You come to the office early to get more work done. You walk toward your desk, and the first person you meet is your boss. He tells you that you need to revise your report again.
As you listen to your boss rant how terrible your report is, you feel the blood rush to your face. You suddenly feel the urge to hit something—anything—but you don’t want to be called unprofessional. Instead, you clutch a stack of papers in your hand, your palms turning white.
You, my friend, had just experienced anger.
Fight or Flight
Did you ever notice how your body tenses and how every hair in your body rises when you’re angry? How your heart pounds so hard that you can feel the throbbing in your temples?
When you’re angry, your blood pressure and heart rate go up—so do your energy and adrenaline. These physiological reactions brought by anger are the same triggers that put us in the fight or flight mode.
If our reaction from anger could spell the difference between death and survival, why aren’t we using our anger more often to our advantage?
When you look at Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, you see great leaders. Some might even call them geniuses.
But behind their stellar performances is a dark side that only a few see—they’re disposed to getting riled up easily even with the seemingly smallest things.
One would think that successful leaders owe their achievements to being in control of their emotions all the time. One the contrary, this is not the case as even the most composed of CEOs and other high-ranking leaders can also experience bouts of anger in the workplace.
In the book Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter, authors Henry Evans and Colm Foster explains how constructive anger can drive better business results and how to use it without ruining relationships.
Two reasons why anger can be useful: focus and confidence.
When you’re all riled up, you tend to focus on only the source of your anger. You want to get to the core of the problem. In this case, your anger allows you to zero in on the most important task for the day. You want to eliminate the problem right away, so you don’t bother with multitasking.
Additionally, the adrenaline that rushes through your body allows you to become uninhibited. It produces confidence that allows you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do, but within reason.
So you see, anger is not a bad thing after all—if you know how to use it properly. That begs the question, “How exactly can you use anger to become more productive?”
Shift Your Focus
When your boss criticizes your work and tells you how terrible your presentation is, the first thing that you might do is argue and try to prove him wrong. But trying to convince your boss that he’s wrong will not work well on your favor.
Instead, try to shift your focus to something else. In an article in Psychology Today, Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D. writes, “The skill is to shift the focus of your anger away from external circumstances to instead focus on what you strongly desire to change within yourself.”
Instead of getting mad at another person for being the harbinger of bad news, think about what you can do to improve the situation. Through cognitive restructuring, you rationalize your thoughts and turn them into productive ones. In the process, anger somewhat dissipates, but the drive to do something constructive is still there.
Another helpful way is to turn your attention to something unrelated but is likewise important to you. It could be that your car needs an oil change or that you need to tidy up your office drawers. With the adrenaline rush, you have more energy to do physical work. It’s also a good time to hit the gym if getting fit is one of your goals.
Anger is a strong motivator that could help you become productive. By learning how to properly channel your anger, you could start small changes in your life.
How has anger changed your life lately?