For LEADERS Only: Part 2 - Passion vs Anger

Business can be an emotional thing.  Co-workers don’t always agree, and if they do, then that is a different problem for another day.  But when disagreements do occur, there is a tendency for some people to misinterpret two common emotions that look very much the same.  One is anger, which can be very destructive.  The other is passion, which can have numerous healthy benefits.

Anger in the workplace is typically the result of one of the following situations:

  1. Your future is threatened.  Perhaps another company is acquiring yours and your position is a "duplicate.”  Just the rumor of an internal restructuring can create the same threat.
  2. Your job performance is not acceptable (or appreciated).  An example might be that you were passed over for a promotion that you felt you deserved. We all need to feel a sense of “worth” or “significance”, and when that need is not met, we get angry.
  3. Something someone said or did “hurt” you.  This is very common among leaders whose ideas or actions are challenged, or when a key employee who was viewed as “loyal” suddenly leaves with little or no explanation.

In many situations, however, passion is misinterpreted as anger.  Business owners who have everything on the line if they fail are far more vested, more engaged, and yes – more passionate about their businesses.  Every detail carries more significance, and when emotions are displayed, it is far more often passion rather than anger. 

The solution

If you are a business owner, explain this concept (actually this reality) to your people.   Let them know that when things don’t go right, it affects you at a far deeper level because of the risks to which you are exposed.  When it truly is passion, remind them from time to time by saying things like, “I’m concerned…” or “We really need to correct this”… and yes, when you are angry, let them know that, too.  Soon your people may begin to ask, “Is that passion or anger?”  This brief moment might serve as an opportunity to stop and give a little more thought about how you want to respond.

As long as everyone knows what’s going on, your people will be able to react in the most professional and effective manner.  Challenge every member of your organization to be as passionate as you are.  Have them think and act as if they owned the business.  Meet regularly with them one-on-one to look for ideas for making things better.  Most importantly, never be afraid to show your emotions to your team.  This “vulnerability” will help build deeper relationships and you will be more respected over the long run.