How do you know when anger management is needed?

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Everybody gets angry on occasion – it’s just part of being human. For most people it’s relatively fleeting, but for some, long or frequent outbreaks are a fact of life. If it’s an issue for someone in your dealership, it can affect relationships with other employees and with customers. It can also be difficult to deal with it, and you may need to tread carefully to address the problem.

Look for warning signs. Some are obvious, such as screamers or people who throw things. Others are harder to identify. When anger bubbles up, it could manifest in passive-aggressive behaviour; sabotaging the work of others, or the dealership’s operations or reputation; gossiping or spreading rumours; excessive absenteeism or inattention; directly bullying others; or obsessive and dangerous behaviours such as road rage.

Pay attention when you know people have stressful conditions outside of work, too. Those going through situations such as divorces, or issues with their children or aging parents, may be more likely to fly off the handle when something goes wrong at work. Someone who’s putting in longer hours or desperately trying to close deals could have money issues, and that can also create a strain that worsens when anything minor goes wrong.

You have a responsibility to other employees. Any situation can have the potential to go sideways, but fortunately, very few workplace anger incidents turn bad enough to end up on the six o’clock news. Even so, no one should have to tolerate scenes or harassment in their workplace. You need to step in when there’s an outburst, even if it’s someone who rarely loses their cool. Try to get them away from everyone – “C’mon, let’s go get a coffee and talk about this.”

It’s very important to recognize that responsibility and to work towards a solution. If something does go wrong, or the situation is allowed to stay simmering, your dealership might be legally liable for knowingly permitting a toxic workplace environment to flourish.

Watch for patterns and office dynamics. Some get mad at things ¬– a glitchy phone, for example – while others get mad at people. There can be underlying anger issues in both cases, but if it’s people-on-people, look for outside factors. The problem might not be with the person who’s outwardly angry, but the one who’s constantly goading them into misbehaviour. Be on the lookout for bullying, power plays, and anything else with the potential to flare up.

Be cautious about how you handle the issue. If someone is truly disruptive, you may consider requiring them to take anger management courses; or if the situation is bad enough, terminating their employment. The problem for you is that they may be legally protected from this, including by regulations that cover hiring and firing practices; or that recognize medical or mental health conditions that can trigger this behaviour; or that determine the inability to control outbursts is a disability.

Discuss the issue with the HR department, if you have one; or reach out to governing bodies in your jurisdiction for labour relations, or health and safety. Be sure to document any outbursts, so you have a record of the person’s behaviour. The last thing you need, in addition to the anger issues, is a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. There may even be the potential for repercussions if you label that person as disruptive or otherwise determine “what’s wrong with them,” either directly to the person or to other employees or customers. You have to be very careful in these situations.

Involve the entire dealership. While you might not be able to single out someone for anger management courses, you could consider bringing in a life coach or other professional to make presentations to everyone. It’s a commitment in time and expense, but it could ultimately be beneficial to everyone, especially if it touches on life skills beyond just anger management, such as relationships with customers and coworkers, or balancing work and home life. This can even ultimately improve people’s health, since intense anger issues may contribute to problems such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Are you watching for your own issues? Studies have shown that many people who have anger management issues don’t actually realize that they do. This can be especially true if that anger manifests itself in quieter ways, such as passive-aggressive behaviour or sabotage instead of more-visible reactions such as yelling or throwing things. Are issues quicker to upset you, are people getting on your nerves, do you find yourself overreacting to relatively minor problems? This is the time to sit down, take a deep breath, and consider your behaviour. Everyone gets angry, but if it’s happening too frequently, it’s time to take a closer look and work towards finding a solution.