Angry birds in the workplace

In journalism, a little anger is par for course. Or so I was told at the time of my internship with a newspaper. This, right after a senior editor had devoured and spat out a correspondent in the aisle for not submitting a story on time.

The reasons: the daily deadline pressure, competitive environment and a constant rat race. Since then, we all have witnessed a number of public dressing downs, spats and general shouting. So much so, most of us don't even blink an eye now and surely, some of us secretly miss it!

But corporate rage hasn't really been studied. It's difficult to measure and its adverse impact hard to quantify. In fact, there have been studies that prove how a little anger laced with sarcasm actually improves productivity. The study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology tested how hearing different types of customer service calls affected students and their ability to perform. The study shows that people who were exposed to anger and sarcasm worked harder and smarter than people in a neutral environment.

At first, the students were made to listen to angry calls and pleasant calls. The result: the angry calls made them more focused but not necessarily any better at solving problems. What really worked was sarcastic humour. The conclusion: "Despite also listening to a form of anger - albeit laced with humour this time - these students performed better on the creative problems. The underlying anger helped to focus the students, the inherent humour of sarcasm helped to offset the damage that anger can do."

The flipside: even if people exposed to anger work harder, a habitual angry boss/work environment can have a negative impact within the team and the organisation as a whole.

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