Small Business

Jerry Osteryoung: Managers must avoid anger at all costs

Jerry Osteryoung
Jerry Osteryoung

As a manager, you must use all of your emotions when managing your staff. For example, when you use humor or empathy, you communicate so much important information about how you are feeling, and staff members like to be able to read their managers. It allows them to feel as though they understand you and can, in turn, forecast your reactions and behaviors, giving them confidence.

Think of emotions as windows that allow employees to see things about the manager that cannot always be seen in the words they use. Too often, managers use words that sound great but are not honest, and many employees see right through them. Managers who do this are not fooling anyone.

A classic example is when a manager tells an employee who is being let go how much they have appreciated his or her efforts over the years. Of course this is disingenuous. The words do not align with the emotions the manager is communicating, and the employee can see right through them.

Emotions are an important part of communication, but there is one that managers must avoid showing at all costs – anger. Even when directed at someone or something else, anger scares people.

It is important to understand that I am not saying managers should not get angry. Anger is a natural emotion everyone feels. The key is learning how to deal with anger in an appropriate way. Effective leaders don’t express anger to those they manage.

The first step in learning how to deal with anger is to realize that emotions do not last forever. They have a beginning and an end. Usually something triggers the anger, which commingles with an element of your history that causes it to intensify.

For example, imagine you have an employee who comes in late on a regular basis, and maybe your parents used to get angry with you for being late to functions. These experiences combined might cause you to get angry over what is a relatively trivial matter.

The next thing you need to do is be able to recognize the emotion. There is usually little you can do to stop angry feelings from arising, but you can learn how to alleviate them. You need to be able to recognize anger when it is starting so you can deal with it before it gets to the point you cannot concentrate on anything else.

One good way to deal with anger is to step away. Remove yourself from the situation and give yourself time so you do not say the wrong thing or act inappropriately. When I feel that I am getting angry, I go to a quiet place where I remind myself that it will end and allow myself to process the feeling. Once the anger is abated, I can go back and deal with the problem. That is difficult to do if I am still upset.

Another way to deal with anger is to find an appropriate outlet for it. Several managers I have worked with have told me when anger rears its ugly head, they excuse themselves from the situation and go out and find a way to fully feel it.

Similarly, when I was working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. and having problems with my dissertation committee, I would go to the YMCA and run around the track. I hate to admit it, but I imagined a committee member’s face under my foot with every step I took. This gave me a chance to feel and process my anger, which in turn, allowed it to dissipate.

Now go out and make sure you are able to recognize when you are getting angry and that you have a positive, safe way to process it.

Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant and Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached at