Deal With Workplace Conflict?
Tips for Managing Workplace Conflict
Direct Discussion - How to Approach a
Co-worker Why We Avoid
Dealing With Conflict
Are All Conflicts the Result of Personality
Clashes or Poor Behaviour
Communicating in Conflict
Managing Anger - Yours and Others
Being Hard on the Problem - Not the Person
The Role of Assumptions, Perceptions and
Expectations in Conflict
Managing Anger – Yours
Managing how we express our anger is a
fundamental skill needed to live peacefully with others. It is essential
to managing conflict. If others cannot trust that you will speak to them
calmly and rationally they often respond with withdrawal and avoidance.
Letting our anger spill over in angry words and voice is not
productive nor is it healthy.
“Letting it (anger) all hang out” is
considered by “psychologists … a dangerous myth. Some people use
this theory as a license to hurt others. Research has found that
“letting it rip” with anger actually escalates anger and aggression
and does nothing to help you (or the person you are angry with)
resolve the situation.”
This section will provide information on
anger and its expression, tips for managing your own anger and how to
respond when others are angry with you.
Charles Spielberger, PhD, a
psychologist who specializes in the study of anger, describes anger as
“an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to
intense fury and rage”.
Anger is an emotion we feel, like
sadness, fear, joy, and happiness.
Anger is a feeling that is normal and
healthy, and serves the function of letting us know when all is not
right in our world.
Anger is caused by two basic things:
- Frustration: Not
getting what we want, especially if we are expecting to get it;
- Feeling that others
do not respect us or care how we feel.”
When we experience anger as a mild
irritation it is relatively easy to manage our response. When it builds
in intensity, depending on our experience and skill, anger can become
increasingly difficult to manage.
anger arousal cycle
The arousal cycle of anger has five
phases: trigger, escalation, crisis, recovery and depression.
Understanding the cycle helps us to understand our own reactions and
those of others.
trigger phase is when an event gets
the anger cycle started. We get into an argument or receive some
information that shocks us. We feel threatened at some level and our
physiological system prepares to meet that threat.
escalation phase is when our body
prepares for a crisis with increased respiration (rapid breathing),
increased heart rate and raised blood pressure, muscles tense for
action, voice may become louder or an altered pitch, and our eyes
change shape, pupils enlarge and brow falls. Take note of these
things next time you feel angry. Your body stance may change as
crisis phase is when our survival
instinct steps in, the fight or flight response. Our body is
prepared to take action. Unfortunately, during this phase our
quality of judgment is significantly reduced and decisions may be
made without the benefit of the best reasoning ability.
The recovery phase
takes place after some action has resulted during the crisis
phase. The body starts to recover from the extreme stress and
expenditure of energy. The adrenaline in our blood leaves gradually.
Quality of judgment returns as reasoning begins to replace the
The Post-crisis Depression Phase
is the point when the body enters a short period in which the
heart rate slips below normal so the body can regain its balance.
Awareness and energy return to allow us to assess what just
happened. We may begin to feel guilt, regret or emotional
Tips for managing our own anger
Delay discussion until
you are calmer
If you feel that your anger is at a
level where it is difficult to control your words and tone, chose to
deal with the issue at another time. You can say, “I don’t want to
discuss the issue right now” and make arrangements to have the
discussion at another time.
Actively reduce stress
Take steps to calm yourself through
relaxation, exercise, or discussion and develop a plan of action for
addressing the problem.
What’s it all about and
what do you want?
Analyze what the sources of your
anger are – why has this situation triggered such a strong anger
response? This can be accomplished through personal reflection, by
talking with a trusted friend or an Employee and Family Assistance
Program Counselor (EFAP)
about the situation.
Before talking to the
other person(s) in the conflict, ask yourself,
“What exactly is bothering me?
What do I want the other person to do or not do?
Are my feelings in proportion to the issue?”
Spend some time thinking about the
conflict and what your goal is in having the dialogue with the other
person. The clearer we are regarding our intentions, the more likely
we are to achieve the desired result.
General wellness has an
Physical fatigue, pain, alcohol,
drugs or other recent stresses can lower your anger threshold. Don’t
engage in difficult conversations at such times.
We all have sensitivities, based on
past experience, which can make us more likely to get angry when
faced with certain situations. The anger may not be warranted by the
current situation but be a response triggered by past experience.
Consider whether you have
a problem managing anger
If you generally have a problem
managing your anger in appropriate ways, acknowledge the problem.
Acknowledging the problem becomes the first step in solving it
through self-reflection, discussion with trusted others, enrolment
in an anger management course or assistance from an EFAP Counselor.
Examining “self-talk” is
Consider the idea that your
perception of the event, person, or situation is creating the
feeling of anger. While it can be difficult to accept, psychologists
thoughts cause our anger”
For example, two people are stuck in
their car in city traffic on their way home. One person fumes at the
delay and questions why they have to put up with this while the
other is listening to music and accepting the delay as a normal
circumstance when you live in or near a large city.
The difference between the two people
is in what they are telling themselves about the situation. To deal
with angry feelings it is useful to examine what we are telling
ourselves about the conflict or the other person.
Our “self-talk”, what we tell
ourselves, has a powerful impact on our feelings and responses. Our
“self-talk” is not always rational or in our best interest. Learning
to examine our own thought processes and reactions is a powerful
tool in managing anger.
Ask for help if needed
If after reflecting on the situation
you find that you may not be able to discuss the issues without
blame and accusations, it is recommended that you consider having a
neutral person to assist. The expression of blame and negative
judgments usually lead to more conflict. Assistance with conflict
and anger management is needed.
Take steps to solve the
Suppression of our angry feelings,
while sometimes necessary in the short term to avoid reacting in an
aggressive and defensive manner, is not a healthy alternative in the
long term. Addressing the problem directly in a calm manner, using
effective communication skills is what will, in the end, resolve
Tips for responding to an angry
Decide whether to engage
Think about where the person is in
the arousal cycle. If the person is already at the crisis phase
their ability to think rationally will be impaired. Consider whether
it would be best to delay the discussion until the other person is
calmer. Saying, “I can’t discuss this right now. Can we meet later?”
may be the best response. If you decide that the two of you can
manage the discussion the following tips will be helpful in reducing
anger and promoting dialogue.
Acknowledge the anger
Acknowledge that the other person is
angry. Ask them to tell you what has caused the anger.
Stay calm yourself
Do not react if they reply in blaming
or accusatory ways. Remember, when a person is experiencing
heightened anger they will not respond to rational discussion until
they have calmed down.
Ask about the problem
Ask them to tell you about what
happened and what is it about the situation that triggered such a
strong response. Remember, anger is caused by frustration at not
getting what we want or a feeling that others do not respect us or
do not care how we feel. Usually, when faced with a sincere
invitation to talk, most people will become calmer as their
frustration or their sense of being disrespected diminishes.
Don’t continue if anger
If the person does not calm down, an
invitation to discuss the issue at another time is appropriate. Do
not remain in a situation where the other person is yelling at you,
calling you names or making threats. Such behaviour requires the
intervention of a supervisor and has no place at work.