Harnessing Your Emotions - Proteus Leadership | Leadership article
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Harnessing Your Emotions

Have you ever overreacted with anger to comments or actions from your colleagues, managers, suppliers or customers? Do you find yourself getting angry over the smallest things?

Are you prone to road rage, screaming, yelling or bullying behaviour? How much is that anger affecting your professional relationships, reputation and career/business success?

Anger in the workplace is common with one recent study showing that 51% of people express anger while at work, for a range of reasons. As humans we have many emotions, including anger, happiness, fear, confidence, rejection and motivation.

Emotions are our way of knowing that something feels comfortable or uncomfortable for us. Therefore, paying attention to our emotions is very important.

When is anger appropriate?

It is human to feel emotion – the question is whether the emotion is in, or out, of proportion to the situation we are facing. Sometimes we may feel appropriate anger when a colleague, manager, supplier or customer says or does things that are unreasonable for us.

For example, when they call us names, put us down, take advantage of our good nature, harass or bully us, etc.

If the anger we feel is in proportion to the situation that we are in, then the anger we feel is appropriate. Any time we overreact or experience anger which is out of proportion to the situation we are in, it is a sign that we have unresolved anger from the past (i.e. you are feeling the anger of the moment plus the anger of the past which is coming up for you to address).

It is important to learn from situations that made you angry, as this will help you to more easily let it go.

Some people express their anger and others suppress it.

Either way, if the anger is unresolved for a period of time, it has the potential to create health problems, such as heart attacks and heart disease. In addition, anger can result in very hurtful and disempowering conversations with your colleagues, manager, suppliers and clients, which can sour those relationships. Out of proportion anger can also manifest in bullying behaviour towards other people (which could be in breach of the new anti-bullying laws), with significant emotional, psychological, health and financial consequences for the people and the business involved.

Here are the top three ways to identify any possible anger issues:

  1. Overreacting to situations with anger eg. road rage in traffic, lots of swearing at seeing a full inbox of emails.
  2. Overreacting to people with anger, for example being very short tempered at other people’s requests, verbal abuse, bullying behaviour, physical violence.
  3. Beating up on yourself too much, or being overly critical or judgemental of yourself, may mean you are angry with yourself. You may even be angry at yourself for not doing the things you want to be doing or for not doing the things that you said you would do.

It is important to take responsibility for the anger you feel, because you are the one feeling it, rather than blaming your colleagues, manager, supplier or customer for making you feel angry.

Managing versus addressing past anger

You can learn to deal with anger and to manage it as it comes up. This is only a temporary solution because the underlying anger will still be unresolved and will still be pushing your ‘buttons’ and causing you to overreact. Screaming, yelling and expressing the anger will make the situation worse over time as it only serves to intensify the underlying anger.

A more lasting solution is to deal with the underlying anger. The way to be free of the anger once and for all is to address it in a safe and comfortable way, without having to relive the anger or the trauma of the past in order to let it go. It is also important to learn from situations that made you angry, as this will help you to more easily let it go, as well as protect you from creating the same situations, or attracting angry people in the future.

Once the past anger is addressed, you will react to what your colleagues, manager, suppliers and customers say and do in proportion to the situation. Imagine being free of your past anger and enjoying more harmonious professional relationships, a positive reputation and greater success.

By Dr. Vesna Grubacevic
Published with permission from the International Institute of Directors and Managers (IIDM) – www.iidmglobal.com


Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”