Managing

Study finds 51% of workers have fiery tempers: Five lessons in creating a positive working environment

Yolanda Redrup /

Whether it’s frustration at a century-old computer or a desire to throttle a colleague who chit-chats a little too loudly, we’ve all experienced workplace anger.

A study in the United Kingdom finds 51% of people suffer rage while at work around twice a day, with 42% of respondents saying they’re the most fiery and impatient on Mondays.

The study, commissioned by beverage company Old Jamaica Ginger Beer as part of the launch of its new “extra fiery” soft drink, reveals 25% of people get bad-tempered if they return to work and find someone else has used their desk and left it in a mess.

A quarter of people polled also report being cantankerous because their bosses rarely say thank you for their hard work.

Other top complaints from people in the workplace include technology failing, co-workers who slack off by taking extra-long smoke breaks and air conditioning faults.

A third of the respondents say they are the most frustrated by their colleagues, while 20% report their boss is the cause of their frustration.

Other reported bad behaviours among colleagues included gossiping, bad-mouthing, sucking-up to the boss, spending time surfing the net when they should be working and sitting at someone’s desk without asking.

Of the 51% of people that get worked up on a daily basis, one-in-10 have been in an argument over their frustrations, while 64% of workers let it boil under the surface.

Australian Institute of Management chief executive Tony Gleeson told SmartCompany often employees carry over issues from the weekend and their personal life into the workplace and this can cause small problems to “break the camel’s back”.

“This is where management need to have a conversation with them. Conversation is the key word and often it puts things into perspective,” he says.

“A lot of people put undue pressure on themselves. Determine with the staff member what are the most important deadlines and priorities. If you work out what the problem is, generally it’s not that significant, but it all builds up.”

In order to avoid flying fists in fits of anger, Gleeson told SmartCompany there are five key tips for building a healthy workplace environment:

1. Core values

Gleeson says it’s important for the company to establish core values and make them inherent in the business.

“You need to have core values and the organisation needs to believe and live them. Most businesses have them, but not all live in them,” he says.

“Leadership should show and live these core values from the start.”

2. Lead from the top

Gleeson says for a company’s core values to be become ingrained, it needs to come from the top down.

“A leader has to show in themselves the core values. This could be respect, honest, accountability. You can’t go around saying you’ve got to do this, but I’m not,” he says.

3. Equality rules

Make sure staff and management are treated and behave equally.

“Often management expect people to work on weekends, but they don’t themselves. Alternatively, there might be a business activity which happens interstate and the leader and the staff member stay at different hotels, with the leader’s being of better quality,” Gleeson says.

“It’s those sorts of things which are symbolic of inequality. Treating everyone fairly, equally and honestly doesn’t happen a lot in business. When a workplace breaks down, it’s often because of this.”

4. Team-building activities

Gleeson says a good way to encourage teamwork and positivity is to have group activities.

“Whether it’s going for lunch or whatever, activities are worthwhile and businesses should consider mandating them.

“There are those that do ten pin bowling and others just brain storm ideas in entrepreneurial businesses, but it’s all about getting people together and allowing the workplace to have more open conversations in less formal settings.”

5. Employee assistance programs

Gleeson says employee assistance programs also help to foster confidence and care within a business.

“It shows what a workplace is offering them is more than a job.

“So many people bring issues from their home life into their workplace and they often need to resolve them in the workplace. Workplace anger is often a cry for help and there is usually one issue which breaks the camel’s back.”

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