Saturday, 26 May 2012

Is anger justified in the workplace or interviews?

When a little bit of temper might just be your friend!
Human beings as a species have come to dominate the planet for a number of reasons, not least is our ability to co-operate; together we can achieve more than we can individually. Groups who can co-operate in their use of the ‘opposable thumb’ have the edge over those that don’t (or evolutionary advantage). But within the group slightly different rules may operate and total co-operation may not always be the best tack. Being co-operative in your ‘tribe’ or within your workplace has many benefits and having a reputation as a ‘good team player’  is no bad thing: but as I have consistently said this is not about being a pushover. People who are perpetually angry and shouting, create stress in others, people who run others down and are negative about their peers don’t win a lot of friends. But being sweetness and light all the time can also work against you.
The trick of course is knowing when to reveal you that you have some teeth and can be out to win. When it comes to winning that sale, holding back and saying to the competition ‘after you’ is not going to get you in the boss’ good books!  In the sales environment having  some hunger and a desire to be better than the rest or out front rather than one of the crowd is key to success.
In the debates about company strategy, there is a time for competition and a time for co-operation. Once the debate has been had and the boss has decided the way forward it’s time to cooperate. All that  is just common sense?
But what about in the interview process, surely that is another place where it is essential to be seen as a good team player? Well apparently it is not quite as simple as that. An experiment carried out by Dr Victoria Brescoll at Yale showed that candidates who demonstrated some anger at the loss of a client and blamed their co-workers were rated more competent  than the candidates who expressed sadness.  The ones who behaved less well, were deemed to be better able to cope with a position of high authority.
In a similar study at Rutgers University the social psychologist, Corrine Moss-Racusin discovered that men who were modest were judged weak and less likeable than vain or arrogant candidates. She says this is because they were behaving in line with strict expectations for masculinity.
So how should you present yourself in an interview? Should you show your anger?  Well there are a clear set of circumstances when no one would criticise you for expressing a strong emotion. Even the mildest mannered person can share an impatience and anger with poor performance, with low quality, inefficiency or wasted resources.  Passion for excellence can only be seen as a virtue.  I would counsel more caution with blaming others, consistently blaming others would suggest someone who does not take responsibility and has sloping shoulders. It might also suggest someone who can’t learn from mistakes or failures.
Anger needs to be used very sporadically and carefully because although it can be seen in some western cultures as an expression of toughness and resolve in other cultures, particuallary in Asia, it can be seen as loss of control.
I struggle to advise candidates to be arrogant or vain:  but be confident and assertive, being proud of your achievements and hungry for new challenges are a more attractive way of presenting. There is a real need not to be overly modest or diffident. You need to be able to command respect in leadership positions and have authority, so energy and self assurance are important. And lower risk than appearing vain and arrogant.
So what does all this research demonstrate? Well not having read it in detail I may be disagreeing with it out of ignorance!  But I think that interviews are very complex interactions and there are many variables, maybe research that identifies one and suggests that it may be a determinant would be wrong.

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