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Why anger and frustration could be your best allies at work

I recently completely revised my relationship with anger, which I had previously underestimated and considered rather negatively.


We all have a boss or colleague who has pounded on the table or lost their cool in a meeting and ended up slamming a door.


There's also the person who boils inside, all frustrated and ends up muttering "yes, yes" when everything in their being says the opposite. We can imagine their evenings spent ruminating about not speaking up. And then there are those who tell you that they spent their vacation in bed after pushing themselves too hard before leaving. And, finally, we won't forget those who tell you that everything is fine, that they're in control, and then disappear one day on sick leave due to burnout.


What if I told you that all of these profiles have a problem with anger? And that none of them are exploiting it to its full potential? Yes, its potential! Discover the hidden treasures but also the unrecognized dangers linked to your anger.


Anger may be frowned upon in the workplace, but...


You may have noticed that a "good shouting match" is still a tool that finds its place in some environments. Often, it's under the pretext that no other approach works with the people being targeted.


That being said, if anger was once a symbol of strength and authority in the last century in our organizations, as an expression of a certain managerial style, it has lost some of its aura. Nowadays, at a time when command and control are reaching their limits, these visible displays of anger no longer have a good reputation. They damage relationships, trust, and the necessary climate of security, particularly for collective intelligence or innovation.


A young woman in front of a computer expressing anger and frustration
Frustrated? Annoyed? Finally, harness the potential of these emotions we hate! Credit: Unsplash

The blind spot of anger


What we often miss is the anger that is "swallowed," suppressed, or even denied. The one that makes you qualify your feelings as "slight frustration" and ends up making you accept what doesn't suit you. "Of course, Boss, I've been working at 120% for months but I can still launch 2-3 more projects with a smile!" Variant: "Of course, Chief, I'm happy to compensate for my colleagues' shortcomings, who have an easy life so that the overall result is good," all while gritting your teeth and with lots of overtime!


I invite you to explore emotionally what is going on when you accept yet another setback. I was not familiar with anger for a long time. To the point where I only had vague impressions of its flavor. Something odorless and sanitized. It took major circumstances for me to finally feel it and start to see how I had developed the art of stifling it delicately without even paying attention. It hid behind rumination and the desire to do well.


Organisations that accommodate anger


I hypothesize that explosions and suppressions of anger remain frequent because they also have their advantages for our organizations. These two scenarios can sometimes make things move forward or allow us to accomplish much more than theoretical resources would allow.


In the corporate world, an attempt has been made to domesticate anger by suggesting nonviolent communication. "You did this, which made me angry. I ask you not to do it anymore and to do it differently." Almost suggesting that this anger is not entirely yours. Not exactly empowering.


And on an individual level?


Did you know that both largely expressed and repressed anger have negative consequences for your health? The link between expressed anger and heart attacks has long been known. Dr. Gabor Maté, who specializes in the link between the mind and the body, points out in "When the Body Says No" that you significantly increase your risk of a heart attack in the two hours following an "eruption" if you are already at risk.



What is less known and which is highlighted by numerous scientific studies is that by suppressing anger over a long period of time, you seriously weaken your immune system, opening the door to illnesses, including the most serious and chronic ones that we fear so much!


"A healthy anger is nothing more than a defense of your limits." Dr. Gabor Maté

So what should you do with this dear anger? Dr. Maté opens the way to a whole new perspective. Anger is there to protect you.


Harness the potential of anger


"A healthy anger is nothing more than a defense of your limits," he says. Anger is an ally because it signals to you, above all, that your limits are in danger and therefore invites you to react (don't forget the art of setting your limits (in French)). Feeling anger within oneself then takes on another dimension. It invites you to correct your aim. Without shouting or attacking, without denying or repressing the emotion either. Anger is just an invitation to say no, assertively and to act accordingly.


In a nutshell,


Expressed anger, as well as repressed anger, are major causes of health problems. And if these expressions are more or less accepted or even encouraged, you would do well to question them. Maligned, labeled as "negative," this emotion is nevertheless part of your repertoire for a good reason. Reappropriating this aspect of yourself is a step toward your authenticity and humanity.

It's about your well-being and your satisfaction at work and ultimately, your performance, isn't it? The challenge? You can guess the thousand and one reasons that can lead you to ignore the signals. Suddenly, your need to please or your impression of not being "enough" could well torpedo your assertiveness. But that's another chapter. Start by perceiving the signal.

Viewing anger as a bulwark can therefore help you avoid serious health problems. Viewing anger as a bulwark can also allow you to express things in a responsible and constructive way and thus strengthen your communication. Viewing anger as a bulwark may finally reveal deeper blockages that guide and sabotage you.

So, how do you harness your beautiful anger and its messages? And what will you do differently starting today?

Whatever your answers, you can easily evolve. A client recently completely and quickly changed her relationship with anger. She finally became more assertive, daring to say no, after years of struggling in "pressure cooker" mode with endless rumination and a lot of anxiety. Let me know (anne@theworklab.org) if you're curious to find out how!

Have a great week!





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