The cost of workplace aggression in Australia is said to amount to around $3 billion annually. Workplace anger happens when people are unable to contain their anger in a workplace environment. Workplace anger includes inappropriate behaviour such as:

  • yelling
  • pushing
  • harassment
  • passive aggressive approaches to communication

Workplace Anger typically stems from four primary causes: workplace stress, bad communication, peer conflict and latent feelings of resentment against co-workers or managers.

  1. Stress: Today’s workplace is indeed a busy and stressful environment. Your staff may be working long hours, responding to emails in the evening, struggling to meet deadlines, or nervous about reaching KPIs. If you or your employees are having difficulty dealing with the stress, then they may be showing signs of agitation, intolerance or anger. This anger impacts upon interactions with other employees, clients and customers and threatens to damage your working atmosphere.
  2. Communication: Your communication skills greatly influence your capacity to avoid inappropriate behaviour at work. If you are a good communicator, then you are able to effectively send and receive signals using skills such as calm talking, empathetic listening, emotional understanding and responding. Bad communicators tend to have difficulty hearing messages or distort the message they have heard – leading to a two-way street of frustration, inter-personal dissatisfaction and anger.
  3. Peer Conflict happens when there are differences in working approaches, management style, or personality. Generally, both parties feel high levels of animosity towards each other. This type of conflict is often the cause of angry reactions and can be particularly damaging when the business relies on common and co-operative effort.
  4. Resentment: Low self-esteem, unmet expectations, favouritism, broken promises, limited accountability, or incompatible managerial styles are all fuel for resentment in the workplace. Feelings of resentment that are suppressed, rather than openly discussed, tend to turn slowly to anger and the risk of angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour.


Everyone gets angry from time to time, especially at work. But it’s the way we respond to our anger that influences our behaviour and indicates or contra-indicates an anger management problem. Losing control is always problematic, but underlying irritability or passive-aggressive behaviour might be a sign that your anger is reaching boiling point.
Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

Behavioural: Interpersonal conflict, sarcasm, angry outbursts, passive aggression, bullying (emotional and physical), sarcastic behaviour, moodiness, inconsistent work performance, overreactions, threats and volatile relationship with colleagues.

Physical: Fatigue or apathy, low motivation, illness, agitation, and physically aggressive behaviour (such as inappropriate touching, pushing, hitting or other physical assault) or damage to workplace property.

Emotional: Moodiness, Anger, anxiety, depression, stress, and obsessive attachment to the job

These symptoms usually begin in a passive-aggressive or festering way. Something will then trigger the emotion, bringing the problem to the surface in an evident and obvious way. The anger may present in different ways – one person might yell or throw something, another might quit without warning. Another yet might threaten a colleague or engage in vandalism. Workplace anger can be persistent or intermittent, explosive or underlying, but in any scenario, it needs to be managed swiftly and calmly.


Anger problems in the workplace should never be ignored – particularly because these sorts of issues tend to worsen if left unresolved. Here are some initial tips for handling workplace anger:

  • Learn the warning signs and watch out for them
  • Understand your workplace culture and encourage a positive working environment
  • Model best behaviour for your employees and educate other managers to do the same