A pattern of anger in the workplace is about as damaging to a healthy culture as anything we can think of. 

Of course, there are sometimes policies and blunders and stupidities that would anger any reasonable person, but in those cases it’s the policies and blunders and stupidities that are hurting the culture, and the anger is simply a side-effect.

But now consider an anger that is itself the problem.  Consider the possibility of someone in power exhibiting anger because that person believes that anger can be a tool. 

But a tool of what you might ask.  Chances are your experience has already suggested one likely answer.  There is no question that an angry boss can raise the stress level for any direct report.  The short-term effect of raised stress is increased attention.  If your boss yells at you, you are going to be suddenly very much in the moment.  If that’s what the boss wants, the anger has served its purpose. 

The unspoken rule such a boss is following is:

Self-righteous anger is a good way to convey urgency.

A powerful person’s anger will get your attention for a while.  It may make you scurry out of the room, seemingly about to get cracking on whatever it is that person really wants you to get cracking on.  But the long-term effect is quite the opposite: it just makes you want to thwart anyone inclined to act like such a bully.

Remember this yourself if ever you’re about to explode in anger at a subordinate.  It may work to good effect once, but not twice.  It does you no good in the long term, and it harms the culture for everyone else.

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