Why Getting Mad Can Benefit Your Projects

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Categories: Human Aspects of PM

"Get mad, then get over it." --Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret.)

Generally, people consider anger to be a negative emotion. But it doesn't have to be.

Let's review the positive side of anger:

Anger can benefit relationships.
Many of us are told to hide our anger, but doing so could be detrimental to your relationships.

For example, if you're angry because of a mistake that a project team member has made and you don't speak up, he won't know that he has done something wrong. He will probably keep doing it and enter into a vicious cycle.

On the other hand -- if justifiable and aimed at finding a solution --expressing dissatisfaction can strengthen relationships. Such honest communication can help solve problems among stakeholders and build cohesiveness into your team.

Anger can motivate.
Anger can prove to be a powerful motivation force, helping you "go the extra mile" and keep working despite problems or barriers.
For example, if you're criticized for your work, you may feel further motivated to do better because you are angry and want to prove that you can improve your level of performance.

In project management, if we are able to produce what is called  "positive anger" in our team, they will be more motivated to achieve results. But don't make a team member mad just for the sake of it. Find the right words to push them in the right direction.

Anger can indicate an optimistic personality.
Ironically, happy people have something in common with angry people. Both tend to be optimistic.

Take the study of risk management, for example. Dr. J.S. Lerner, professor of public policy and management at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, found that angry people expressed optimistic risk estimates. Estimates of angry people more closely resemble those of happy people than those of fearful people.
It's okay to get mad, but always behave professionally and treat people respectfully. Don't let wrong behavior undercut a right message.

At the end of the day, we're all human. We all have feelings, one of which is getting mad. Use positive anger when you can. Above all, be able to communicate when you're angry in a way that doesn't undercut your message.

Have you ever used anger in a positive way in your projects?

Read more from Jorge.
Posted by Jorge Valdés Garciatorres on: April 20, 2012 11:34 AM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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Daniel Roozen
It's okay to get angry, as long as it is controlled and respectful. Angry outbursts, in my opinion, are not acceptable in the workplace.

I think this post takes the wrong slant, though, and maybe it's just for sensationalism to catch the eyes of readers, but I don't agree that it is getting mad that benefits the projects. More often than not, people don't think as reasonably when they are angry, even if it is a controlled anger.

What does benefit projects is the actions specified in article. If a team member made a mistake or is acting detrimental, I don't think you need to get mad to point it out and improve. You can express concern or dissatisfaction, and doing it without being angry, I think, goes over much better.

Like disciplining your children. If you discipline in anger, you tend to be harsher and the discipline is taken as "he gets upset so easily" instead of "I did something wrong and should improve". Disciplining in love works much better.

I think the same applies to motivation and optimism. Such qualities spurred on by love, or at least by autonomy and camaraderie, are much better motivators. Criticism provoking anger can actually be a greater impedance than criticism to encourage and build up. Anger, in fact, leads to dissatisfaction in the workplace and can eventually hurt your company more than it helps when you lose good people who leave the company.

Taken from the stance of channeling your anger to beneficial purposes, if you do get angry-- the suggestions in this article are much more positive in that view.

Todd/The Project Management Steps
Interesting article.

I've never thought of anger in this context before, but I do agree at times that anger can definitely provide extra motivation!

I think that using anger is quite delicate though as different people react much differently when they are angry. Some people use it to motivate and others use it in much more negative ways.

Great article though - makes you think out of the box a little!

Matt Molinari

Really interesting post. I think that anger can certainly be one of the most powerful motivators there is.

The problem is that you never really know how people will respond to it. If they have an external locust of control, they are more likely to fall apart when faced with a challenge so it is very important to know how each person on the project is best motivated.


Asdrúbal Pérez

Interesting post. I'm from Venezuela and I'm Project Manager. I think anger could help you to do things that allow you to show your real capabilities to other people.

Nevertheless, happiness is a powerful weapon to canalize your energy in a positive way and achieve the project goals.

Good bye
Asdrúbal Pérez

Riann Smith
I don't think 'anger' is really the critical emotional component here.

I think that all of the examples provided could easily have 'anger' substituted for 'disappointment' - personally I am more interested in the conditions eliciting the emotional response.

For example, team members not delivering, well no emotional response is necessary, if someone doesn't do what was asked, or didn't do it well enough then obviously this should be expressed and the team member mentored and corrected accordingly but BEING angry in and of itself isn't of any use in this instance.

I agree with Daniel Roozen's post in his assessment of the application of anger. I think a question also worth asking is why is person in these examples getting angry? If a member of my team lets me down I'm not mad at them, I'd see that as a base response and not one worthy of management.

While I also like Daniel's analogy of child rearing I think it is also wise to point out that these aren't children we are talking about, but adults with minds and experience of their own. Anger tends to be a knee jerk response, taking the time out to talk to people, establishing ALL the facts and taking time to analyse it requires clear thinking.

Granted I don't think this article is talking about blind rage, that is obviously never appropriate in the work place, but in my experience anger only motivated you personally, I've never seen a healthy application of it directed externally.

Positive anger...interesting concept! I am absolutely against any kind of outburst in the workplace - I agree that you should always treat your colleagues professionally - whether they work under, over, or with you!

Charanjeet Singh
Hello Jorge,

I am glad that someone else also agrees. Anger can be a useful tool in projects as well as personal life. The key is that it has to be used in a respectful manner i.e. anger should be directed at the problem and not at a group or an individual.

I have used anger in my projects to motivate the team and to get them out of a rut, a mild shock can do wonders for a team/individual stuck in a destructive routine.


Amit Sharma
Anger is my view is both positive and negative motivators. Anger can become negative motivator if person does not think through of consequences and become respondent to situtions. For instance if s/he get feedback from team/supervisors that his performance is not optimal without getting sufficient details if s/he start taking actions which is/are not required may impact him immotionaly as well as affect his professional behavior. However, anger can be good motivator if utlize for improving and behaving professionally irrespective of the situations.

Anjum Khurshid PMP
Jorge – if you are suggesting that anger should be expressed towards Individuals; then most certainly I disagree with you – we are all part of the same civil society and bound make mistakes, when people make mistakes getting angry at them is not the solution – anger directed towards a particular individual(s) and not at the procedure that s/he is not a permanent fix to ensure that mistakes are not repeated, but a short term and a very short lived solution – we all learn as we go along in life and the learning cycle continues till our last breath. The philosophy of using anger to ensure that mistakes are not repeated comes across as a very crude one; it might yield you results on one odd occasion but can’t be the norm. Our (especially PMs) aim should be to get to the root cause of the problem and not the project team members. People aren’t productive if they work in a hostile environment where the PM starts spitting venom on every mistake made – this tactic has huge consequences of generating demotivation and eliminating creativity quotient within individuals. Also, it limits them to think out of the box – anger subdues these factors that might help us devise solutions that can be effective in nature rather than getting stuck with the rudimentary practices. I would suggest that we rather use assertiveness and effective communication as a tool than expressing anger to put our point across. Anger doesn’t indicate optimistic personality it instead demonstrates imbalanced trait. As they say, a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose – so is anger, there is nothing positive about.

Saket Bansal , PMP , PMI-ACP
i disagree , to speak up one does not has to get angry... in anger person looses focus from issues and get into emotions... my take one should speak his mind, should criticize if something is not as per expectations but his breaths and voice should always be in control... not in anger

Jim Duggan
While I would agree that anger is one of the most human of emotions, if expressed negatively it can lead to a downward spiral of finger pointing, passive-aggressive behaviour and negativism when it comes to projects. On a project it is important to always behave professionally and with an eye towards solutions and positive outcomes, no matter how one feels at any given time.

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