Work rage is never far from the tabloid headlines. Just last month, supermodel Naomi Campbell was reported to have been questioned by police after her counsellor accused her of attacking her. And celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has made a career out of his fiery temperament.
Earlier this year, a bar in China opened where stressed-out workers can smash glasses and even hit specially trained staff wearing protective clothing, to vent pressures built up during the working day.
This may seem like a ridiculous idea, but the problem is a real one. With the Health and Safety Executive reporting that one in five employees suffers from high levels of stress, HR increasingly has to deal with managing levels of anger in the workplace.
Mike Fisher, director of the British Association of Anger Management, says that professions most prone to anger problems include doctors, solicitors, builders, media workers, teachers, stockbrokers and bankers. “Stress fuels anger, and these workers lead very stressful lives,” he says.
If problems are not addressed, angry workers could make the lives of others unbearable. “Staff in less senior positions often become the scapegoat for the actions of others,” warns Fisher. “This can lead to serious issues such as bullying.”
Anger management training involves a mixture of theoretical presentations and group work. “Employees need to understand where anger comes from and ultimately how to diffuse it,” says Fisher. “Only by addressing this issue in depth can you provide long-term fixes.”
There are many other services available that are aimed at promoting a sense of calm at work. Therapy at Work, whose clients include Orange, provides holistic therapies such as on-site massage, reflexology, meditation, yoga and pilates.
Julie Linden, owner of Therapy at Work, says her clients find these services effective in helping staff manage anger. “Taking a few minutes out to quieten the mind and body can reap great rewards,” she says. “It is a cost-effective way to raise awareness of any pressure that could be building up.”
Cadbury Schweppes recently enlisted the help of Nuffield Proactive Health to provide a wellness programme for staff. Tony Bilsborough, spokesman for Cadbury Schweppes, says the company helps employees achieve a healthy balance at work through initiatives such as ‘handling stress’ workshops and on-site pilates, meditation and desk massage.
Energy supplier Centrica gives staff access to a ‘mental wellbeing’ programme via its intranet, and provides coaching to help manage pressure.
Trisha O’Neill, health services manager at Centrica, explains: “Employees answer questions about their health and wellbeing and the programme provides guidance, such as suggesting staff try taking a walk for 20 minutes. The aim is to help reduce pressure and prevent any stress-related conditions.”
Tired and emotional
O’Neill says problems such as fatigue and sleep deprivation can also increase pressure felt at work. “As part of our induction programme, we put employees through a half-day lifestyle assessment to make sure they understand how these factors could influence how they act at work.”
As O’Neill concludes, even if employees don’t resort to using their fists to release their anger, prevention is still the best policy.
Top tips on anger management
Get help: enrol staff on an anger management course.
Provide workshops on how to handle stress.
Treat employees to regular holistic treatments at work, such as massage and reflexology.
Provide on-site pilates and yoga classes or pay towards staff attending classes elsewhere.
Promote wellbeing initiatives and encourage staff to take regular breaks and exercise.