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Anger in the Workplace

by on June 4, 2013

Comedy Central’s Steven Colbert is famous, in part, for his ability to craft words for specific needs (http://www.colbertnation.com/video/tags/The+Word). While my abilities with the English language are not on the same level as his, I would like to present some fictitious words that can help library staff deal with anger in the workplace.

Insta-anger. One of the more dangerous expressions of anger faced by library employees is insta-anger. Insta-anger is anger that instantaneously comes from an unexpected source. While insta-anger might be expressed by anyone, it is especially potent when it is expressed by one who has been supportive up to the point of insta-anger. Employees may face awkward situations when those with insta-anger are given unequal support in an argument (i.e., “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”). In these events, employees may not be given an opportunity to express their side of the story if the insta-anger intimidates administrators. Similarly, when ista-anger is expressed by a colleague that has been a friend, it can be harmful to an employee’s sense of professional fulfillment. Insufficient as it may be in healing the emotional pain brought on by insta-anger, employees can prepare themselves by accepting the reality of insta-anger and, when possible, anticipating insta-anger events. This can be accomplished, in part, by practicing good interpersonal skills (i.e., effective communication, setting a proper example, etc.). Furthermore, keeping meticulous records can help if one is given an opportunity to defend their decisions. While it can be difficult in the moment, the employee should be willing to offer a genuine apology for any mistakes (s)he has made.

Enemanger. If there is a type of anger that could imaginably be invented in the topsy-turvy worlds of Alice in Wonderland or The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it is Enemanger. Enemanger is when two or more people who formerly were enemies, join forces in the expression of their anger. One of the more universally known cases of enemanger is with the Biblical account of Judas betraying Jesus. In this case, Judas and the scribes and priests, who had previously been enemies, join forces to betray Jesus. It is the enigmatic nature of enemanger that makes it particularly dangerous. Imagine two subordinates who may have a long lasting feud. To the employee, it seems as if these two would never get along or work together productively. But, alas, if it is to their advantage to join forces in their attack of the employee, it is possible that they will. As with insta-anger, enemanger can be addressed if employees keep meticulous records of events, memorandums, and personnel decisions. Pointing out the irony of the situation to the parties involved should be handled with utmost care, if done at all.

StrAnger. Of the three types of anger presented in this article, strAnger can be the most difficult to confront. Also known as rumors and innuendoes, strAnger occurs when someone strikes out in anger by spreading rumors or making character assassinations. This type of anger is labeled so because of the inherent quality it has in turning an employee’s reputation into something it is not, thus, making it unrecognizable to the one suffering harm. StrAnger can be expressed publically or covertly. Consequently, employees may have opportunity to address the character assassination in the moment or they may only witness symptoms of the rumor without knowing its source or of its existence. StrAnger can be dealt with by confronting the source of the rumor. Maintaining a calm demeanor can make efforts to the end more fruitful. Perhaps the best defense to this type of anger is a strong positive self-esteem that is based on one’s intrinsic value as a person.

Episodes of irrational anger tempt me to think that sometimes I exist in a topsy-turvy, upside down world. I try to remind myself that irrational expressions of anger can present opportunities for library workers to grow personally and professionally. In doing so, I am reminded that, while potent, irrational anger is not the most powerful force in a workplace.