WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

I have a colleague who is often angry. It is upsetting - what should I do?

In any organisation, when people are working hard and under pressure, tempers can easily become frayed. We face particular challenges in the third sector due to the incredibly limited resources in terms of money, staff and volunteers.

But let us be realistic - anger is sometimes inevitable and not a calamity if it is rare. Indeed, a little righteous wrath is sometimes a useful spur to performance. It would be a sad day if we were all expected to be saints at work.

However, I suspect with your colleague that you are dealing with regular bouts of anger. This may well be a sign of:

- Unrealistic workload and targets

- Difficulties in personal circumstances

- Problems with a work-life balance

- More serious mental health problems

In such cases, help is needed and should be offered. There is a burgeoning array of anger-management courses on offer that look at causes and techniques to calm tempers. But turning to your colleague and suggesting they attend such a course might merely provoke a further outburst.

It may be that you are in an organisation where you have the luxury of an HR department and you should, therefore, take this up with them. However, many of our organisations are too small to have such a luxury. Indeed, it may be an issue for the chief executive to consider.

You don't say whether you have tried confronting your colleague directly by explaining the difficulties they are causing. If you are able to tackle this on a colleague-to-colleague basis it is preferable, but I suspect the problem needs further action. If you have an employee assistance programme in place, confidential counselling can be provided. Such programmes are both very cheap and invaluable in handling problems - all organisations, small or large should make these available.

Remember, too, that it is always better to offer some support than simply confront individuals with a complaint.

And finally, let us remember that there are very occasionally situations when an impatient attitude may be necessary to move things forward. As they say, if you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, you have probably failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to:

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