Risk-averse supervisors can be forgiven if they’re ready to jump on employees who express anger in the workplace. After all, aren’t we warned that anger is often a prelude to more disruptive behavior – even violence?

Sure. But, according to a new study, discipline isn’t always the best answer. The study, by researchers at Temple University and the University of Baltimore, questioned 194 people who witnessed incidents involving irate workers and their aftermath.

The study’s conclusion: When supervisors respond to angry outbursts with compassion and a willingness to listen, they’re more likely to promote positive change than when they impose discipline or do nothing.

Obviously, discipline is called for if an employee hits or threatens someone or breaks equipment in a rage. But the study suggests steering clear of knee-jerk punitive responses – and checking with HR – when the conduct is limited to a raised voice or a verbal tiff.

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