When you have a high degree of understanding and acceptance of yourself, you are ready to move on to Emotional Intelligence in the Social dimension. These next fundamentals have to do with social interactions. If practiced faithfully, the techniques can elevate the level of success in the Social dimension and help you raise the Emotional Intelligence of those you lead.

  • Walk in Their Shoes. This exercise will help create empathy and understanding. Make yourself write a paragraph about anyone you are having difficulty with (a peer, a subordinate, or a superior). Write what you know about the person — their interests, their background, their difficulties, etc., and try to concentrate on why they may be acting the way they are. Write in the first person, pretending you are them. As you interact with this person, continue to try to find out more about them, and continue writing about them. You will find that you approach them with more understanding and empathy. As you interact with them more positively, their behavior toward you will likewise improve, and the interactions will become smoother.

  • "Process" Comments. Most of us focus our remarks strictly on content when we are interacting with others. Process comments, however, focus on the reasons underlying certain behaviors that we observe; these are comments that focus on the "why" or "how" of behavior, not the "what." When we comment on or point out the process, we help team members grow and deal directly with any possible conflict. A process comment focuses attention on some inconsistency ("The team is saying one thing, but it is doing another"); the method by which members work to solve a problem ("Some people do not seem fully engaged in this task"); or some underlying reason for behavior ("I wonder if this reluctance is because some of us are still upset about the new leave policy?"). When others do not seem to see that anything is wrong, a process comment can help bring out those things no one wants to mention. Good process comments usually begin with the leader's observation, stated as a description rather than an evaluation. A comment such as, "What's happening here?" or "Let's talk more about how we have been working together on this," can open dialogue. When a team begins to discover the ways it has been unproductive, members can resolve to change behavior and become more effective.

  • The "Three-Step" Method. The Three-Step method is an excellent way to deal with conflict or potential conflict. It works whether you are a participant in the conflict or a third-party peacemaker. The steps are simple:

    1. Offer to hear the other person's side of the story first. (For third-party mediation: Ask one party to go first while the other listens carefully.) Really listen, without interrupting or getting defensive. Agree with anything you can about what they have said.

    2. Tell them your side of the story without laying blame.(For third-party mediation: Ask the other party to tell their story. Each person must listen carefully to the other, in turn). The other party is likely to listen more closely if you allow them to go first and model good listening.

    3. Use a problem-solving approach: "How can we work this out so this doesn't happen again?" or "What can we do now to salvage this project?"

  • Look for Similar/Look for Good. To make interactions run smoother, we need to look for the characteristics in others that are the same as ours and that are good. These connections are often found at the emotional level. Much of our culture is strongly shaped by the mass media, which focuses our attention on what's "wrong," what's abnormal, and what's different.

    To improve Emotional Intelligence, we must look for common ground. After every interaction, force yourself to focus on the interaction just completed. What common ground did you see? Make it a game to always be able to find something, even something small, that you and the other person both share. Make it a habit to find the good that others are doing and comment frequently on those behaviors, being liberal with thanks and praise. Remember the importance of empathy and the need to be aware of what the other person is feeling so you can respond appropriately.

  • We often get in trouble because we make assumptions about someone else's emotions or intentions. Many times we think "the worst." However, we should challenge the thoughts that stimulate our negative thinking. Is there another explanation for the same set of circumstances? Instead of letting anger, hurt, or worry take over, we ought to redefine, or take a different view: I'm better off or Maybe she had a good reason or He probably didn't mean it like that.

    You might need a partner to help you look at the situation a little differently. For example: Sadness over the loss of a job can be reframed by thinking of all the ways the job really did not suit you; the job was okay, but it was not perfect. And ask yourself, What did I learn from this job and from this experience of losing it? You can choose to dwell on the loss and stay depressed, or you can reframe and remember the positive things you derived from the experience.

    Make a Mental Video of the situation as you would like it to unfold.
    If we can imagine it, we can create it. That's what research tells us. We must first be able to clearly see the end we want to achieve. Close your eyes and really see yourself going through all the steps leading to that desired end, as if you were viewing a video of someone else. View it in as much detail as possible: Where are you? Who is there? What are each of you doing and saying? Replay your mental video over and over, and sharpen the images each time. More than a static visualization, this method of learning actually programs your neural circuitry step-by-step, so that when you begin the action steps, you have already created the "highway" for the neurons to travel. Star athletes regularly use this method to achieve great results, and you can do the same thing. In fact, the more clearly you can see your video, the more motivation it will offer you.

    Keep a Journal.
    For 10 minutes each morning or each evening, write whatever you want. Do not get out your laptop, and don't sit at your desktop computer! The pen and the paper are essential, and though it is a slower process, you'll get more benefit from doing it this way because you will be more intimately connected with your words. Journal writing can be totally open-ended with no specific plan, or built around a theme. The meaning in your writing will not be evident until you have entered your thoughts faithfully for two or more weeks and you can look back over all you have written. The content does not have to be profound, but the physical act of writing is linked to memory — particularly emotional memory, and your heart. Do not try to organize your writing; let the words flow. Resolve to continue this for at least six months.

    Use a Programmed Relaxation Response.
    Practice at least 10 minutes a day for two weeks, every day. Choose a very calming image (a lake, a mountain, etc.), a calming sound (the tide or a ticking clock), a word or short phrase (peace; I am calm). Hold the image in your mind for the full 10 minutes. Your mind will probably stray, but don't chastise yourself if it does. Remain calm, and simply refocus on your calming image or message and let other thoughts fade away. This will help you practice turning on calming physical reactions to stressful situations.

    After two weeks of faithful practice, try beginning your session by imagining a difficult situation. As you feel yourself getting angry or anxious, shift your mind back to your programmed relaxation response. Practice this variation 10 minutes a day for two more weeks. Then try your programmed response in real situations in which you feel yourself getting anxious or angry.

    Write yourself a "Positive" Script.
    This is a positive internal monologue you program for yourself. Our minds are never still. The trouble is, we often let negative messages drift through our minds and take over — negative images that reduce our energy and bring about the things we most fear: failure and rejection. Keep your script short. Here is an example:

    I have a lot of talent and enthusiasm. People find me likable, and I am very good at making sales. I work hard to please my customers, and they are loyal to me. I want to be the best sales rep in this region. I know I can do it! Increased sales will bring me greater financial rewards, make me proud, and get me noticed. I believe in myself, my team, and this company, and I know I can make a difference — today and every day.

    Keep a copy in your desk drawer and read it over every morning and at lunch. Repeat the words mentally or read the Positive Script during stressful times. Do this religiously for a few weeks, and you will probably only find you need to repeat it when things seem particularly tough or stressful.

    Much evidence of Emotional Intelligence comes out of organizations: studies of leadership, management, and performance have, like laboratory research, produced much exciting new information. Here are some interesting findings.

    Studies of "think tanks," where everyone is highly intelligent, reveal that even there, some people outperform others. They are more willing to take on responsibility, are more adaptable, and more easily establish rapport with co-workers. These qualities are considered Emotional-Intelligence qualities that have little to do with IQ or technical competency.

    Research on sales managers indicates that those who are unable to handle stress oversee departments that perform poorly, while those managers who perform better under stress have high sales volume.

    CEOs judged most successful by their peers in some studies were not those rated highest in technical competency but were instead those who scored the highest in a different area: the ability to establish relationships with and inspire others.

    Men and women seem, generally, not to differ in their overall level of Emotional Intelligence. However, research often finds women to be better at empathy and social skills and men stronger in self-confidence and self-control. [These facets of EQ are the subjects of upcoming chapters.]

    Education, gender, hours worked, and geographic area did not predict sales success for those in sales. However, Emotional-Intelligence qualities of empathy, optimism, assertiveness, and self-awareness were highly predictive of sales success. Optimistic salespeople, in fact, sold 37% more insurance and were twice as likely to stick with the job as those who had pessimistic outlooks on life and work.

    We make better decisions when we act on information from our feelings, our instincts, and our intuition, as well as on information coming from our rational intellect. It is our emotional brains, after all, that allow us to access memory and assign weight or preference to the choices we face at work and in our personal lives. It is our Emotional Intelligence that guides us in controlling or accessing emotions when we must adapt to change, get along with others, or deal with stress. Performance and leadership in any organizational setting are both influenced by EQ.

    Evidence for the importance of emotions comes from the field of psychology, too. Here are some important findings:

  • Stress activates a certain gene that attaches to brain DNA, causing abnormalities that lead to depression as well as other emotional difficulties. The first bad experience feels negative and sets up a pathway in the brain. The second experience feels worse, and after repeated experiences, the memory trace has become a superhighway for depression.

  • When we are calmly energized (good stress), the brain secretes catecholamines, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. This kind of "stress" is beneficial because we can perform at our best.

  • When stress is severe, the brain secretes cortisol, which intensifies sensory awareness but dulls rational thinking. When levels of this substance are high, our memory does not work well, and we make more mistakes. Cortisol, levels rise when we are bored, frustrated, or highly anxious, or when we have other strong negative emotions.

  • Prolonged stress in laboratory animals has been shown to actually destroy neurons, shrinking the brain's memory center.

  • Experiments were performed in which people were shown shapes at a rate too quick for the shapes to register with the thinking brain. But subjects developed a preference for those shapes, even though they had no conscious awareness that they had seen them. The limbic brain perceives things more quickly, and even decides if it likes those things before the thinking brain can be engaged.

  • When we look at angry or happy faces, our facial muscles change very subtly in the direction of what was viewed. These subtle changes, while not visible to our eyes, can be measured with electronic sensors.

  • People showing little emotion when they first sit down to face an individual who shows a lot of emotion invariably pick up on the mood of the expressive partner. We subtly re-create in ourselves the mood of another, and may, in fact, be programmed to do so.

  • Animal studies show that primates experience empathy, just as humans do. When an animal sees another of its species in distress, the primate brain has specialized neurons in the visual cortex and in the amygdala that fire only in response to particular facial expressions that convey fear, threat, or submission. This might indicate that humans also have such specialized "empathy" neurons, and that empathy is programmed into our brains.

    These findings are particularly relevant in the workplace, where stress can affect the environment as well as performance. Humans are complex "wholes," programmed to respond emotionally. No one can perform their jobs apart from their emotions, but excess stress is particularly disruptive to smooth functioning, and it makes concentrated, rational thinking very difficult. "Emotionally intelligent" individuals harness these emotions and use them appropriately.

  • The medical laboratory also provides us with clues about how emotions operate in our brains and bodies. Consider these examples:

    Some years ago the accepted "cure" for mental illness was to do a prefrontal lobotomy (removal of a section of the brain that connects the emotional and cognitive brains). The procedure worked in that severe emotional distress was indeed relieved, but the severing of the circuitry destroyed the patient's emotional life, as well. With no ability to feel or express emotion, these patients appeared dull and lifeless.

    If the limbic brain is injured or surgically removed due to disease, the individual will lose emotional memory, and lose all feelings. He or she will have no capacity for relationships and, in fact, will not be able to remember friends and relatives. They won't be able to make even simple decisions because they no longer have any memory of likes and dislikes.

    The removal of the amygdala in animals causes them to lose fear, rage, and the urge to cooperate or to compete. This is a strong indication that the amygdala, a part of the emotional brain, controls our passions.

    Biofeedback is effective in controlling certain chronic diseases. This merging of the first brain, the limbic brain, and the thinking brain results in measurable changes at the cellular level, and improves the functions of bodily systems.

    Our rational minds give us information about people and things, yet preferences and why we have them are based on the limbic brain's storage of emotions. Without access to that information, we are unable to make even the simplest of decisions because all choices are equal. Emotions are always present in our lives, whether we recognize them or not.

    New maps of brain circuitry tell us that the brain is affected by our emotions in two ways: First, signals travel from the first brain to the rational brain and then back to the emotional brain whenever we mull something over for a while and become increasingly angry, determined, or hurt. The "mulling over" allows us to receive more precise data and this leads to good decision-making and more effective actions.

    The second pathway is the route the signal takes as it travels to the emotional brain before going to the rational brain. This occurs when there is an immediate and powerful recognition of a specific experience as the emotional brain makes an association with some past event; we react strongly to something without really knowing why.

    The brain seems to have one memory system for ordinary facts, and another for emotionally charged events. Emotional events appear to open additional neural pathways that make them stronger in our minds, which may explain why we never forget significant events. Occasionally we are propelled into action on the basis of these few rough signals before we get confirmation from the thinking brain. We have a rational brain that keeps us from being overpowered by strong emotional reactions, but the emotional brain should not be completely overshadowed by the rational one. The key is balance.

    Additional conclusions from neuroscience:

  • Chemical information substances, or peptides, regulate blood flow. Blood carries glucose, the brain's fuel which is necessary for the brain to function. Blocking of emotions through trauma or denial can slow down this process, depriving the brain of nourishment and leaving it less able to think, plan, and make decisions.

  • Electrical stimulation of the limbic area of the brain results in powerful emotional displays accompanied by bodily movement such as laughter or weeping; these displays of emotion are based on stored memories.

  • Our brains are composed of a huge number of neural pathways and connections, making possible many subtleties of emotion and response. Emotions all have a purpose, even anger, grief, and anxiety. Denying these emotions sets up detectable molecular blockages that cause actual changes in cells: this can result in widespread physical and emotional damage over time. The peptides or chemical information substances flow more freely when we allow ourselves to express emotions such as joy or hope.

  • Research in psychoneuroimmunology has shown conclusively that there is a direct link between what we think and feel and what is actually going on in our physical bodies. Our emotional and cognitive responses to events in life affect our health and our energy level — essential factors in working up to capacity.

  • The term "gut reaction" can be taken literally: Our digestive tracts are particularly dense with chemical information molecules and receptors. Chemical activity is triggered by — you guessed it — strong emotions.

  • The first brain (brain stem) is the seat of autonomic or automatic response, as well as the seat of habits. It connects us to our external world through our skin, our pores, and our nerves. It controls what impulses get recognized and passed along to the two higher levels. This brain learns through imitation, avoidance, and repetition until something becomes habitual. Information usually enters at this point without our conscious awareness. We can make much of this information conscious and use it to our benefit, as biofeedback and hypnosis have shown us.

    The emotional brain (limbic system) helps us know what things to approach and what to avoid by guiding our preferences. As we move through life and have more experiences, we have stronger intuitions, hunches, and gut reactions because more things are stored in the limbic warehouse. We have "learned" from experience. Intuition is emotional learning gained over many years; a 14 year old has little intuition because he or she has not experienced enough life to make connections between experiences. As we mature, we accumulate more reliable emotional data that can offer us valuable clues and guide our behavior, providing we become aware of its existence and learn how to interpret it. Unfortunately, many adults have been taught to ignore this type of information.

    The rational brain (neocortex) assists us with functions related to thinking and language: planning, questioning, making decisions, solving problems, and generating new ideas. This layer is connected to the emotional brain with millions of connections, allowing the emotional and the thinking brains to influence one another in a myriad of ways and providing rich data on which to draw conclusions and initiate action.

    Our emotions have helped us immeasurably over the course of human evolution. Emotional responses are milliseconds faster than cognitive (thinking) responses; the lightning-fast reactions that bypass the rational brain centers were often survival responses for our distant ancestors. The limbic brain sends us the warning of a crisis before the rational brain can even process the incoming signal: the body has been alerted, and is ready to act on our behalf.

    The emotional brain was conserved for a purpose. Today, physical survival is less of a threat than it was to primitive man, but data from the emotional brain still gives us important clues to our surroundings and the actions we need to take. Ignoring this data on purpose or because we aren't aware of it leaves us with only partial information. One of the purposes is to show how emotions can be used to maximum effect without getting out of control.

    Research on Emotional Intelligence
    Here are some additional conclusions from evolutionary science:

  • Our emotional brain and its responses have been shaped and preserved over millions of years of evolution. Humanity is "hard-wired" for emotional response!

  • The facial expressions for basic emotions such as fear, sadness, disgust, anger, and pleasure are identical across cultures, indicating some inborn genetic mechanism common to the human race.
  • Very, very early in evolutionary history, simple "beings" had brainstems that regulated autonomic function and kept them alive. Human beings still have a brainstem, located just above the spinal cord, which tells our lungs to breathe and our hearts to beat. Similar in architecture to the brainstem of reptiles, the human brainstem it is sometimes called the reflex brain or the first brain. We can summon it to conscious awareness, although it usually functions automatically.

    The limbic system or emotional brain is thought to have developed out of the first brain. It helps us store and remember past experiences and learn from them. The limbic system in humans is located in the approximate center of the brain; when information enters the limbic system, we experience bodily sensations, transmitted by the peptides or chemical information substances, in the form of a "reaction" to the stimulus with much more awareness of what is happening than at the level of the first brain.

    Out of this limbic system came the rational (thinking) brain or thin cortex. The cortex enables us to comprehend sensory information and plan accordingly. The very thin outermost layer of the cortex called the neocortex is responsible for higher order thinking and symbolic communication, art and ideas, and long-term planning. The millions or billions of connections between the limbic brain and the thinking brain allow for the free-flow of information between these layers.

    The Case for an Emotional Brain
    Emotions are not just a matter of the heart. Recent advances in research have shown that they are also a result of brain biochemistry. These conclusions come from neuroscience, evolution, medicine, psychology, and management. Emotional signals in the brain are felt throughout the body — in the gut, in the heart, in the head, in the neck, and so on. These sensations are important signals: If we learn to read them, they will help us make decisions and initiate action.

    Most scientists believe that the control center of emotions in the brain is the limbic system, consisting of the amygdala, the hippocampus, and other structures in the mid-brain. The limbic system stores every experience we have from the first moments of life: impressions are stored in these areas long before we acquire the verbal or higher thinking abilities to put them into words. It is this vast warehouse of feelings and impressions that provides a context or meaning for those memories.

    Messages are transmitted to the brain by neurons, traveling through an electrical transmission system. In the 1970s, however, scientists discovered that our bodies also contain a chemical system for transmitting messages. This system is based on chemicals called peptides, which have receptors in every cell of our bodies. These highly sensitive information substances are thought to be the chemical substrates of emotion, triggering impression memories throughout our lives. Our brains are linked to all our body systems, and it is these peptides that are responsible for the emotions we "feel" in various parts of our bodies.

    This chemical transmission system just described is far, far older in evolutionary history than the electrical brain. In fact, many of the same information substances found in humans are found in one-celled animals. Their presence in the most basic as well as the most complex forms of life is a clear indication of their importance.

    Your EQ can continue to increase over your lifetime, and can even be improved in every arena of your life. In fact, life itself is the laboratory where we build greater EQ. You can work on your Emotional Intelligence when you are alone, or when you are with your employees, co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, or acquaintances. It will take 3–6 months to make any substantial improvement in Emotional Intelligence, but the payoff is worth it if you answer yes to any of these questions:

    Do you want to be more in control at work or at home?

    Would you like to be able to deal more effectively with personal stress?

    Would you like to have a wider circle of influence?

    Do you want to commit to and move ahead with your goals?

    Would you like people around you to be more productive?

    Do you long to take risks and overcome your fear of change?

    Would you like to develop a more positive and hopeful attitude?

    And, finally, do you want to live a more satisfying and successful life?

    We can't really separate the rational from the emotional any more than we can separate our work from our personal lives. The quality of one is inextricably linked to the other: what we learn off the job translates into lessons on the job, and vice versa. The positive discipline and positive reinforcement you use with your child, for example, can be duplicated with your employees; relating better with your workers will bring positive rewards at home, as well.

    Emotions need not be a problem in the workplace; the right ones augment productivity and workplace harmony, but it takes EQ to know how to manage them. Many people have the title of "manager" but are simply ineffective in their positions. Real leaders are those who actively inspire and motivate others, create teamwork, and achieve outstanding results; they model the behavior they want to see in their employees. Emotional Intelligence can move you from management to leadership, and make the people at the top sit up and take notice of your contributions to the company.

    When managers think of emotions, they often focus on overreactions that they have witnessed in the workplace — conflict, hurt feelings, or even their own embarrassing moments. Letting emotions overpower our intellect is not what we mean by Emotional Intelligence; in fact, quite the opposite is true: out-of-control emotions are not what we want, at work or elsewhere.

    On the other hand, listening only to our rational, factual side is not Emotional Intelligence, either. Feelings, instincts, and intuitions gained through experience are vital sources of information about the world around us. We operate with only half the information we need to make valid decisions when we try to use only rational, cognitively derived data. This approach does not lead to overall success within any organization or to a satisfying personal life.

    Psychologists quantify the rational thinking part of our brains; they call it "intelligence quotient," or IQ. Psychologists and educators do not agree on exactly how to measure it nor what the numbers really mean. Nonetheless, we have some widely used and accepted measures of intelligence: An IQ of 120 tells us something about a person's general ability, as does an IQ of 85. We have known for decades, however, that intelligence does not correlate highly with success on the job. In other words, being highly intelligent and using your cognitive skills do not guarantee success.

    True Emotional Intelligence is being able to appropriately call upon information from the emotional center of the brain, and balance that with information from the rational center of the brain.

    Based on a number of recent studies, experts now believe that IQ, or general intelligence, contributes no more than 25% to one's overall success. Sure, it helps to be born with brainpower and even to develop it, but this is not enough for success in life or success in management. Some may advance the idea that having expertise in a certain field determines success; developing strong technical competency or specific intelligence in your chosen field can indeed be a necessary step for initial entry into the field, yet competency fails to add much to the success equation. Most experts believe it contributes only 10–20% to success.

    So, if it's not just IQ and it's not just technical expertise, what else makes up the remainder of the formula for success — that remaining 55–65%? Case studies and longitudinal studies by highly regarded leaders give us a clue: Opportunity or serendipity adds a few percentage points, but many well-respected leaders create their own opportunities. They are able to do so because they rank high on all dimensions of Emotional Intelligence.

    It is EQ that allows us to express preferences in decision-making, passionately pursue a goal, control our temper, and offer persuasive arguments for or against an idea. EQ explains why we like certain people better than others, and helps us get along with the ones we don't. It is EQ that helps us establish relationships and become politically savvy in the office, and it is what keeps us going in difficult times. If you think business is or should be based only on rational skills, the newest research would urge you to rethink this notion: Emotional Intelligence is the most fundamental dimension of leadership today and in the foreseeable future, and the higher we aspire to or rise in leadership positions, the more important it becomes.

    We are all familiar with the term intelligence quotient, or IQ, but few managers in today's workplaces understand much about Emotional Intelligence — what is now being called "EQ." Managers know a great deal about the products or services that their organizations deliver to customers, and they are becoming more knowledgeable about the technology that puts their organizations into the marketplace of ideas. When it comes to issues involving individuals or groups, however, many tend to fall short. Emotions and social skills don't appear to be as important to success in our jobs as facts and figures and processes.

    Just what is Emotional Intelligence anyway? Often called EQ (Emotional-Intelligence quotient), Emotional Intelligence refers to the array of personal-management and social skills that allows one to succeed in the workplace and life in general. EQ encompasses intuition, character, integrity, and motivation. It also includes good communication and relationship skills.

    But emotions in the workplace? Surely we want to keep emotions out of the organization! The business world, after all, moves on facts and figures — or so we think. But new evidence makes a pretty compelling case that poor emotional and social skills derail more careers than lack of technical expertise or even general intelligence — what we think of as IQ.

    Interestingly, very little research has been done on the science of emotions in the past. In the last decade or so, the scientific and even business literature has been filled with new evidence explaining the neurophysiology and biochemistry of emotions and their roles in our professional and personal lives. Case studies of leaders and other successful people have added additional evidence to support the vital role of emotions in decision-making, leadership, and success in life. New research on the subject will teach us even more.

    Think about your own experiences for a moment. Have you ever had a very strong "gut reaction" to a certain person or situation? Have you ever walked into a room and sensed that something was wrong, or taken a chance on something you just knew was the right thing, even though the "facts" said otherwise? Perhaps you weren't able to explain exactly why you reacted the way you did, but the sensation was powerful. This was the voice of your intuition — the gut feeling you had stemming from past emotional experiences stored in your brain. This "knowing" is inside us all, but many of us have been trained to ignore it in favor of rationality and logic.

    Jack walked into the office where three of his sales managers were reviewing the latest sales figures. So engrossed were they in discussing the disappointing results and what might be causing the sudden downturn in business, they did not hear him approach. Jack cleared his throat rather loudly, interrupting an obviously important and spirited discussion about work. "Kelly," he said firmly, "I need to see you about that Allied account. We need to get some information to corporate." He turned on his heels, leaving Kelly to wrinkle up her nose and explain to her colleagues that she would have to get back to them about continuing this analysis. She quickly followed Jack to his office.

    Assuming that the information corporate needed did not represent a crisis, how would you assess Jack's handling of this situation? What effect did his approach have on Kelly and her colleagues?

    Jack, like too many managers, used the "boss" technique to get what he wanted done. He demonstrated poor social skills and possibly did long-term damage to goodwill by first assuming that the obviously work-related discussion was not particularly important, and then by barging in on it. Kelly and her colleagues would have been much more interested in complying with Jack's request had he:

    1. waited until there was a good stopping point in their conversation and they acknowledged his presence;

    2. greeted them with a few pleasant words;

    3. asked what they were discussing and appeared interested in hearing about it (after all, he needs to know about the sales figures, too);

    4. explained what he needed and then asked for Kelly's input on when and how she could comply with his request for information from corporate;

    5. exchanged pleasant conversation as he and Kelly walked to his office to work on the request.

    This could indeed have been a crisis, but when the manager or the organization is always operating in crisis mode, there are usually management problems. It's probably safe to conclude that Jack's behavior in this situation is an example of low "Emotional Intelligence."

    Even if your workplace is not at the crisis stage of anger, you should be aware of the systemic factors that can create widespread anger in organizations and teams. Of course, organizations that treat people in ways that are abusive, neglectful, unethical, or illegal will incur a great deal of much-deserved wrath. But there are many perfectly standard business practices that make individuals feel undervalued, and these too are likely to cause pervasive anger. They include:

    Arbitrary policies

    Restrictive rules

    Rigid hierarchies

    Authoritarian managers

    One-way communication

    Limited information sharing

    Closed (or zero-sum) competition

    Narrow territorial boundaries

    Minimal individual autonomy

    Few rewards for good performance

    In contrast, people are far less likely to become angry at their employer when they have a reasonable degree of control over their work schedules, workspace, tasks, responsibilities, learning opportunities, relationships, and compensation. Indeed, the more control an individual has over these factors, the more likely he or she is to feel very positive about an organization or team.

    People also tend to place great value on two-way communication: They want a chance to contribute their input on matters that affect them directly and indirectly. What is more, they want to receive recognition and rewards when they make valuable contributions.

    While organization-wide practices can have a huge impact on anger in the workplace, the most powerful factor is the relationship between managers and their direct reports. When managers are highly informed, engaged, and responsive, they tend to have relationships of trust and confidence with their direct reports.

    However, a well-run organization with good managers may still have pervasive problems with anger. Therefore, the following anger-management best practices must also be implemented:

    Establish clear expectations for workplace behavior.

    Require leaders and managers to model appropriate behavior.

    Do not select or promote people who fail to manage their own anger.

    Provide resources for anger management and confront dangerous anger early on.

    1. Establish Clear Expectations for Workplace Behavior
    Managers should make clear their expectations of how people will conduct themselves in the workplace. Angry expressions that demean others should be strictly forbidden. Some companies, including Polaroid, Nordstrom, General Electric, and Quaker Oats, list among their core values specific forms of interpersonal conduct among employees. For example, they explicitly state that intimidation and hostile or offensive behavior will not be condoned (see Pearson, Andersson, and Porath, 2000). When expectations are established and well known, the clear inappropriateness of behavior that violates these expectations sets the ground for corrective action.

    2. Require Leaders and Managers to Model Appropriate Behavior
    As discussed earlier, anger in hierarchies tends to move downward. When leaders demonstrate their anger by yelling and screaming, these behaviors are repeated down to the lowest levels, creating a reinforcing cycle of anger on the part of superiors and fear on the part of subordinates. Moreover, those who use their anger inappropriately tend to use their power to silence those who are below them and who might raise questions.

    Since employees scrutinize their leaders' behavior for signals of appropriate and acceptable conduct, leaders who value respect among employees must also manage their own expressions of anger. They should be models of what is appropriate in terms of anger, avoiding aggression. The authority held by superiors confers the responsibility of supporting, coaching, and empowering others, not the right to dominate them. It also confers the responsibility of penalizing those who harm others through aggression.

    3. Do Not Select or Promote People Who Fail to Manage Their Own Anger
    Some people are actually known for their bad tempers—they leave a trail of casualties behind them wherever they work. Yet they get hired and promoted again and again. Why is that? Often organizations hire and promote people on the sole basis of financial or technical performance. Although such performance is certainly valuable, this value is outweighed by the damage inflicted on individuals, teams, and organizations when these people, especially those in positions of authority, express their anger aggressively and repeatedly.

    Thus, when you select individuals for open positions or for promotions, it is critical to evaluate their skills and track record on interpersonal communication. Selection criteria and performance evaluations should give considerable weight to such skills and the ability to build work-group morale. Reward individuals who excel in these areas, and penalize those who indulge their tempers at the expense of the organization.

    4. Provide Resources for Anger Management and Confront Dangerous Anger Early On
    Everyone in the workplace feels anger sometimes and must deal with it. Provide self-study materials that help individuals learn how to manage their own anger.

    In addition, provide managers with training in conflict resolution, negotiation, and coaching. They must be brave enough to intervene in extreme cases, and should know how to do the following:

    Confront the problem employee

    Offer help and support if appropriate

    Remove the employee from the workplace and notify potential targets, company security, and law enforcement officials

    In less extreme cases, when chronic anger is a problem for an otherwise valuable employee, managers should encourage or require the person to seek professional help. Too often, managers try to avoid angry employees because the anger makes them feel uncomfortable or afraid. They may even move the problem employee along to another part of the firm. Of course, these defensive reactions do not solve the problem, but leave it to fester.

    Remember that everyone brings different skills and knowledge to the table and is capable of achieving the tasks and responsibilities required. Get things back on track and restore harmony by focusing people on their shared mission instead of on personality differences. Those who cannot focus on what is important—bringing the team's resources to bear on the mission and their particular roles and goals in relation to that mission—will not be able to continue as team members.

    To set the focus, call a team meeting. Everybody must attend. You will need to accomplish three things:

  • Clear the air.

  • Clarify mission, roles, and goals.

  • Establish ground rules for conduct and for keeping communication lines open.

  • 1. Clear the Air
    Have each person take a turn speaking for three minutes. This process continues for three rounds:

    Round 1— The speaker says one thing that he or she appreciates about each team member.

    Round 2— The speaker says one thing that he or she thinks each member needs to improve.

    Round 3— The speaker says one thing that he or she is committed to improving about his or her own performance or behavior.

    2. Clarify Mission, Roles, and Goals
    What work needs to be done by each team member? What projects, tasks, and responsibilities are involved? What deadlines and guidelines must be observed? Communicate the clear mission, goals, deadlines, and guidelines, indicating which guidelines are negotiable and which are not. Once you convey that information, see who will continue as a team member and who will not.

    3. Establish Ground Rules for Conduct and for Keeping Communication Lines Open

    Let people know that it's acceptable to express anger appropriately and effectively—at the right time and place to the right people in a productive, task-oriented manner. Share with people the approach to dealing with anger in yourself (see Chapter 6) and offer coaching to those who need it. Plan a follow-up meeting with the team to gauge improvements. Then get back to work.

    If You are in a Position of organizational or team leadership, you should continually assess the workplace to identify its strengths and weaknesses. This should include the tracking of anger. We've discussed the high costs that an organization or a team can incur if anger is poorly managed. And we know that anger is unavoidable because the workplace involves complex relationships, high stakes, significant pressure, and many forces beyond our immediate control. While it can be difficult to manage anger in ourselves and others, dealing with anger in organizations and teams can pose our greatest challenge, especially if the anger is pervasive and derived from systemic causes.

    To get an idea of the state of anger in your organization or team, complete the assessment on the next page. It will bring you a step closer to understanding what role anger is playing in your organization or team. If you find that anger is a significant problem, you must take steps to address it. If the problem rises to the level of a crisis, you may want to consider a group intervention.

    In most cases, you can engage the angry individual appropriately and effectively, mollify the situation in the short term, and address the underlying causes in the long term. There are five basic steps to follow:

    1. Start with yourself.

    2. Gather information.

    3. Schedule a meeting soon.

    4. Engage the person.

    5. Evaluate and take action.

    1. Start With Yourself
    Be aware of your own feelings of anger and how those feelings may affect your interactions and relationships at work. A common response when dealing with angry people is to become angry in return because of the discomfort and disruption caused by their anger. It's very helpful simply to remind yourself that you may be angry too, and to manage your own anger first.

    You also should be aware that part of an employee's anger may be directed at you, even if you're not directly involved in the problem at hand. It's likely that the individual feels less in control of the situation because of your authority. If you become angry in turn, your ability to listen to the employee will be compromised and probably make the situation far worse.

    2. Gather Information
    Try to find out what's going on from at least two independent sources. If you cannot find the answers from independent sources, you will have to rely on the people directly involved. Bear in mind that they may have very distorted versions of the information. Don't play judge. By placing yourself in the role of "information gatherer," you will diminish the potential defensive responses of the angry individual and give yourself greater credibility to ultimately resolve the situation. Remember, when you are gathering information, you are trying to identify the underlying source of the anger.

    3. Schedule a Meeting Soon
    Meet with the person on the day of the incident, but not "right this moment." Let a few hours pass in between, so both of you have time to prepare for a potentially difficult conversation. Anger is exaggerated when people are distracted, stressed, or not feeling their best. Therefore, select a time when both of you can freely discuss the situation with as little distraction as possible. But don't put off the meeting to another day—that will only leave time for the anger to fester.

    Be strategic about the place of the meeting as well. If you want to emphasize your authority in the situation, your office may properly convey the message of who is ultimately in control. If you'd like to emphasize your concern for the employee and convey more neutrality, select a site where you can de-emphasize your power, such as a conference room or off-site location. In most cases, if you wish to find the real cause of the anger and address it, you will want to de-emphasize your authority and try to address the employee on as equal a footing as possible. Your authority, after all, is probably not in doubt. What you need to convey is that you care about the employee and what caused his or her anger, and that you'd like to resolve the situation.

    It is very important that you prepare in advance for the meeting. Question your assumptions and suspend judgment. You need to gather information. Rehearse what you are going to say and decide what you are not going to say. While it is critical that you listen carefully before making any judgments, it may be necessary for you, as the manager, to give the angry person feedback about the episode in question.

    4. Engage the Person
    When you meet with the angry individual, remember that your primary task is to listen. Let the angry person express the anger in his or her own words. Listen carefully and actively, but don't interrupt. Guide the discussion only when necessary, and use neutral but probing questions such as "How?," "Why?," and "Can you be more specific?" Try to gather more data from the anger. Throughout the meeting, exhibit respect, sensitivity, open-mindedness, flexibility, and tolerance.

    Sometimes angry people simply want to vent their anger to another person—especially a person in a position of authority. If the angry individual wants to vent, remember two important facts:

    Venting anger does not relieve angry feelings and sometimes exacerbates them.

    You do not have an obligation to make yourself the recipient of undifferentiated hostility.

    Make clear that the reason for the meeting is to get to the underlying cause of the anger and attempt to resolve it. Let the person vent, but only enough to convey the information. If the individual is repeating the same words again and again, raising his or her voice consistently, and speaking in absolutes like "always" and "never," then you may need to cut off the venting.

    Be aware, though, that the individual may consider it a significant remedy—or at least a first step—simply to be heard on the matter by an authority figure. Often you can minimize over-venting by listening intently and silently. If you appear to be contemplating the individual's words, he or she will probably choose them more carefully.

    While you want to focus on the individual during the meeting—making eye contact, nodding your head, showing concern, smiling when appropriate—you also want to take notes. This signals that you're taking the matter seriously and provides a record of the conversation. To add even more gravity, consider tape-recording the conversation. (Be sure to ask for permission or at least inform the individual.)

    Finally, in cases where there is a lack of trust between you and the angry individual, it may be appropriate to ask a neutral third person to be present at the meeting, preferably someone who is also an authority figure. Again, your primary purpose is to listen not just for the immediate facts but also for the underlying cause of the anger.

    5. Evaluate and Take Action
    If there is a clear source of the anger, that source must be addressed. By now you've already taken an important step by listening to the angry individual. After listening, you must evaluate the situation:

    Is the anger legitimate?

    If so, was the individual's behavior appropriate?

    These are two different questions. You should take action on both.

    First, provide constructive feedback on the way the individual expressed the anger. If the person handled the situation well, you should offer positive feedback to reinforce the behavior. If the individual handled the situation in an unacceptable or inappropriate way, you must address this matter directly. Explain your expectations for behavior in similar situations. In cases where the person needs to develop anger-management skills, direct him or her to a professional or provide coaching based on the guidelines for dealing with anger in yourself.

    Second, seek a solution to the underlying cause of the anger. Is there a legitimate issue that requires action? If the angry person has confided in you, explaining the source of the anger, then he or she assumes that you will try to address that problem. If you take no action, the person is apt to feel a sense of betrayal—which will only lead to more angry feelings and potentially unhealthy behavior. However, if you listen carefully, evaluate fully, and take concrete steps to address the source of the anger, you will help to assuage the anger. Equally important, you will be able to use the data from your investigation to seize opportunities for improvement. That's how you turn anger from a negative to a positive influence in your workplace.

    While Dealing with Anger in yourself is complex and challenging, dealing with anger in other people is a whole new can of worms. Think about how defensive you feel when confronting your own anger. Now think about how threatened you feel when someone else confronts your anger, telling you to "calm down," "lower your voice," "take a timeout," or "let it go." By recalling what it feels like when you're angry and someone tries to engage with and manage your anger, you will be in a better position to deal effectively with another person's anger.

    Dealing with one individual can be very different from dealing with another. There are several factors to keep in mind:

  • The individual's idiosyncrasies. Is the person generally approachable? Is the person anger-in or anger-out? Is the person aggressive? Does the person tend to listen? Does the person have a track record of responding well to feedback?

  • Your relationship with the individual. Do you have some kind of rapport with the person? Is the person in a position of authority over you (boss, customer)? Are you in a position of authority over the other person (subordinate, vendor)? Is the person a peer?

  • The nature of the angry expression. Has the individual over-expressed his or her anger? Under-expressed it? Very effectively and appropriately expressed it?

  • The gravity of the anger. Is the person mildly irritated, furious, or somewhere in between?

  • The underlying cause. Can the cause be addressed easily? Is the cause beyond easy remedy? Can the cause be addressed at least partially? Is the cause beyond remedy entirely?

  • Your particular style. Are you outgoing? Introverted? Direct? Indirect? Confrontational? Non-confrontational?

  • In the workplace, you interact with many people: customers, vendors, peers, subordinates, and bosses. Any of them can become angry for any number of reasons, and it is not always your responsibility to become directly involved with that anger. Sometimes it's best to avoid engagement and let the appropriate party manage the anger. You have to make that judgment for yourself case by case, based on the circumstances. However, when the angry person is a subordinate over whom you have direct supervisory authority, you are the appropriate party and must take responsibility for dealing with the situation.

    In many cases, anger emerges unpredictably from disruptions in work tasks or from the actions of others; thus if you as manager are present, you must react "in the moment" to the angry individual. It is highly important to avoid the three most common pitfalls here:

  • Ignoring the anger

  • Shutting it down through nonverbal communication that it's "not okay to express anger"

  • Attempting to shout down the angry individual and "trump" his or her anger.

  • Instead, you must acknowledge that feeling the anger and expressing it is okay, while escalating the anger and behaving aggressively is unacceptable. You can say, "Your anger is important. The issue must be addressed. Let's talk about it in an appropriate time and place." Exhibiting calmness and a willingness to engage the employee are essential in these situations.

    If the angry individual has harmed or is likely to harm others directly or indirectly, you must remove the person from the workplace at least temporarily and direct the person to professional help. In some cases, you may need to alert company security or law enforcement officials. Fortunately, situations such as this tend to be in the minority.

    Once you've grappled with your feelings, the next challenge is managing your anger by following these steps:

    1. Avoid anger.

    2. Calm yourself physically.

    3. Think logically.

    4. Express your feelings appropriately and effectively.

    5. Seek solutions to the underlying causes of your anger.

    6. Let it go.

    1. Avoid Anger
    When thinking about this important step, keep in mind the wide range of things likely to cause anger; for example, big-picture (systemic) causes, blocked goals, perceived inequity, divergent values, and unequal power relationships.

    If you lead an active life, have a busy career, and interact with many people, you cannot isolate yourself from every external irritant. You're going to sit in traffic jams, be put on hold when making business calls, and so on. Sometimes you will get less than your fair share, or your children will, or your parents will, or your friends will. You won't make every sale or meet every deadline. You will probably work with people who are less diligent than you, less competent than you, or less honest than you. You will probably have a boss, or a teacher, or a family member, or a customer who has power over you. And you will probably find yourself with power over others.

    Even if you could hide from every environmental factor likely to anger you, you still would be vulnerable to internal causes of anger. You might be mad at yourself for placing such restrictions on your life, for depriving yourself of all that the outside world has to offer. You might feel that others disapprove of your hiding. And so forth.

    Although you cannot hide from the causes of anger, you can take steps that make you less susceptible to them. If you feel happy, confident, and in control, then you are less likely to respond as strongly to anger stimuli. Try these steps:

  • Consider your environment and lifestyle.

  • Examine your outlook on life.

  • Start taking better care of yourself.

  • Consider Your Environment and Lifestyle
    Start by compiling a list of the things that make you angry; then see whether you can avoid any of them or at least make helpful adjustments.

    For another approach, take a look at your typical daily schedule and then fill in the details. Be as thorough as possible about what you usually do each hour:

    Where are you, with whom, doing what, and how?

    Then think about which aspects of your environment and lifestyle are most likely to make you feel angry.

  • Can you think of adjustments that might reduce the anger? For example:

  • If you and your spouse tend to fight at a certain time each day, perhaps you can make it a point to cross paths at a different time.

  • If your commute drives you crazy, maybe there's an alternative mode of transportation you can use or an alternative time you can travel.

  • If you hate your officemate, maybe you can move to a different workspace.

  • If you become angry when you watch the evening news, maybe you can read the newspaper instead.

  • Start Taking Better Care of Yourself
    Make sure you're getting enough sleep and exercise. Eat well, selecting healthy foods, but don't eat too much. Drink lots of water and less coffee and liquor. If you smoke or do drugs, stop. The better you feel physically, the less susceptible you will be to anger. Lack of sleep, health problems, alcohol consumption, and drug use all increase the likelihood that even small annoyances will provoke your anger. In the long run, feeling good physically will contribute to a healthier approach to anger and make harmful anger less likely.

    That said, you also need time alone to think and relax. Schedule personal time for just thinking—not watching television, reading, doing chores, or anything else.

    Finally, take care of yourself in your dealings with other people. Be assertive (not aggressive), expressing your needs and wants in straight, simple terms. That doesn't mean you need to become selfish and unreasonable. But if you keep your needs and wants to yourself and never express them, you're likely to be very disappointed very frequently. And that leads to resentment and anger. Other people cannot read your mind; so you have to speak up and make yourself understood.

    2. Calm Yourself Physically

    No matter how diligently you try to avoid anger, you will still get angry on occasion. Pay attention to the people and circumstances that tend to make you angry, and learn to recognize the early warning signs of anger:

  • Do you tense up? Clench your fists?

  • Does your heart race?

  • Do you sweat? Flush? Pale?

  • Do you breathe rapidly? Grind your teeth? Glare? Shudder? Twitch? Become speechless? Feel like yelling? Crying? Hitting?

  • When you detect those warning signs, take the first step to effective anger management by calming yourself down. How? Try one or more of these techniques:

    Physical Exercises

    Jump up and down eight times.

    Do 11 jumping jacks.

    Clench your muscles—fists, toes, legs, arms, chest, stomach, neck, face—and release them. Do this three times.

    Close your eyes and clasp your hands behind your head and count to nine.

    Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this 10 times.

    Close your eyes, cross your arms in front of you and clasp your shoulders (right shoulder with left hand, left shoulder with right hand). Hug yourself and rock from side to side five times.

    Take a five- or 10-minute walk or run.

    Mental Exercises

    Close your eyes and sing or hum to yourself.

    Recite a brief poem to yourself, or say a prayer.

    Tell yourself, "Relax, don't let this get to you." Do this 10 times.

    Count backward from 100.

    Tell yourself a joke, or think of something funny.

    Think of someone you love.

    Think of a beautiful place where you've spent important time.

    The physical exercises will help to dissipate or at least diffuse your anger, and the mental exercises will help to slow your heart rate and reverse some of the adjustments your body is making to prepare for aggression. These techniques will also give you enough distance—physical and/or temporal—to think through the situation and break it down into its component parts.

    Note that any physically purposeful interruption (exercise or exertion) and form of mental relaxation will provide similar benefits.

    3. Think Logically

    It's critical to realize that what makes us angry is not just a certain stimulus but also our interpretation of that stimulus. For this reason, once you've begun to calm yourself physically, it's time to start thinking—to review your situation before you speak or act.

    First, admit to yourself that you're angry and remind yourself that anger distorts your thinking; then get ready to do some cognitive restructuring. As you think through the situation, stay away from absolutes like "never" and "always." These are detrimental because:

  • They are usually inaccurate.

  • They make you feel overly justified in your anger.

  • They suggest that a situation cannot be changed (and thus that problems cannot be solved).

  • When expressed, they alienate people who might otherwise be willing to work toward a solution.

  • Start asking and answering these questions for yourself:

  • Who or what is making me angry?

  • Why am I angry?

  • What provoked me? When? How?

  • Is there an alternative explanation for the provoking event?

  • How would the other people involved describe the provoking event?

  • Does my self-esteem feel threatened?

  • How do I feel? Do I feel betrayed? Disapproved of? Deprived? Exploited? Frustrated? Humiliated? Manipulated? Restricted? Threatened?

  • What is my anger telling me? What data is it providing?

  • Is my anger legitimate? If so, why? And at whom or what should I be directing it?

  • How angry should I be under the circumstances?

  • What are some reasons why I should be less angry?

  • What do I want to accomplish with my anger?

  • Questions such as these help you develop a task orientation toward the anger, in place of an ego-driven focus. Again, admit to yourself that you're angry. Simply say, "I am angry at [OBJECT OF ANGER] because [REASON]." Then set your intentions to do the following:

  • Express your feelings effectively to the appropriate recipient of your anger

  • Seek solutions to the underlying cause of the anger

  • Let go of the anger

  • 4. Express Your Feelings Appropriately and Effectively
    If you want to express your feelings appropriately and effectively, you first have to know how you feel, what you think, and what you need or want. This is why it's so important to think logically before you speak or act on your anger. Angry people often jump to conclusions and react in the heat of emotion. Whether you repress anger or vent it, this approach is ineffective.

    If you've calmed your physical response to anger and logically thought through your anger, then you should know whom you're angry with and why. What is more, you should have a more balanced view of the situation and a diminished level of anger. Most important, you should know what you want to accomplish with your anger.

    What might you decide to accomplish by expressing your anger? There are a number of possibilities:

  • You might seek revenge for the hurt you feel.

  • You might try to repair hurt feelings by confiding your vulnerability to the person who hurt you. Here you hope you'll receive an apology, an admission of the other person's vulnerability, or a similar gratifying response.

  • You might remove an obstacle to effective communication by "clearing the air."

  • You might seek a specific remedy to a particular, identifiable harm.

  • You might look for ways to prevent similar anger-provoking events from occurring in the future.

  • Of course, all but the first of the above goals are productive. While the desire for revenge is a natural impulse, it is extremely counterproductive, escalating conflict, fear, defensiveness, and anger, and posing serious problems for effective resolution.

    Express your anger in the right words to the right person at the right time. Schedule a meeting soon, but not too soon, to discuss the matter with the appropriate person. Remember your goal: What do you want to accomplish? Decide what you want to say. For example, "I am angry with you because [REASON]. I think the underlying cause of my anger is [CAUSE]. What I want [or need] now is [WANT OR NEED]." Be honest. Be reasonable. Keep the message brief, straight, and simple.

    When you know what you want to say, rehearse. However, when you speak with the other person, remember that you want to have a conversation, not give a speech. Say up front, "I know we may have different points of view about this situation. I'd like to tell you how I feel, and I'd like to know how you feel. Would you like me to go first? I'll be very brief." When it's your turn to speak, you can present your case.

    Be sure to listen carefully to the other person's viewpoint. Don't get distracted; don't start preparing defensive responses; don't interrupt. Listen. Hear what the person is saying. Perhaps he or she is still upset and expressing a lot of anger. The person might even respond vengefully, seeking to hurt you because you hurt him or her. Try to listen and realize that. If the person's response begins to make you angry, try to calm down and think logically.

    As you're listening, try to identify next steps. Maintain a task orientation: You think you know the underlying cause of your anger. What is the underlying cause of the other person's anger? You know what you want or need (your goals). What does the other person need or want (what are his or her goals)? Are your goals in alignment with the person's goals, or do they clash? What is the relationship between the cause of your anger and the cause of the other person's anger?

    Bear in mind, there are cases when a person's behavior or an entire situation is unacceptable. In such a case, you must be able to describe the behavior or situation, take responsibility for your view that it is unacceptable, and describe the behavior or situation and its tangible effects. If the anger's causes are intransigent or the person's goals and yours are mutually exclusive, there may be no obvious next steps. Here the best approach is negotiation—to work together to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution involving mutual compromises.

    If you wish to use the data provided by anger to your advantage, you must go beyond resolving acute hostility. The next step is to seek solutions to the underlying causes of the anger.

    5. Seek Solutions to the Underlying Causes of Your Anger
    Remember that anger has a wide range of causes and influencing factors. Some issues can be addressed easily; others are more difficult. For example, if you're ticked off that you didn't get a free donut at work on Friday, you can come to work earlier next Friday, in plenty of time to get a donut. Or you can go buy yourself one. Or you can congratulate yourself on saving the calories. That's an easy one. More challenging would be if you were angry that you didn't get a promotion or a significant raise this year. But you can take action: build new skills, tackle important projects, do great work, and impress important decision-makers.

    Other issues are simply beyond reach. For example, if you're angry at a system that allows terrorism to occur, there may not be much you can do. Still, you can seek a solution that will help your anger by changing your response to the underlying cause.

    First, you must look closer at the underlying cause of your anger. By this point, you should be clear about who or what is making you angry and why. Ask and answer the following questions:

  • Are you angry about some large systemic factor (the weather, the economy, the culture, the government, the company)?

  • Do you perceive some inequity somewhere?

  • Are your goals being blocked somehow?

  • Are you clashing with someone over values?

  • Are you dealing with someone who has authority over you in a formal or informal hierarchy? Is the person using that authority in a way that is making you angry?

  • Are you dealing with someone who answers to you as an authority in a formal or informal hierarchy? Is the person letting you down in some way?

  • Is your self-esteem being threatened in some way? How?

  • Do you feel betrayed? Disapproved of? Deprived? Exploited? Frustrated? Humiliated? Manipulated? Restricted? Threatened?

  • Second, ask yourself: Is the underlying cause something I can change? If the answer is yes, prepare to make a plan of action. If the answer is no, prepare to make a plan of action that will help you change how you feel about the cause or at least how you respond to those feelings. In the end, you may simply have to "let it go."

    Third, make your plan of action:

  • State the cause of your anger.

  • State your objective in the form of a concrete goal with a clear deadline.

  • Schedule intermediate goals and deadlines.

  • Plan your next steps. What are you going to do about this today?

  • Monitor achievements along the way and stay on track
  • .

    Be aware that some plans of action take a long time to implement. If the undertaking is worthwhile, stick it out; but don't hold onto your anger. Draw strength from the fact that you're taking action to address the underlying cause, and channel your anger into that action. As for any residual anger, "let it go."

    Finally, upon reflection you may decide that changing the underlying cause is possible but not worth your time and energy. In which case, once again, you may simply have to "let it go."

    6. Let It Go
    You must be able to let go of your anger eventually, whether the underlying cause is (a) immediately resolved, (b) resolved over a long time, (c) impossible to resolve, or (d) simply not worth the time and energy needed to resolve it. Let go of the anger, and move on.

    Whenever You Diagnose Anger as an issue in your workplace, you must be ready to take action. This is true whether anger is an issue for you, another individual, your team, or your organization. The problem is, when we deal with anger, we tend to focus on the feelings of anger and their outward expressions. That's because they make us feel uncomfortable. Our goal thus becomes to "stop the yelling" and get people to "calm down." But, as necessary as that goal might be in some situations, it doesn't resolve the anger—it's like trying to put out a fire by chasing the smoke. Anger is an effect; for every instance of it, there is at least one cause.

    An effective anger-management strategy goes far beyond the firefighting that temporarily maintains civility. The true key to resolving anger and tapping its benefits is to focus on the source. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes of anger, you can use the data provided by the anger to continually improve relationships as well as systems, practices, and policies.

    The Causes of Anger in the Workplace
    Each episode of anger has a unique source—a particular combination of causes. What are those causes in the workplace? In academic and journalistic studies of anger, researchers often ask people what makes them angry at work. Here is a list of their typical responses:

    The way my boss/supervisor treats me

    Stupid company policies

    Coworkers who don't do their fair share

    Not enough control over assignments

    Not enough pay

    Not enough benefits

    Tight deadlines

    Too much work

    Coworkers making careless mistakes

    Dealing with rude customers

    Lack of cooperation

    Stupidity and ignorance

    How the company treats coworkers

    How the company treats me

    While people may differ in the specifics of what makes them angry, the causes usually have one common denominator: interpersonal dynamics—relationships between and among people. Every person has a basic need to value him- or herself and to feel valued by others. Yet when people's self-esteem is threatened, they're reluctant to admit it, even to themselves.

    Some leading psychologists argue that anger is driven by primary emotions that attack self-esteem; these include feelings of betrayal, disapproval, deprivation, exploitation, frustration, humiliation, manipulation, restriction, and threat. Such emotions can be traced to any of a wide range of causes, from broad contextual circumstances to highly personal impulses. We may categorize the causes into five troublesome areas:

    Anger at the system

    Perceived inequity

    Blocked goals

    Divergent values

    Unequal power relations

    1. Anger at the System

    Today many factors beyond our control create a broad context more likely to produce anger. In our highly interdependent and interconnected global economy, events halfway around the world can come knocking on our door and make us feel threatened and insecure.

    Downsizing, increased workloads, and uncertainty about the fate of markets and organizations cause worry and anger—stress all around. People are spending more time at work—where they are expected to work harder, faster, smarter, and better—and working closely with one another in small groups and teams, thus creating more settings for emotions to be exhibited and shared. Performance standards have risen, but job security is a thing of the past. The increase of dual-career families has caused added pressure; couples often have to deal with frazzling commutes and nightmarish child-care logistics, and bring their increased anxiety to work.

    In too many organizations, management accepts incivility, disrespect, and over-the-top anger. Employees are expected to take abuse as a hurdle to organizational success. Meanwhile, norms of civility and politeness in society as a whole continue to erode. Television offers a vision of immediate gratification, in which problems are easily solved by the show's end. Employees nurtured on these messages are not ready for the frustration of real life, where nothing may be solved by the day's end—or even the week's end.

    Many of us work in organizations that are so large, so bureaucratized, and so departmentalized, we find it difficult to identify the cause of our anger. This may deepen our anger because it makes us feel out of control. Anger, by its very nature, is a feeling directed at a proximate cause—we want to aim anger at something or someone in particular. When large organizational systems with complex rules and procedures obscure our "target," we may grow angry at the system itself.

    Systemic problems are by nature difficult to fix. But anger at the system is a signal that everything is not okay, at least not for everybody. It is important to be aware of this context when looking for more acute causal factors.

    2. Perceived Inequity
    As individuals, we have a strong tendency to compare ourselves to others. If we find that by some measure we are doing better than they are (perhaps we make more money or have a better job), we usually feel good; if we find that we are not doing as well, we usually feel bad. But this kind of personal difference is not the same thing as inequity. Inequity is a lack of fairness and justice. When we become aware of differences that seem unfair or unjust—especially when they have to do with issues we find important—we can experience strong feelings of resentment and anger.

    In the workplace, we tend to look at what other people get (monetary reward, praise, and promotion) in relation to what they contribute (how hard they work, how smart they are). We also tend to work out in our heads what we get in relation to what we give. If it looks like another person is getting a better "deal" based on these equations, then we tend to get angry.

    It is critical for managers to recognize employees' feelings of inequity. One of the most common reasons for employee violence and theft is not personal gain, but the desire to regain a sense of justice and fair play. For instance, after company mergers and acquisitions, employee theft tends to increase. Why? Because people feel that their job security is threatened. They're stressed about the organizational change and fearful about how they'll fit into the new regime. They feel they're likely to get lost in the shuffle and to suffer for reasons over which they have no control or even influence. In short, they engage in such behavior because they want to "balance the situation."

    People who seek to "avenge" perceived wrongs done to them by the organization see themselves as having a moral cause; that's what makes the depth of anger (and the negative behaviors it can cause) seem so extreme. The cause may actually be a long-term set of perceived inequities and injustices that a person groups together.

    When perceived inequity is driving anger, the first question we must ask is whether there is true inequity that must be resolved. Sometimes the perception of inequity stems from a lack of information. One might think: "Mary gets Thursdays off, and I don't. That's not fair." Just adding a piece of information can change the perception: "Mary works on Saturdays, and you don't. So she gets Thursdays off to make up for it." This is one reason why some transparency is preferable to secrecy in employer-employee dealings. Every deal is different and negotiated on its own terms with its own rationale. Such terms are less likely to be perceived as unfair if the rationale for the deal is transparent and expectations are clear.

    3. Blocked Goals
    All purposeful action involves the pursuit of goals. Our most basic human goals have to do with survival: protecting ourselves and our territory. But goals range in scope from great to small, whether the goal is mastering a technical skill or walking from your kitchen table to the living-room couch. We go about living by accomplishing one goal after another, from the most basic to the most extravagant. That's why most people become extremely frustrated when the pursuit of their goals is blocked in some way. The most common source of blocked goals is another person or group in pursuit of different goals.

    In the workplace, goal-setting is at its most formal and the accomplishment of goals is explicitly and singularly valued. When two or more individuals or groups work together but have different goals, sometimes those goals come into conflict. In some cases, there is a clash in overall objectives, though usually the overall objectives are the same for everyone—profit. Problems more typically develop from a difference in shorter-term imperatives. For example, a sales group promises more than a service group can deliver, meaning that customers are always making inordinate demands, causing overwork and stress; the service group disappoints customers and interferes with subsequent sales efforts.

    Similar goal clashes also may occur between and among individuals. Perhaps a manager's goal is to increase productivity, but his subordinate's goal is to slow down and enjoy the work. Or maybe a team member's goal is to get all the work done quickly and go home early, while her teammate's goal is to take a long time to complete a project so the team can collect overtime pay.

    Of course, it is not the case that differing goals must always clash. Communication about alternative methods or even alternative goals can lead to healthy coexistence and even synergy. This requires trust and a likelihood of benefit to both parties.

    When differing goals are mutually exclusive, decisions must be made. Which goal is more important? What adjustments can be made to the goals that are secondary to the more important goal?

    Keep in mind that sometimes goals are blocked by circumstances that have nothing to do with competing goals. Even a factor as neutral as the weather can present an obstacle. The blockage is no less frustrating, though, and causes no less anger. By thinking creatively about what is causing the goal blockage, you may be able to circumvent the angry response. By removing the barriers—if doing so is realistic and appropriate—you can often turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one. If you cannot remove the barriers, then you must be prepared to deal with the frustration and anger that the blocked goals are likely to cause.

    4. DivergentValues

    When others behave in ways that we find abhorrent, we usually become angry—such behavior seems an affront to our values. In general, people vary in what they regard as abhorrent. But in the workplace, most people value competence, hard work, and integrity, and so are likely to get angry when they perceive a disregard or violation of these values.

    Incompetence or laziness in a coworker, subordinate, or superior offends our sense of efficiency and hinders work-group productivity. It also may have long-term effects with respect to damaged client relationships or high monetary cost. Behavior that is considered morally reprehensible—such as stealing, cheating, taking advantage of others, and harassing people—is particularly noxious because it may involve direct damage to others.

    It is important to understand that this type of anger is based on blame and the perception of intent. The angry person blames the offender for a misdeed of some type because he or she thinks the offender intended to cause harm. Managers must be prepared to consider intent without playing judge and jury.

    No matter how infuriating incompetence may be, nobody intends to be incompetent. When a person acts incompetent in order to evade responsibility, the problem is a combination of laziness and dishonesty. Incompetence per se results from failures in selection, training, and/or supervision; thus when we are faced with true incompetence, the appropriate target of anger is management, not the incompetent worker.

    In the case of laziness and failure of integrity, the appropriate target of anger is equally clear. The reaction should be swift and the offender evaluated. Does the offender understand that he or she has engaged in behavior that is unacceptable in the workplace? Does this person understand that the behavior will not be tolerated? Will he or she be given another chance?

    In terms of assigning blame, we also need to remember an important finding from psychological research: that people have a tendency to blame people rather than circumstances when a problem crops up. For example, if a team is about to give a major presentation and a member has lost data vital to that presentation, most people will blame the member, at least initially, rather than factors beyond the member's control. Their first thought is that the member is incompetent, lazy, or dishonest, not that something like a computer glitch or a virus is the actual culprit. Why do people do this? Because it's easier to be angry at a person than at a situation.

    Considering this natural tendency to look for blameworthy intent, we must be careful to check the facts when we believe a person is at fault or intended negative consequences. Good people make unintentional mistakes, and good people are the victims of factors beyond their control.

    5. Unequal Power Relations
    Organizations are structured on hierarchical relationships, and such relationships, by their very nature, generate fear and anger—the less powerful fearing the more powerful, with anger flowing in both directions. Typically, the less powerful figure is angry that the more powerful figure holds the key to his or her fear. And the more powerful figure is angered whenever that power is questioned or threatened because it confers a feeling of control and security in the relationship.

    Anger may flow both ways, but it is more apt to be expressed in the downward flow. For example, according to one study, in situations where employees were angry with their bosses, only 45 percent expressed their feelings immediately, during the anger-eliciting event; however, 58 percent expressed their anger immediately toward coworkers, and 71 percent when anger was directed at subordinates.

    Why does anger's expression tend to flow downward in organizations? First, those with hierarchical power feel the need to display and test their power periodically. Second, they become accustomed to the fruits of their power and insensitive to its impact on subordinates.

    For subordinates, of course, that power and its impact are considerable. Just think. The more powerful make demands on their subordinates' time, impose goals and deadlines, evaluate competence and performance, and determine people's chances of promotion and success. Unfortunately, too often they also treat subordinates with disrespect, freely castigating them or otherwise lowering their self-esteem.

    In any relationship, disrespect—treating others in a way that denies their fundamental worth—is likely to cause anger. When directed at someone who already feels powerless or dependent, it creates potent feelings of anger and a sense of unfairness. That's why studies show that people who are angry with their bosses link the offense to unfairness—an issue not as significant when anger is directed at coworkers or subordinates.

    Because those in authority represent the "system" and have far-ranging responsibilities—from making decisions about burdens and rewards to enforcing standards of performance and conduct—they are not only the most likely to express anger in the workplace, but also the most likely to provoke anger in subordinates.

    You should also be aware of three syndromes that commonly occur in organizations:

  • Cascading anger

  • The angry star

  • The culture of undue politeness

  • I. Cascading Anger
    The over-expression of anger can have significant negative effects when directed downward from superiors to subordinates. Higher-powered individuals who, under little threat of retaliation, use their positions in this way set off a cascade of negative anger expression throughout the organization. Once it's perceived as acceptable for CEOs to yell at their secretaries, then senior vice-presidents begin yelling at their subordinates, group vice-presidents begin yelling at their subordinates, and so on, down the line.

    People who are on the receiving end of this anger, being unable to vent their anger at its true target, will release it in other ways, usually by venting at someone less powerful than they are. They also may release it by lowering their commitment to the organization or by engaging in low-level sabotage or pilfering. Sometimes they repress the anger until they get home, where it becomes directed at their spouse and kids. Unchecked, this cascading anger from the top of the organizational hierarchy can have severe consequences for the whole organization.

    2. The Angry Star
    In this syndrome, the organization allows certain high-performing individuals to direct anger in unchecked ways at those around them. Such "favoritism" is more apt to develop in companies where each employee's financial performance is measurable, as in investment banks and law firms. Managers may tolerate individuals who generate high revenues for the firm but make life miserable for coworkers and subordinates—those on the receiving end of anger.

    This is a particularly difficult pattern to break, as the goal of bottom-line profits suggests retaining these individuals at all cost, despite their negative effects on others. There is a problem with this limited view of profit, though: It rarely takes into account the possible long-term hits to profit brought about by unchecked anger.

    3. The Culture of Undue Politeness
    On the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that do not tolerate any expressions of anger, or any negative emotions at all, in the professed desire to encourage civility and politeness. Although these organizations may gain cohesiveness from pleasant interchanges and interpersonal respect, they are likely to lose vital information in the process. By forcing people to repress anger, they also may prompt indirect and passive expressions of anger, set off health problems, and cause diminished commitment and performance. Moreover, they lose the benefits of effectively managed anger. Of course, civility should always be encouraged in the workplace; but people must also be allowed to express anger in safe and productive ways.

    For help with diagnosing anger, see the signs and symptoms inventory below

    Are any of the following signs or symptoms present in your organization, your team, or anyone you know in your workplace?

  • Homicide:

  • Assault:

  • Sexual assault:

  • Dirty looks:

  • Obscene gestures:

  • Intentional work slowdowns:

  • Refusing to provide needed resources:

  • Leaving area when someone enters:

  • Threats:

  • Yelling:

  • Insults and screams:

  • Flaunting status:

  • Unfair performance evaluation:

  • Failing to return phone calls:

  • Giving someone the silent treatment:

  • Refusing someone's request:

  • Damning with faint praise:

  • Theft:

  • Sabotage:

  • Defacing property:

  • Consuming needed resources:

  • Showing up late for meetings:

  • Delaying work to make someone look bad:

  • Failing to protect someone's welfare:

  • Spreading rumors:

  • Whistle-blowing:

  • Belittling opinions:

  • Attacking protégé:

  • Transmitting damaging information:

  • Failing to transmit information:

  • Failing to deny false rumors:

  • Failing to warn of impending dangers:

  • Failing to defend someone:
  • The most dreaded impacts of anger are those that come from aggression. Aggression can be physical or verbal; active or passive; direct or indirect. The matrix below organizes the various forms of workplace aggression within these categories.

    When you identify such acts of aggression, it is safe to say that you have diagnosed an expression of anger. Active and direct forms of aggression are the easiest signs and symptoms to identify, while passive and indirect forms are the most difficult. It is a mixed blessing that passive and indirect forms are by far the most common. They are less noticeable and less damaging in the short term, but for these reasons they can continue without remedy for significant periods of time. This can result in considerable damage to interpersonal relationships and team performance as well as the organization as a whole.

    Be aware of anger's more subtle and insidious signs and symptoms so you can deal with them before they turn into the more dangerous acts of direct and active aggression.

    How do you know if anger is an issue in your workplace? Is there a way to find out if it is a cause of problems in you, another individual, your team, or your organization? Fortunately, because anger has distinct indications, it lends itself to diagnosis: the technique of identifying a condition from its signs and symptoms. To some extent, we're all familiar with medical diagnosis and its role in identifying diseases and other ailments. Those who are highly familiar with it, such as doctors and medical technicians, will tell you that diagnosis is as much an art as it is a science. Mastering any art requires practice, and to practice, you need guidelines. In the case of anger, what signs and symptoms should you be looking for?

    Like medical diagnosis, anger diagnosis is complicated because its signs and symptoms vary considerably. Depending upon the gravity of the anger, the context in which the anger occurs, and the idiosyncrasies of each "patient," anger may be repressed or expressed; and if it is expressed, it may be expressed directly or indirectly.

    The Over- and Under-Expression of Anger
    Again, in thinking about anger and the problems that it causes in the workplace, we tend to focus on people who over-express their anger by behaving aggressively. However, as mentioned earlier, people who under-express anger pose an equally important problem. In some cases, such people are not even aware of their anger. In other cases, they feel anger but express it in subtle ways. Perhaps they don't want to seem out of control or they've been taught that shows of anger are bad and can only make a situation worse. Perhaps they work someplace where anger is tacitly forbidden, where people who express anger are shut down by others, especially in a work-group situation. Or maybe they're what psychologists refer to as "anger-in" types.

    Researchers have long made a distinction between anger-out types and anger-in types. Anger-out types tend to experience intensely angry feelings and over-express those feelings in hostile behavior, such as door slamming, yelling, and throwing things. Anger-in types tend to under-express their anger. They suppress their feelings of anger and direct those feelings inward, harboring secret grudges.

    It was once thought that venting anger, as anger-out types do, was healthier than repressing it, as anger-in types do. The release of anger supposedly relieved the stress of anger. Today, though, research findings indicate that intense feelings of anger, whether expressed outwardly or held in, can have serious long-term health effects on the individual. However, anger-out types are less apt to suffer the short-term health effects of repressed anger.

    The repressed feelings of anger-in types may manifest themselves in headaches, stomach pain, skin disorders, breathing difficulties, back pain, and depression. It is critical to note, though, that people often suffer from these symptoms for reasons entirely unrelated to anger, so they alone do not afford a sufficient base for a diagnosis of anger. (In general, it's not a good idea for laypersons to attempt to connect physical illness to emotional sources.)

    Of course, anger-out types display far more symptoms as they're more likely to behave in obviously aggressive ways when angry. Aggression is an action response intended to inflict pain or discomfort on others.