Anger management is one of the most important skills to have when working on any group project especially as an engineer.  This article covers not only anger management but how to avoid situations in which you may become angry in the first place.  This article review a case study to detail real life situations in which anger management techniques were implemented.  In the end this article explains exactly how anger management relates to a senior engineering Capstone design project.


Introduction to Anger and Anger Management

According to the American Psychological Association, anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.  Sometimes anger can be a positive thing, motivating you to find a solution to a problem.  However other times anger can cause problems, especially when one is part of a team.  Anger management is any technique that allows you to work constructively to get around an issue that is causing you frustration.  Frustration is very common in any engineering problem but especially prevalent in group projects.

Causes of Frustration

Frustration is a leading cause of anger.  Frustration often occurs in engineering projects when things are not going as planned, as they pretty much never do.  When working in a team, members who are frustrated tend to lash out at their partners.  This usually stems from a lack of control that engineers feel when working as a member of a team.  Engineers have a certain ego about them which can be both good and bad.  The good part of it is that is gives them confidence which is important in any profession.  The bad part of this is that engineers are often tough to convince that their idea of how to do something may not be the best or most efficient way.  With the high stress of engineering projects often the smallest mistakes can push frustrated members over the edge.  This usually leads to an expression of frustration that is not warranted.  The frustrated members of a group are, the less productive they are because they begin to lose the teamwork that is needed to accomplish the end goal.  What are some good ways to negate this frustration and keep your team on track?

Examples and Implementation

Anger and frustration are very common in engineering projects for many reasons.  Generally speaking, the frustration usually stems from the difficulty of most engineering projects, as well as the high stress level because of deadlines or the many risks.  This section first describes two situations where frustration is present or becoming present in an engineering project, then discusses three techniques on how to manage ones anger effectively.

A common source of frustration in an engineering project is when one or more teammate does not believe that another teammate is pulling their own weight on the project.  This team mate is usually someone who is constantly late to meetings, not completing his or her work, or just generally not helping the team accomplish the end goal.

Another source of frustration in an engineering project is when two teammates disagree on some topic that is essential to the objective.  This happens all the time because many engineering projects are ambiguous and there are many ways to go about finding a solution.  This can be linked to the competitiveness of engineering fields.  Everyone wants their idea to be the idea that makes a project successful.  There is no way to completely avoid frustrating situations in engineering projects but below are some strategies for anger management.


Figure 1

The Anger Iceberg. Source: CReducation.org based on a graphic by Men For Change, The Online Healthy Relationships Project, 1998 (n.d.).

The first strategy for anger management is maintaining a good workplace environment and atmosphere.  This comes in many forms; first is personal health.  Frustration usually peaks at a time when team members are tired, hungry and fed up.  When a team must meet a deadline, they often have to work on minimal hours of sleep and without eating proper healthy meals.  This requires team members to know their own limits and to know that taking a break is not a waste of time.  This break doesn’t have to mean sleep, it could mean a quick trip to the gym to get some exercise or it could mean a good meal.  Keeping up ones health is monumental to managing anger.  As for maintaining a good workplace environment, sometimes this means changing up where you work.  It is well known how disgustingly messy engineering labs can become during a big project, this can add to the stress levels of the team.  Sometimes simply moving to a new location can lower the stress levels and is a good way to manage anger.

The second strategy for anger management is effective communication.  Poor communication is a huge cause for frustration, and the poor communication tends to accumulate.  More clearly, poor communication leads to frustration, and when one is frustrated they communicate even less effectively.  When team members are frustrated they often jump to conclusions.  It is important to listen to one another and find out what really is troubling your teammates.  Often anger stems from teammates who believe their thoughts and ideas are not being heard by the rest of the team.  However it is also important to express your reasons for frustration in a constructive manor.  This means staying clear of criticism, because this drives your teammates away from you.  When you are criticized by a teammate it is human nature to become defensive, but instead listen closely to what the person is saying and try to work through it.  If a person responds positively to criticism it often shows the frustrated teammate that you are listening and willing to work through it.  When you sense frustration within your team suggest an open dialogue where everyone gets to speak his or her mind uninterrupted.

The third strategy for anger management is having fun.  Engineering is hard, period.  If you don’t love engineering, then you should not be an engineer.  Tough times in engineering projects are inevitable;  anger management is necessary in engineering projects due to these situations.  One way to relieve stress and limit frustration in a team environment is through humor.  This is obviously not a total solution because there are certainly times for seriousness, but humor is a good way to find the positives in a negative situation.  Frustration is a dividing factor in a team, while humor is something that can bring a team back together.  One important note is the humor, whatever it may be, should not come at the expense of one of your fellow teammates.  Bringing teammates together when it seams that they are being driven apart is what anger management is all about.

Case Study

The case study that I chose to discuss corresponds to first strategy for anger management that I discussed above, maintaining a good workplace environment and atmosphere.  This case study concentrates on the affects of fatigue in the workplace.

This case study was completed at a Japanese plant that manufactures and sells electronic products.  The case study looked at both males and females and asked them the following about their lifestyles: Age, occupation, sleep hours/day, days off in the last month.  They were also asked about their overtime work per month, other job stressors, and sleep rest.  From these answers they were put into a group A, B or C based on significance of their answers (C being most affected).

The results showed that although the number of overtime hours worked did not have a strong correlation with the subjective symptom grade, quantity of sleep/rest as well as high levels of other job stressors had a strong negative correlation with the subjective symptom grade (Nishikitani, 2005).

Application to Senior Project

This topic has huge implications on our senior projects.  Whether one is working in a team or working by themselves, there will come a time where frustration and stress levels are high.  Being able to manage anger effectively is absolutely necessary for completing a senior project to the highest standard.

Cited References

See Also

Tagged with: