British Researchers Support Proper Anger

by Anne Middleton, on December 21st, 2015

You’ve probably heard the familiar cliché at least a dozen times that, “cooler heads prevail.”  The meaning behind this commonplace saying is that ideas or influence of less emotional people are superior to over-emotional behavior.

At first glance, this is a completely rationale train of thought.  Demonstrating anger or ranting behavior in a workplace can blow a conflict out of proportion, promote a hostile environment, and shed a negative light on your job skills. Most believe that overall, this is a terrible idea.

Not so fast.  In an article published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior this month, researchers across the pond in the United Kingdom revealed the possible benefits of negative expression in the office.  These British investigators believe that morally motivated anger can actually be useful.

Expressing moral rage is different that showing irritation that your co-worker cooked fish in the microwave for lunch and caused your cubicle to have a disgusting odor.

"Moral anger" stands apart from other forms of anger which are more routinely associated with negative traits like aggression, hostility or bullying. Scientists believe moral anger serves to remove (or improve) an unacceptable situation that violates important corporate moral values.

Moral anger occurs in situations that are unacceptable, such as embezzlement of funds by a colleague or some other act that violates important ethical values. Moral rage when confronted with these types of issues, researchers say, can be a good thing “reconcile disparity, repair damaging situations, restore equity and improve the human condition.” 

So how do you know when it is appropriate to show anger at work? According this recent study, it's acceptable to get upset at injustices in the workplace, but it is also important to remain professional and remember not to take it too far when you report it.

And be aware that something you perceive as unfair might not appear the same way to your boss, such as someone taking extra-long lunches or arriving late to work.

However, things can quickly turn ugly if anger starts to control you, rather than the other way around. Excessive anger can cause can make it difficult to think reasonably and harm your physical and mental health.

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