At work, expressing anger can hinder career advancement

At work, expressing anger can hinder career advancement

Anger is a primary emotion that we all feel. But not everyone expresses it in the same way, especially at work. Some employees do not hesitate to make their dissatisfaction known when they feel wronged. But an American-Israeli study warns them against this strategy.

For good reason, workers who express their anger in the professional sphere are judged more harshly than those who control it. Roni Porat and Elizabeth Levy Paluck—the two authors of this research, published in the journal Frontiers—came to this conclusion after conducting a series of experiments with 3,852 volunteers.

Participants had to react to different scenarios in which an employee could be made to feel angry. For example, an employee organizes a meeting during which computers are prohibited and he realizes, on the day, that one of his colleagues is not respecting this instruction.

At the same time, volunteers were asked how much power, independence and respect they believed a worker expressing anger at work deserved. The academics also tasked them with determining the annual salary the latter could expect given his attitude.

More powerful, but less competent

It turns out that volunteers believe that workers who express their anger in the office enjoy a better status within the company that employs them than those who contain it. Previous studies on the subject have already shed light on this phenomenon. But the researchers found that the participants in their study harshly judge employees who give vent to their dissatisfaction at work. They find them less competent than those who show more restraint.

The authors of the study note that “(their) results suggest that the expression of anger is negatively evaluated in several ways“. And added: “First, we find that anger evokes less competence and warmth than other types of emotions. Second, we observe that expressions of anger at work are perceived as inappropriate and that the worker expressing them is evaluated as overreacting and being out of control. Third, we note negative attitudes towards expressions of anger in the workplace, such that people view them as relatively harmful, absurd and irrelevant.“.

Surprisingly, Roni Porat and Elizabeth Levy Paluck noticed that sadness is much better perceived in the professional context. This emotion is not interpreted as a lack of self-control, unlike anger. “(S)ad workers enjoy a similar status to those who are unemotional, suggesting that expressing sadness is neither rewarded nor penalized“, they explain in their article.

Interesting fact: the researchers noticed that the expression of anger among employees was frowned upon, regardless of their gender. A surprising phenomenon, knowing that a large number of scientific works have demonstrated that this emotion is more associated with irrationality, madness or even the inability to manage one’s emotions when expressed by women. This field of research must therefore be better studied in the future so that we understand more precisely how anger is perceived in the business world.