Researchers go to work on anger management

The end of the calendar year invariably brings thoughts of new starts, new challenges and new hope.

A change in employment is often top of the wish list, especially when someone has had a less than pleasant 12 months at work.

A new study by researchers at Griffith University’s Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing seeks to understand this phenomenon and offer solutions for minimising the impact of anger at work for both individuals and work teams.

“Workers’ experience of anger at managerial mistreatment can be distracting and result in lower performance, contributing to lower productivity in the Australian economy,” lead investigator Dr Sandra Lawrence said.

Dr Lawrence, Professor Jordan, and Dr Ashlea Troth from Griffith Business School have been awarded ARC Discovery Project funding worth $246,000 for their project titled ‘Managing anger responses to perceptions of unfair managerial treatment’.

“Anger is a common response to perceptions of unfair managerial treatment, perceptions that are pervasive in the wake of the global financial crisis where large-scale organisational change is the norm,” Dr Lawrence said.

“The Newman government in Queensland is an obvious, high profile example where change has led to anger in the workplace, a reaction to the perceived injustices of those changes, how they were decided upon and how they were communicated to staff.

“While research has examined the connection between managerial injustice and workplace anger, there remains a problem. We know little about how employees deal with their own and others’ anger in teams, and the effect this has on their individual performance and their teams’ performances.”

Dr Lawrence, Professor Jordan and Dr Troth bring a wealth of research expertise to the project and will examine the potential disruptions anger responses have on workplace behaviour and performance within teams. They will also examine the different ways workers’ regulate their own and others’ experiences of anger when unfair managerial treatment is present, plus the role that emotional intelligence may play in shaping more effective and appropriate responses in these circumstances.

The project will be carried out over a three-year period. For the first phase, 400 working students will be recruited for a laboratory experiment to test the research team’s innovative explanatory model.

This will be followed by a field study surveying 100 work teams from a large Australian organisation, and a further intervention study testing the efficacy of a team-based anger management program on 250 employees. Dr Lawrence said expressions of interest from organisations are welcome.

“If an organisation gets involved in our field study, we will provide them with a climate assessment of levels of anger and perceived managerial treatment within their workplace; identify how people within teams are behaviourally responding and influencing one another within teams, and importantly, gauge the influence of workplace anger on productivity. Involvement in our intervention study will give an organisation the opportunity to deliver a free cutting-edge anger management training program to their staff.”