Anger Management + Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Updated: Apr 4

When you hear “anger management” you probably have a specific idea of the kind of person that would need it in your mind. Maybe it is a co-worker that you have had in the past or a friend who seems to get hot-headed over the smallest issues. When we talk about anger management in the workplace specifically, we tend to look anywhere but inward. As Linda Wasmer Andrews highlights in the article When It’s Time for Anger Management, most people attend anger management workshops with someone else in mind and are rarely seeking help for themselves.

As Chet Taranowski, employee assistance program coordinator for Aon Services, states in the article, “People who have anger problems don’t necessarily recognize it themselves.”

In discussing anger management as it relates to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, we must first establish the fact that anger management is something that can be useful for any employee. Anger management can be a valuable tool in assisting a team of employees of varied cultural backgrounds to face workplace conflicts in a more respectful way. After all, a diverse workplace will be filled with employees that come from varied cultural backgrounds where displays of anger may be represented differently. This can be a cause for some concern when there are stark differences between how one employee handles displaying anger as opposed to another.

It’s a simple fact: when we talk about diversity and inclusion training in the workplace, we also have to discuss anger management. At the end of the day, an ideal workplace environment is one where all employees can feel comfortable expressing their concerns and handling conflicts in a reasonable, respectful way. While this should be simple, in theory, it is often a little more complicated than that. Today we will be discussing anger management as it relates to diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace.

The Need for Anger Management Training

To truly understand the need for anger management training as part of a diversity and inclusion program, we must first look to the past. One of the most notable periods where anger management training became a much-needed component of diversity and inclusion programs was post 9/11.

At this time, members of the Sikh community suffered a reported increase of workplace discrimination and violence against workers. In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, there was a reported 12 percent increase in workplace discrimination against Sikh employees. Although not all workplace-related, there were also a reported 300 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikh Americans throughout the United States during this period.

Although tragic, this increase in reports of workplace violence and discrimination against members of the Muslim community highlighted a desperate need for diversity and inclusion training in the United States workplace. Anger tends to be a direct result of fear and the post-9/11 workplace was (and continues to be) a hotbed for this kind of injustice. In an effort to accept the cultural differences that make a diverse workplace great, anger management, among many other forms of diversity and inclusion practices, must be implemented and held as a top priority.

The need for anger management training as part of a diversity and inclusion program can be further observed by the way workplace anger can manifest. Unfortunately, it isn’t at all uncommon for employees and supervisors to display frustration differently depending on the employee the frustration is against. Often times, workers and supervisors alike will perceive a member of their team as less efficient and this is all too common in relation to certain racial or cultural biases and stereotypes.

In order to counteract this unfairness, an anger management program must be centered around recognizing such biases in every employee. Effective anger management training programs will seek to inspire employees to look inward and find what may trigger their anger against other employees. This is the first step in understanding how to deal with anger and frustration in a professional and respectful manner, further strengthening a diverse workplace environment.

Objectives of an Effective Anger Management Program

So, what does an effective anger management training look like in implementation with a diversity and inclusion program? There are a few major components of recognizing and dealing with workplace anger and conflict that an anger management training program should address. Let’s explore those more in-depth.

Recognizing Triggers

The first step in practicing effective anger management is to first recognize what triggers an anger response. According to the Anger Management Training Institute, up to 42 percent of employee time is spent either engaging in or trying to resolve workplace conflicts. This is a huge chunk of time taken away from employees practicing job tasks and responsibilities during any given workday. Much of this valuable time could be taken back if employees only recognized what triggered an angry response in them before reacting.

As it relates to diversity and inclusion, some of the most common triggers for an anger response can include frustration stemming from misunderstanding, lack of productive communication, and certain unrealized biases held by employees. An effective anger management training program will seek to highlight these triggers and help employees understand the importance of recognizing them before reacting in an unprofessional way.

Stress Management

Stress is present in any workplace and, unfortunately, high amounts of stress can be a trigger for anger in the workplace. While much of workplace stress can be self-imposed, a perceived lack of effort from other employees and/or workplace misunderstandings can add to it. When stress is heightened, anger is almost sure to ensue. An effective anger management training program will also highlight the importance of managing stress.

Practicing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a concept popularized by psychologist Daniel Goleman and is based around practicing emotional control. Emotional intelligence is defined by Goleman as “the capacity of recognizing our own emotions and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”. As discussed, much of the conflict that arises in workplace environments is caused by a lack of recognizing a need for anger management practices within ourselves.

Empathy and social awareness are two of the biggest components that Goleman cites as skills that can be learned to heighten our overall emotional intelligence. Considering the fact that one of the primary goals of a diversity and inclusion program is to encourage empathy and awareness of social differences across varied races and cultures, practicing emotional intelligence is a key component of an effective anger management training program.

Practicing Assertive Communication

Ineffective communication is one of the biggest reasons for workplace conflict. Communication problems can cause workplace conflicts to arise and ultimately affect workplace performance and concentration. Anger management programs that highlight the importance of assertive communication practices will do well to strengthen the overall diversity and inclusion standards in any workplace environment.

Assertive communication includes using “I” statements rather than “you” statements as this is a much more productive way to communicate feelings to coworkers. “You” statements tend to come across overly confrontational and accusatory while “I” statements work to communicate your feelings in situations of conflict. Assertive communication is based around a sharing of feelings and listening to responses and conflicting views in order to reach a solution that benefits the greatest amount of people.

Acceptance

Sometimes the best way to resolve conflict within a workplace, whether over an issue of diversity and inclusion or otherwise, is to simply accept. Accepting a difference of opinion and recognizing cultural differences in others is the base of any diversity and inclusion program and this extends to anger management training. When conflicts arise due to a lack of understanding, this should be acknowledged. Sometimes conflicts can’t be fully resolved and accepting a difference in opinion is the best way to come to a solution. Setting aside differences and accepting where possible can work to maintain a level of productivity and receptiveness within the workplace.

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