Do you ever find yourself justifying your anger or actually believing that angry outbursts serve a useful purpose? Do you ever believe that anger is what makes you special?
If you have ever thought that being angry is good thing…think again!
Leading Your Life
Anger should not be allowed to lead you through life.
Once while conducting a performance review, I had the opportunity to have a discussion with an employee about the attitude she displayed with other employee in her workplace.
The general observations from others about this person were that she was miserable, unpleasant and downright mean. She was quite aware of her reputation and was completely unrepentant about it. She actually seemed to take comfort in the fact that she was able to make her mark in life by repelling other people.
Just as some people take comfort in their own despair, some wallow in their own repugnance to others.
This lady did not smile, did not frown, did not laugh; did not cry…she seemed in fact to be completely devoid of any and all emotion. Most of her responses to my questions were comprised of one-word answers, shoulder shrugs and grunts.
The more I spoke to her, the more unresponsive she became.
Finally, I felt compelled to tell her that I was concerned about her attitude toward me. At that point, she bragged that most people don’t like her attitude and that she had recently enrolled in an anger-management course because of “other issues.”
I asked if anger was a big part of her life and she responded in the affirmative.
At that point I noticed, for the first time, a small curl of a smile at the corners of her lips. That prompted me to ask her if she enjoyed being angry. She quickly responded, with a full-toothed smile, “Yup, I sure do!”
Through further discussion, I learned that this person had lived a very difficult life which included abusive parents, a history of drug and alcohol abuse, and a nasty divorce. It became clear to me that the events of her childhood had left her with a very negative view of the world and a need to escape it through potentially harmful behaviour.
Her past also led her to uncontrollable bouts of rage and anti-social behaviour. Because she was unable to overcome her personal issues, her life was a mess and her future was extremely bleak. Despite the fact that she was clearly spiraling into oblivion, she refused to accept that she needed to change. I have lost touch with her over the years, but I fear the worst.
This lady’s story is much more extreme than most, but many people suffer from the inability to control their emotions.
Some of those people carry around a well-concealed virtual hand grenade filled with explosive rage. For much of the time the grenade is hidden, but often it is just waiting for the pin to be pulled so that it can explode and splatter hot, angry, emotional shrapnel all over anyone unfortunate enough to be in its path of destruction.
Anger is not only wasted energy…it is a powerful, harmful force that has the capacity to destroy lives and end careers.
Psychological science has identified a condition known as “Borderline Personality Disorder” which is known to bring on the symptoms of uncontrollable rage that I have describe here. Theorists and psychologists agree that this disorder is often a result of disturbing traumatic events from an individual’s childhood.
Sometimes the person is not even aware of, or cannot remember the event or events that may be causing their distress. Instead, they will often inflict their rage on others, all-the-while justifying it as something positive and a personality trait that other people should simply accept or become accustomed to.
What they seem not to understand is that their behaviour is unacceptable in a civilized society and that they are systematically driving people away.
Even people who are not the direct object of their rage will avoid any sort of meaningful relationship with them out of fear and revulsion.
I have known a few angry bosses over the years, but until recently I simply chalked it up to an old-fashioned command and control style of leadership. I now believe that some of the rage I witnessed in those leaders was a result of an undiagnosed psychological or emotional condition.
Those leaders were able to hide their conditions behind their positions because unpleasant, angry bosses like Ebenezer Scrooge and Lou Grant were the stuff of popular culture and entertainment. During that era, we all knew that to be a leader, you had to be tough; and to be tough, you had to express anger.
Modern society now agrees that anger towards others is neither normal nor acceptable regardless of one’s position in life.
Psychologists have found that professional “talk-therapy” or coaching can provide extremely good results and a lessening, or complete elimination of inexplicable, long-term, rage events.
Of course, that will only work if the individual inflicted with the problem is able to admit to himself or herself that his or her behaviour is unacceptable.
They must also be willing to look in the mirror and tell the person looking back that a change is absolutely essential.
Acknowledgement of the problem is often much more difficult to endure than the eventual therapy.
If you have feelings of anger that cause fear or discomfort in others, do something about it. Admit that you have a problem and take steps to deal with it. You owe it to yourself to allow tranquility and contentment to overrule the exasperation, rage and despair in your life.
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Filed under: Leadership Lessons Learned, Leading & Developing Other Leaders, Life Balance, Organizational Health | Tagged: emotional intelligence, leadership, Management, Stress Management | 4 Comments »