Controlling Anger in the Workplace

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I shouldn't have sent the email. Nevertheless, I was convinced of my complaint's legitimacy, and my anger and indignation demanded immediate action.

My colleague's latest failure had gone too far, sending the rest of the staff scrambling to compensate. I was determined to make this the last time that happened.

Dashing off my list of grievances, I highlighted this person's failings in great detail, his impact on others, and the extent of my anger. Our boss promptly forwarded my email to the colleague in question—then things exploded.

While I could blame my boss, I have since reflected on my course of action. After retracing my steps, I have drawn a few conclusions about handling anger in the workplace.

Anger Is the Larger Problem

No matter how right our perspective may seem, we cannot allow anger to dictate our actions. Anger is a poor leader that skews details, misses nuances, and generally results from a fixation on self.

My pastor once contrasted humility and meekness with anger. “Anger,” he said, “is rooted in the demand for a right.” Anger crops up when we expect something better and refuse to allow ourselves to be mistreated. It is this festering pride and selfishness under the radar that can destroy us and our relationships.

Anger tells us we'll reach success when we have our way. By way of contrast, Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth.

Give the Benefit of a Doubt

When our anger burns, we need to stop and consider the challenges facing others around us. Taking into account the other's perspective can diffuse tension by breaking the introspective stranglehold of anger.

When I have tried to do this, I often discover some very real reasons for people's actions. However, even if there's no reason for exoneration, reflection enables me to treat others as I would have them treat me, while also preparing me for the final response to anger.

Pray for the Offending Party

If Jesus wants his followers to pray for their persecutors and to meet cursing with blessing, then praying for a negligent or incompetent colleague should be a cinch. Ruining our project or injecting chaos into our day, these are small potatoes compared to real persecution—and so we pray.

My wise wife once said that it's hard to stay angry at someone after you've prayed for him or her. Prayer is our ultimate deliverance from the pride and selfishness behind anger, and hopefully the offending party will be blessed in the process.

Backing Down

Two months and a new job after the email incident, another colleague dropped the ball on a major project. However, after considering the unraveling that occurred last time, I decided to step back, to keep my mouth shut, and to pray for him.

I'm not sure if I made the best business decision, but I feel a lot of peace about it. I hope he feels blessed too.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • What situations stir up anger in your own life?
  • Are there angles to these situations you have not yet considered?
  • How may prayer diffuse anger and benefit others in your own experiences?
  • For more inspiration, read Al Hsu's Bible reflection A Long Nose for Anger or Ed Cyzewski's article Career Changes: From Fear to Faith.

Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life. He blogs on theology at

Note: photograph, "anger management?" by Amadika, used with permission.