Dealing with Change and Addressing Anger and Hostility in the Workplace

Dealing with Change and Addressing Anger and Hostility in the Workplace

Posted by Jan Lawrence

Case Study – City of London


The client, the customer services department at one of the City of London’s leading Boroughs, required the design and delivery of a managing change programmme. In doing so the basic causes behind this group’s overall resistance to change was uncovered. It is a behaviour called passive-aggressive and this behaviour is the root cause of much anger and hostility in the workplace. The department was going through significant changes. People were being coerced to move after many years on the job, only to be forced to take on more varied roles.  There was no consultation period for some of the staff involved. In short, the change was sudden and drastic. Following one-to-one sessions with various staff on the best ways of managing change, a managing change course was delivered for the remaining staff that was specifically tailored to meet their needs. It became obvious that some of the staff in the department were extremely passive aggressive. This is a common behaviour style in the workplace that is often uncovered during the research stage. Revealing passive-aggressive behaviours to management and staff puts an end to much back-biting, usurping and sabotaging behaviours on all levels.

Common workplace actions that are supported by passive-aggressive behaviours are:

  • excessive gossiping, lateness, sickness, criticizing or complaining;
  • over-sending emails rather than direct communication;
  • fear of confrontation, playing stupid, and lack of communication;
  • procrastination, lack of responsibility, and constantly blaming others and making others feel guilty.

These behaviours were affecting the entire department, from senior management to clerical staff.  Some staff felt bullied and harassed by members of their own team.  A one day training course on the management of hostility and anger within the workplace was designed and delivered and, instantly, the department showed marked improvement.

After addressing the anger and hostility in the department, and after staff felt they were finally listened to by management, morale improved significantly. Problem employees soon shifted into more meaningful roles, improved their attitudes, and put an end to obstructive actions. Management was more communicative, supportive and assertive as a result of the course.

The managing anger and hostility course focused on the following areas:

  • Defining the types of anger from rage, hostility, aggression, negativity, fury and resentment.
  • Understanding individual anger styles and why we get triggered at work.
  • Understanding individual and group anger and its affects in the workplace.
  • Understanding the differences between “exploders” and “imploders”.
  • Introducing the steps of breaking out of the cycle of anger by showing short and long term effects of anger on the mind and body.
  • Exploring individual responses to anger on health and how this affects the business through sickness, negative work relationships and low morale.
  • Introducing two proprietary strategies to manage personal anger reactions and to help diffuse another person’s anger. One system uses unique eye movements to reduce adrenalin within the body and to quickly restructure thoughts.
  • Understanding the core differences between aggression, hostility and assertive behaviours as a means of managing any hostile situation.
  • Exploration of the importance of boundaries for becoming more assertive and confident within the workplace.
  • Understanding the importance of active listening when responding to hostility and anger.
  • Exploring the way language and body language can either reduce anger and hostility or inflame it.
  • Developing a more confident and assertive way of managing anger and hostility within the workplace.
  • Establishing the importance of having an anger management strategy within the workplace for the individual and the organisation.

All of these areas covered in the course surfaced the main culprit, passive aggressive behaviour. The course had an immediate impact on the team from an individual standpoint to a group standpoint. The changes within the organization were far reaching and extremely impactful, not to mention saving the department thousands of pounds.

The training was hugely beneficial to all of the participants because it not only allowed them to see how some of their negative behaviours were impacting on themselves and the team, but also gave them the tools to change it. The course was designed and delivered by In Equilibrium consultant Angela Brown, MSc who is a Forensic Psychologist working internationally. Her programmes have been recognised by the British Psychological Society, and the Home Office. She is co-founder of Oculo-Solutions Therapy™ a unique coaching system using eye movements and CBT. She is married and lives in London with her daughter.