In just a few weeks, Consilio is launching the first of our Leadership Forums for Men, a place for men to master their inner game of leadership. Michael Ryan, our collaborator on the project, penned the following post giving us an inside look at anger. Mastering the inner game of leadership is about understanding your emotional life well enough to drive your leadership game rather than letting your emotions drive you and your organization.

We are thrilled to be embarking on this important project for men in leadership.

-The Consilio Team


Contributor Michael Ryan

Is there a place for anger in the workplace?

Did you know there are two different kinds of anger? When we label anger as hurtful and destructive, we’re thinking about the most familiar kind of anger. And we’re right. It is hurtful – to others, to ourselves and to our relationships.

But there’s another kind of anger. One that’s actually healthy, and potentially able to build stronger relationships with the people around us. So what’s the difference? What makes one kind of anger toxic and another good for us?

To understand the distinction, it might be helpful to talk about the function of emotions in general. We have feelings for a reason. They are an important part of our mental and physical feedback system. Just like physical pain and discomfort, emotional pain wants our attention. It’s like a message sent by the vast intelligence of our consciousness to alert us to what matters, most often to something we need.

In the case of anger, it’s the emotion we feel when the world doesn’t go the way we want. So anger shows us is where our boundaries are. It’s a signal that we need to say “no” to someone or something to avoid violating our own values and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, most people are unaware of a healthy side to anger. Instead of listening intelligently to what their anger is trying to tell them, they push it away or blame it on someone else. But any feeling denied is a feeling delayed. When we suppress anger, either by ignoring it or holding someone else responsible for it, it doesn’t just go away. Unless circumstances change, the anger gets driven underground, only to pop up again, often magnified and at the worst possible moment. This is how toxic anger arises.

Healthy anger means recognizing the feeling and what it’s showing us. It means taking responsibility for acting on behalf of our own needs and values and, in the workplace, on behalf of the needs and values of our team or organization. Rather than diminishing others, It can be an act of courageous leadership that validates the worth and integrity of the company and everyone in it.

Where have you been ignoring something that makes you angry? Where have you let resentment sour your opinion of those you work with or for? I encourage you to examine what’s at stake, for both you and the organization, and see what it would take to speak up about it. Not to blame or criticize, but to make a stand for the highest good of everyone concerned. As Robert Frost says, good fences make good neighbors. You might be surprised by what happens.


Michael Ryan is a purpose coach and organizational purpose consultant. Read more about him here.