Lindebaum, D, Jordan, P. J. & Morris, L. (2016)
Human Relations, 69(2): 277–300.
Publication year: 2016

Recent studies have highlighted the utility of anger at work, suggesting that anger can have positive outcomes. Using the Dual Threshold Model, we assess the positive and negative consequences of anger expressions at work and focus on the conditions under which expressions of anger crossing the impropriety threshold are perceived as productive or counterproductive by observers or targets of that anger. To explore this phenomenon, we conducted a phenomenological study (n = 20) to probe the lived experiences of followers (as observers and targets) associated with anger expressions by military leaders. The nature of task (e.g. the display rules prescribed for combat situations) emerged as one condition under which the crossing of the impropriety threshold leads to positive outcomes of anger expressions. Our data reveal tensions between emotional display rules and emotional display norms in the military, thereby fostering paradoxical attitudes toward anger expression and its consequences among followers. Within this paradoxical space, anger expressions have both positive (asymmetrical) and negative (symmetrical) consequences. We place our findings in the context of the Dual Threshold Model, discuss the practical implications of our research and offer avenues for future studies.