Applying the Emotions as Tools Model to Business Part 2 (Anger)

In Part 1 of this post, I discussed the Emotions as Tools Model, the concept of threat, and anxiety. In this part, I discuss anger.


Anger is a here-and-now emotion the message of which is: I am facing a threat that I believe I can overcome or eliminate if I throw enough force at it. While you can get angry about something that has already happened (the past), or about what you expect to happen (the future), you are always angry in the present concerning a threat you are motivated to do something about now.

My best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool specifically addresses the emotion of anger and is available on Amazon.

You can download the first two chapters of Beyond Anger Management by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post.  There is no opt-in.

As an entrepreneur, you might get angry at:

  • suppliers who do not fulfill the terms of a contract,
  • employees who are irresponsible or fail to deal appropriately with customers,
  • your computer for not working right,
  • yourself for not doing something you “should” have done,
  • and so forth.

Now, you might rightly say that getting angry at a computer makes no sense. And, you would be right. But, I did not say your anger had to be appropriate for the situation. I only indicated that the message of anger is that you perceive a threat you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. Ever heard of someone destroying a computer?

Employees can get angry at you for a perceived injustice, angry at each other, or angry at a customer.

I know of an individual whose job is technical support. While she is technically very good and can answer any question that comes up, she does not do well with customers who “blame” her for advice they don’t like or unwanted results due to their not following the advice that was given, who direct their frustrations with the company or its policies at her, or who become “belligerent” for who knows what reason. Notice the highly subjective nature of the words in quotes. While she has not expressed her anger at the customer, she carries it with her and chronic anger can lead to physical issues for her or her leaving the company.

When an employee’s appropriate anger is either not validated or is marginalized, as is often the case for professional women, that anger can become chronic.

Customers can get angry at you or your employees for any number of reasons.

I recently had some landscaping done and the employee assigned to manage my “project” did a horrible job. I was angry at both this staff member and the company for the poor work that was done. The company was “angry” with the employee and fired him because his “failure” could have negatively impacted an otherwise very good and hard won reputation. Fortunately, the company sent out a different employee who handled my concerns and alleviated my anger.

Understanding what anger is and how to master both one’s own anger and anger directed at you could benefit you, your employees, and your customers.

The Anger Mastery Cycle visually illustrates how the process of anger works and you can download a copy of The Anger Mastery Cycle for free with no opt-in above.

When you perceive a threat (as defined in my last post) that you decide you can eliminate or, overpower, you label the emotion you experience as anger. If you are naïve about your anger, you probably will react to the threat and later regret what you did.

If you know what anger is and the message of anger, you can move into anger management and protect yourself by creating both some physical space between you and the perceived threat (taking a step back from the issue) and some psychological space and by taking a deep breath and lowering your level of arousal.

You can then move into anger mastery which involves assessing the nature of the threat and choosing how you want to respond.

If the threat is genuine, you can use the energy of the anger as motivation to make a plan and deal with the threat.

If you are still angry and the threat is not “genuine”, your anger needs to be reevaluated and there are three possibilities:

  1. The first possibility is that there is no threat and you (or they) have misunderstood what is going on. For example, you thought your provider was intentionally messing with you only to find out that the delivery was delayed by an event beyond the provider’s control.
  2. The second possibility is that the anger is being used as a secondary feeling. Anger, as an emotion, is both familiar and “comfortable” to men specifically. Anger is an energizing emotion and  elicits a feeling of being “powerful”. Because of this, anger may be substituted for another feeling such as vulnerability, embarrassment, or hurt, which is less familiar and leaves a man feeling “weak”. An employee may express anger as a cover-up and substitute for feeling “dumb” due to a poor decision.
  3. The third possibility is that anger is being used The individual isn’t really all that angry but knows that anger leads others to back off from or give in to the demands being made. Instrumental anger is deployed as a tool to bring about a desired outcome. This can happen in an office (or other) setting.

While both secondary and instrumental anger are “dishonest” anger, they still expressed as anger and must be managed and mastered.

With the above knowledge, if you are angry, you can evaluate your perceived threat and your angry reaction to it and choose how you want to respond so that you can effectively deal with the situation in which you find yourself.

With another person’s anger, you can use your knowledge about this emotion to begin to manage (help them resolve) their anger.

Three steps are involved in dealing with anger that is directed at you:

  1. First, you need to validate their right to be angry because the emotion follows from their perception of the event and they are correct in their perception until helped to see otherwise. Once you have accepted their anger, you are no longer a direct threat to them. The reason for this is that they are angry at you (or what you represent) and assume you will act in a threatening manner which they are prepared to counter. When you validate their anger (acknowledge their right to be angry not that they are right in their anger), you change the equation.
  2. Secondly, you can now assess the validity of the threat they perceive.
  3. Thirdly, once you have done this, you can choose how you want to respond to them and resolve whatever issue they have reacted to.

This is what happened with me in the example I gave above.

In parts 1 and 2 of this post, I introduced you the Emotions as Tools Model and how it can advantageously be applied to a business. I also specifically addressed the emotions of anxiety and anger.

Finally, I welcome your comments.

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