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Can an Employer Require Anger Management?

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Anger is a common societal problem. Road rage, children bullying their peers, parents berating umpires at children’s events -- there is no end to the stories that make the news. Anger in the workplace is also a fact of American life -- and one that is becoming more commonplace. Dealing with angry employees is a challenging task and must be handled with care.

Defining the Problem

Anger in the workplace is a serious issue. Any problem that affects other employees, your customers or your company’s productivity cannot be ignored. Loss of productivity, increased absenteeism, abuse of sick leave, high employee turnover and poor morale are all problems that can arise if you do not check the behavior of an angry person or a bully in your workplace.


Some employees bring problems with them to work. An employee may be simmering with anger, ready to explode at the slightest provocation, which he may find in the workplace. A depersonalized work environment may lead to a feeling of isolation. Downsizing is stressful -- both the anxiety leading up to it and the pressures of a reduced workforce after it occurs. Perceptions of favoritism, harassment and unreasonable demands can trigger an angry response. Anger can also be triggered by medical conditions, which makes managing it more sensitive.

Recognizing the Problem

Anger in the workplace can manifest itself in different ways. It may come from an employee who is just having a bad day or it could be the office bully who is continually harassing coworkers. The warning signs of a problem surface early. Anti-social behavior may appear with sarcastic remarks. The bully may be apathetic toward his coworkers. If the bullying is not addressed and allowed to continue, it could lead to complaints and legal action against you by the employees being harassed.

Dealing with Anger

If you, the manager, see the warning signs, address them quickly. If your company has an anger management program, enroll the problem employee. Require that everyone take the course to protect yourself from possible charges that you are singling out one person unfairly. Anger management is an issue that most be dealt with carefully. An employee with a medical problem is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and its amendments. If you refer the employee to have counseling, you may create legal problems for yourself. If in doubt consult your company’s Employee Assistance Program or an attorney.


Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.

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