Let’s have an honest discussion about our anger:

Let’s dislodge gender stereotypes about anger. June Tangney PhD has called into question common assumptions about women and anger, such as the notion that women have trouble with anger. Women don’t have a problem with anger–they just manage it differently, says Tangney, professor of psychology at George Mason University.

Women tend not to be as aggressive as men in expressing anger and tend to talk about their anger more, she says. “They are more proactive and use more problem-solving approaches in discussing a problem with a person they are angry with,” says Tangney.

And what makes ordinary women angry day-to-day? In 1993, Thomas conducted the Women’s Anger Study, a large-scale investigation involving 535 women between the ages of 25 and 66. The study revealed three common roots to women’s anger: powerlessness, injustice and the irresponsibility of other people.

While research has not yet suggested that different factors trigger men’s anger, researchers continue to uncover differences in how men and women experience it. Raymond DiGiuseppe, PhD, chair of the psychology department at St. John’s University in New York, in his research to develop a new anger disorder scale surved 1,300 people ages 18 to 90. Dr DiGiuseppe investigated 18 subscales of anger, including how individuals experience their anger, how long the anger lasts and what they get angry about. While he found that differences in men’s and women’s total anger scores were not significant, he did find differences in the way they experience anger. Specifically, men scored higher on physical aggression, passive aggression and experiences of impulsively dealing with their anger. They also more often had a revenge motive to their anger and scored higher on coercing other people.

Women, on the other hand, were found to be angry longer, more resentful and less likely to express their anger, compared with men. DiGuiseppe found that women used indirect aggression by “writing off” a higher number of people–intending to never speak to them again because of their anger.

Dr DiGuiseppe’s research seems to contradict Dr. Tagney’s assumption about women being more proactive about resolving issues around conflict.

I have witnessed this frequently during my years in management and consulting, while men seem to disagree at work they still go out golfing or another social setting or activity after work. Women stop speaking to each other unless it is absolutely necessary which is fundamentally a huge problem in a working environment and generally counterproductive in life. I have often wondered whether it is our inability to understand competition in the same way our male colleagues do or whether we take ourselves too seriously or what?

What have your experiences been? How do you deal with anger at work? Do you agree with Dr. Tagney’s assumptions about women and anger and does that assumption hold true in a work setting?  Is it possible we get too invested in the problem solving process as a way to support our position rather than find a place of compromise?