A professor of Temple University Fox School of Business has challenged the traditional view of workplace anger, suggesting that even intense emotional outbursts can prove beneficial if responded to with compassion.
Deanna Geddes, chair of the Fox School's Human Resource Management Department, argued that more supportive responses by managers and co-workers after displays of deviant anger can promote positive change at work, while punishing or doing nothing does not.
"The trouble with sanctions: Organizational responses to deviant anger displays at work," co-authored with University of Baltimore's Lisa T. Stickney, stated that "when companies choose to sanction organizational members expressing deviant anger, these actions may divert attention and resources from correcting the initial, anger-provoking event that triggered the employee's emotional outburst."
Managers who recognize their potential role in angering an employee "may be motivated to respond more compassionately to help restore a favorable working relationship," said researchers.
If management shows "an active interest in addressing underlying issues that prompted employee anger, perceptions of improved situations increase significantly," added researchers.
"Business codes of conduct are often about what we shouldn't do as an angry employee in emotional episodes, while few, if any, tend to address our role as observers of emotional episodes," according to the article.
"Such guidelines, if available, could expand to include positive suggestions for those who witness, judge and respond to angry employees - formally or informally."
"Some of the most transformational conversations come about through expressed anger," added Geddes.
The study has been published in the journal Human Relations.