Anger Driven Management – Perform or Else?

Have you ever worked for a person who used anger to get people to work harder? Are you one of those people who fly off the handle and use fear and intimidation to generate better results?  From a personal standpoint, have you ever been so mad at yourself that you used anger to push yourself to stay focused and perform to meet your expectations?

Anger is an emotional reaction, expressing displeasure or irritation. But it can be a tactical technique or tool to stimulate performance to get a desired action. Anger has a less than favorable reputation, especially if you are on the receiving end of its’ fury. Managerial bullying is associated with tirade throwing supervisors. Anger Driven Management is common in many organizations, departments and families. It is braided into company cultures, as one of the expected managerial competencies.

Anger is often considered a method of last resort and a companion with disciplinary action; when reasoning and talking are insufficient.  Anger Driven Management with its fear based overtones is instituted to handle the difficult situation. ADM is also used when a manager does not have the personal discipline to control their emotions and panic causes them to strike out at those doing the work.

One manager had a habit of saying, “If you can’t get the job done, I will bring in someone who will get the results I need.” This actually terrified people and left them afraid for their jobs. In the current economic climate managers are using this technique to wring more out of their employees. With jobs hard to find and upwards of 2 years to find a position, people are working extremely hard on the job and the wrath of their manager is keeping them in place.

Managers who use anger to manage their employees have done this for years and are convinced it works for them. They are often imitators or copycat managers. They were trained with anger and feel it is the right way to exercise the power of their position in order to get people to listen and obey. They rant and rave and people shake in their shoes. They swear and threaten and magically, performance against objectives improves; but at what cost?  Interesting enough, if anger did not get results, it would not be used as much as much. With all of the negative side effects, it has a relatively high success rate.  

When anger is unleashed strategically, it is a valuable asset. It can be the lightning rod to stimulate those who need an extra jolt to get them fired up to excel. A football coach was talking about his two quarterbacks. If he would scream and get into the face of one of them, this anger would cause him to play his heart out and improve his performance. The second however, would fall to pieces, go into a shell and make more mistakes on the field. Their personal temperament gauged how they would be affected by an angry boss or coach. Therefore anger can be used effectively to gain results if you use it in the right situation and or the right people.

A persistent state of madness can create a poor work environment, characterized by low morale and employee confidence, lack luster engagement and temporary increases in results. Additionally, anger may ultimately lead to lower productivity and greater turnover. In organizations all over the world, people are resigning because anger has poisoned the environment and affecting their health and state of mind.

A Badge of Honor

There are circumstances in companies where periodically displaying anger is viewed as a badge of honor. Being upset shows that you have the emotional toughness to be a leader. Early in my career, I was chastised for being even keeled. Not showing anger suggested to my manager that I did not care about the business. Part of my personal development plan was to bring situations to my boss that raised my ire and my blood pressure. I remember relaying a situation to my boss exclaiming in a frustrated tone, “How could they possibly do that?” This felt awkward, but it showed my manager that I was management material.

Self Directed Anger

Individuals who are focused on excellence will sometimes get angry with themselves if they fail to follow through on a desired task. We have weaknesses that we know we need to address. If we are delinquent in changing, we personally become frustrated and get mad at ourselves. This happens to us from time to time when we wish to no longer tolerate a substandard personal performance. We become angry at ourselves and our level of effort. We may raise our voices, clench our fists and grit our teeth. This lack of effort and poor results has to stop today. “What is wrong with me?” I heard someone say. “Am I out of my mind? I can’t let this continue to beat me. I am better than this.” I caution against asking whether you are stupid, crazy or any other outrageous accusations. You would not want your subconscious mind to grasp the concepts and answer in the affirmative. 

We can accept anger that addresses the problem and does not attack the individual personally. This is true whether it is anger from a supervisor or self-imposed rage directed at our personal performance. Researchers have compared the sub-conscious mind to our automatic pilot that does most of our thinking for us. If we feed it or accept ruthless demeaning words as truth, it will continue to receive and perform actions that validate negative words and concepts. So focused rage can harmlessly get us better results. If we use positive self-talk to rally our emotions and cheer us to victory, it can work.

Anger Driven Management is a viable means to influence performance. Anger can be used as a management tool to drive corporate and personal results. However, if used inappropriately it can become a ticking time bomb that will alienate employees and reduce employee engagement. Eventually, it can damage corporate culture and increase turnover. Anger that is directed to events and situations and not to castigate individuals may not have long-term negative consequences. Lastly, individuals can use displeasure with personal effort and results to stimulate focus and the required energy to change the trajectory of their performance without hurting their self-esteem.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser

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