I am a passionate advocate both for women in business and for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I also gave up doing so from a position of anger a long time ago. Don’t misunderstand me: there is an enormous amount of work remaining to create the level of diversity and inclusion that creates real sustainability for organizations. Rage, resentment and righteous indignation won’t fix that, however. It doesn’t fix our personal relationships. It doesn’t fix our political landscape. And it does absolutely nothing for our business culture or our brands either.
Face it, the language we use daily to describe ourselves, and the emotions we visibly harness can significantly impact our success. One emotion that often finds its way into business is anger. It seems to be everywhere today. While anger can be a powerful catalyst for change, when mismanaged or weaponized, it creates unintended and deeply damaging consequences. This blog will explore the damaging effects of positioning a business in opposition to a dominant demographic, carelessly using the corrosive impact of anger on business, mental health, and all our relationships.
We will also discuss how to channel anger into positive action and embrace a more grace-filled and self-respecting approach to effecting change.
Hidden Anger Can Hurt the Most
Often, the most insidious form of anger is the one we keep hidden from ourselves. Many of us deny that we harbor anger (that’s so harsh!) towards our organizations, coworkers, bosses, or clients. Instead we might use common phrases like "I’m so frustrated," "I just need a new job," or "it’s time to fire the client" to mask deeper feelings of being victimized by someone else's influence or agenda. This covert anger is the root of opposition and resistance behaviors that can undermine our well-being and effectiveness in the workplace. It festers beneath the surface, like a silent toxin, affecting our mental health and overall job satisfaction.
This hidden anger can manifest in various ways, from passive-aggressive behaviors to a pervasive sense of disillusionment. Employees who deny their anger may find themselves engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors, missing out on opportunities for growth, or, in extreme cases, suffering from burnout. By acknowledging and addressing this concealed anger, individuals can free themselves from the chains of resentment and victimhood, allowing them to channel their energy toward constructive change and personal growth. This transformation not only benefits the individual but also has a positive ripple effect on the entire organization.
The Positive Attributes of Anger
Although anger can quickly become a big problem, it's essential to acknowledge that anger can be a force for positive change. It is a signal that something is amiss and a call to action. When harnessed effectively, anger can drive innovation, inspire social change, and lead to personal growth. What it cannot do is protect us from future harms or be a substitute after the fact for using our authentic voice to ask for what we need and stand for what matters to us.
Anger, when channeled constructively, can serve as a powerful motivator for personal and professional growth. It can fuel innovation and drive entrepreneurs and employees to question the status quo, seek new solutions, and effect meaningful change. By recognizing the underlying issues triggering anger, businesses can address real concerns and create an environment that encourages personal and organizational development.
The Destructive Nature of Holding Onto Anger
The most important factor that determines whether our anger creates destructive or useful consequences is how long we hold onto it. Holding onto anger, nurturing it, and using it as a weapon is as destructive to us (if not more so!) as it is to the object of our contempt. No one wants someone else to be angry with them. What’s more, we will completely withdraw from someone who insists on attacking, judging, constantly finding fault with, or disrespecting us. This weaponized anger can erode personal and professional relationships, foster a culture of blame, and lead to a self-destructive path.
Continuously holding onto anger and using it as a weapon can lead to a toxic work environment. Colleagues and employees may become demoralized, and trust within the organization can erode. Ultimately, this not only hampers productivity but also leads to high turnover rates and difficulty in attracting top talent. In a business setting, acknowledging and addressing anger within a healthy framework is essential for fostering a collaborative, productive, and innovative atmosphere.
The Damaging Power of Opposition
In the pursuit of success, some businesses think it is smart to position themselves in opposition to a dominant demographic. They may use slogans and language that appeal to a specific audience but inadvertently alienate others. Terms like "boss babe," "fierce," and "badass" might seem empowering on the surface, but they can create a divisive atmosphere. Such positioning is akin to a fist in someone else's face, waging a constant battle, and when a business engages in this approach, it can exhaust both the business owner and the potential customers.
Businesses that position themselves in opposition to any other entity, or use divisive terms inadvertently create an "us versus them" dynamic. While this might seem like a great way to build a passionate and loyal customer base, uniting in our shared rise out of victimhood, it can be a double-edged sword. Such strategies often isolate a significant portion of the market, leading to lost opportunities and revenue. The key to business success is inclusivity rather than exclusivity. Embracing diversity and appealing to a broad audience fosters a more sustainable and growth-oriented approach.
The Toll on Your Brain and Body
The toll of constant anger on the brain and body is well-documented, even the low-level sort in social media and marketing. Anger triggers the fight-or-flight response, leading to a surge of stress hormones. Over time, chronic anger can result in increased blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, and a weakened immune system. Mentally, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and even contribute to addiction.
Chronic anger not only affects the body but also impairs decision-making and judgment. In a business context, this can lead to rash decisions, strained interactions with colleagues or employees, and impaired problem-solving abilities. The chronic stress that anger triggers can disrupt sleep patterns, further exacerbating the negative impact on cognitive functioning. This, in turn, can hamper a business owner's ability to adapt to changes and capitalize on opportunities in an ever-evolving market.
That's a lot for a well-deserved rant, isn't it? Well, there's more.
The Damage to Your Brand and Reputation
When businesses embrace anger (or “just a little opposition”) as a branding strategy, they risk damaging their reputation. While it may resonate with a particular demographic, it often alienates others. Building a brand on anger or argument sets a confrontational tone, which can be difficult to maintain in the long run. It may create a polarized customer base, and in today's interconnected world, a damaged reputation can spread quickly.
Building a brand this way makes it challenging to sustain long-term growth and success. It's crucial to consider the long-term consequences of branding strategies that provoke outrage, or simply foster unnecessary tension. A successful brand should be built on trust, reliability, and a commitment to addressing customers' needs, rather than divisive rhetoric, or stance against a common "foe". Businesses that promote any type of division in their branding may find it difficult to pivot when necessary and foster genuine loyalty among their customers.
It is worth saying that this obviously is as true inside an organization, or a personal relationship as it is in business or politics. Anger, resentment, constant irritation or criticism leads to isolation, loss of support and shriveling connection, leaving the unhappy individual feeling righteous, but misunderstood, and very, very alone.
What We Resist Persists
The age-old adage, "what we resist persists," holds just as true in the business world. Opposition and anger, when directed at others, tend to perpetuate conflicts rather than resolve them. It creates a cycle of antagonism that doesn't serve the business or its stakeholders.
This is true even when we dismiss our resistance as not actually “anger." If you believe your uneasiness isn't anger, you might say certain phrases such as you just need to change jobs, or be assigned to a different team. Maybe you are attracting opportunities that are frustrating and depleting, and you need to fire the client. This energy is just as toxic as honest anger. It’s just putting a softer face on it.
Resistance and opposition can lead to a cycle of hostility that drains both emotional energy and resources. The continuous push against perceived adversaries and frustrations not only distracts from more constructive endeavors but also perpetuates the very issues businesses aim to combat. Embracing a more collaborative, solution-oriented approach fosters an environment where businesses can adapt to changes, address challenges effectively, and create value rather than perpetuate conflict.
Political Systems and the Corrosive Effect of Anger
We've seen the corrosive impact of anger on a grand scale in our political systems. In fact, reading this, you probably were unable not to think about the US political landscape in reference to anger and opposition. The polarization and animosity in many political arenas have hampered progress and created an atmosphere of perpetual conflict. The consequences are far-reaching, affecting not only the political landscape but also businesses and society as a whole.
The corrosive effect of anger in political systems serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of embracing constant opposition. The gridlock, animosity, and polarization in politics have widespread ramifications. Businesses can't escape the ripple effect of these political conflicts, due to the obvious influence conflicts have on regulatory decisions, economic stability, and market conditions. A business that adopts an antagonistic approach aligned with a specific political ideology risks alienating a significant portion of its customer base and will face some level of backlash which may not concern them immediately, until they realize that sooner or later the tides turn.
Channeling Anger into Positive Action
That is not to imply that we must remain 100% neutral in our stance. Quite the opposite. To harness the positive potential of anger, it's crucial to acknowledge and express it constructively. In business, this means finding graceful and dignified ways to stand up for yourself and your beliefs. Your voice can be a powerful tool for change, but it's the way you use it that determines its impact.
Effecting change through anger isn't about suppressing it, but rather learning to express it constructively. By embracing open and respectful dialogues, a business can foster a culture that encourages innovation, welcomes diverse perspectives, and addresses concerns without resorting to anger as a weapon. This approach not only strengthens the business but also enhances its reputation and brand loyalty by showing a commitment to growth and positive change.
Addressing Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues are at an all-time high in our society, and therefore, obviously, the business world, with depression and anxiety leading the list. It's worth noting that depression can often be anger turned inward. Therefore, recognizing and addressing anger is a crucial step in managing these mental health challenges.
Acknowledging these challenges and providing support to employees is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic business decision. Addressing depression and anxiety, which may stem from unresolved anger, not only improves employees' well-being but also increases their productivity and job satisfaction. Creating a mentally healthy workplace involves recognizing the potential triggers of anger and offering resources for managing and channeling these emotions constructively.
Reclaiming Your Power
In the end, holding onto anger takes away your own inherent power, and stalls your full potential for success. It keeps you in a victim role, placing blame for your unhappiness on others, rather than taking full responsibility for the actions that can correct the situation. To truly effect positive change, it's essential to find a balance between acknowledging your anger and using it as a catalyst for change while letting go of the toxic aspects that can harm your mental and physical well-being.
One of the greatest approaches to effect change in business and in life lies in recognizing and managing anger as a useful tool, not a perpetual stance. By becoming aware of this powerful emotion, and leaning into what it has to teach us, business owners can shift from a victim mentality to one of empowerment. Embracing a more graceful and dignified approach to advocating for change allows individuals to take control of their own narrative, rather than assigning blame. In doing so, they create a path to success that is characterized by collaboration, resilience, and the ability to make a positive impact in the world of business.