finding an alternative way to get the information to you on time while the phones are being repaired. Do you agree?”

If the two parties agree to the problem statement, they can now both work at the surfaced problem and take the focus away from their emotions.

Using “I” Messages

An “I-message” is a message that is focused on the speaker. When you use I-messages, you take responsibility for your own feelings instead of accusing the other person of making you feel a certain way. The opposite of an I-message is a You-message.

An “I-message” is composed of the following:

  • A description of the problem or issue.

Describe the person’s behavior you are reacting to in an objective, non-blameful, and non-judgmental manner.  

“When … “

  • Its effect on you or the organization.

Describe the concrete or tangible effects of that behavior. 

“The effects are … “

  • A suggestion for alternative behavior.

“I’d prefer … “

Here is an example of an I-message:

 “When I have to wait outside the office an extra hour because you didn’t inform me that you’d be late (problem/issue), I become agitated (effect). I prefer for you to send me a message if you will not be able to make it (alternative behavior).”

The most important feature of I-messages is that they are neutral. There is no effort to threaten, argue, or blame in these statements. You avoid making the other person defensive, as the essence of an I-message is “I have a problem” instead of “You have a problem”. The speaker simply makes statements and takes full responsibility for his/her feelings.



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How to Deal with Anger

Anger can be an incredibly destructive force, and since everyone experiences anger, it is crucial to have constructive approaches to manage it effectively.  The following are some of the methods that can be employed to manage anger effectively.

How to Deal With Anger

Admit that you are angry
In order to deal with anger you need to admit that you are angry and not keep the anger inside. People often think that they are effectively dealing with anger by ignoring their feelings of anger. This is a defense mechanism and includes methods such as laughing-off an issue off, distracting one’s self from the problem and trivializing the impact of the feelings. You need to recognize that you are angry and give yourself permission to feel the anger. In order to control something successfully you first need to admit it exists. The process of admitting you are angry can be as simple as saying to yourself “I am angry”.

Calm yourself before you respond
Aggression, which can be verbal or physical, is never an acceptable way to express your anger. It is necessary to calm yourself before saying anything or responding to the situation. When we become angry, our body becomes engaged in a fight or flight response. At this stage, you need defer any reaction until you have returned to a more stable biological state. Count to ten or, if possible, remove yourself from the situation for a moment before responding.

Avoid becoming passive-aggressive
Passive-aggressive behavior usually results when a person keeps silent over a matter that is important to him/her. Passive-aggressiveness refers to indirect and underhanded means to get back at a person that made you angry. It includes behavior such as gossiping, tardiness and backbiting. If keeping silent results in physical and mental symptoms because it is so important to you, it is better to let it out. Speak to the person concerned or, if that is not possible, at least speak to a trusted friend or a mental health professional.

Take ownership and communicate your feelings constructively
Avoid the use of indirect attacks and unproductive statements such as blaming, labeling, preaching moralizing, ordering, warning, interrogating, ridiculing and lecturing. Get the anger within your control by taking ownership and responsibility for your feelings. You cannot control other people, you can only control yourself.

Use relaxation techniques to control your anger
An effective way to manage your anger is to intentionally induce yourself to a state of calm. This can help particularly in addressing the physical symptoms of anger. Relaxation techniques you can do include: breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, music, arts and craft.

Anger Management Training Course


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