Workplace Anger: How to Manage Negative Emotions

Employed Canadians spend an average of 22 percent of every week at work, which translates to 36.6 hours per week. With that much time spent in one place with the same group of people, situations are bound to come up that stir up anger and negative emotions. Between disagreements among coworkers, displeasure with supervisory handling of situations, and frustration with customers, negative emotion can quickly become a problem that spins out of control without proper management techniques in place.

Stress Management Strategies

If you are facing situations that cause stress on a regular basis at work, you may be feeling the effects of physical harm that comes along with these emotions. High blood pressure, depression, chronic anxiety, and heart disease all have direct links to stressful situations. When you feel your heart starting to race due to anger or frustration, take a moment to walk away and cool down before facing the problem. Slowly count to ten while focusing on regulating your breathing. After you have calmed down, you can typically handle a problem coworker or situation in a more professional way.

Assess the Reason for Anger

Most negative emotions at the workplace come from unfulfilled promises, criticism from a supervisor, and information about financial compensation. As a supervisor, steer clear of promising promotions or raises. One of the biggest problems that employees face is feeling that they were misled by their superiors. Never talk about compensation in front of or within earshot of other employees, because finding out that a coworker makes more money can lead to high levels of anger. Be sure to talk to staff members in private about ways in which their work needs to improve. When you know the common causes for angry reactions and avoid situations where they could come up, you can minimize the risk of negative emotions.


Managers and supervisors often must be the bearers of bad news, and there aren't a lot of ways around that. Whether you are denying a request for time off or warning an employee, try to handle it in a transparent way that will lessen the risk of emotional eruption. Give clear reasons as to why you made the decision you did, and try to not to pass the blame to a higher-up or member of another department as this undermines the team. When your employee understands why, he or she might still feel disappointed but typically won't be as angry.

Respond with Compassion

Even when situations are handled appropriately, staff members still may become angry. Try to focus on the positive and offer compassion in these situations. The employee might be dealing with a difficult personal situation that is causing emotions to run high. A study recently showed that when managers gave support, the tension in the office subsided to achieve better outcomes.

Employees and managers will face situations at work that cause anger and frustration, but learning how to handle these emotions will provide a better workplace for all staff. The goal of a supervisor shouldn't be to eliminate conflict, but to learn healthy outlets and better management of stress.