Date Published: 9 August 2011

Construction Project Managers (CPMs) and Anger at Work

Is it ever justifiable to get angry at work, or is that just plain bad manners and lack of self-control ? Perhaps surprisingly, researchers have recently found that anger expressed by managers in the construction industry can have a positive effect and contribute to the success of a project.

The study was designed to investigate when and why anger was displayed by Construction Project Managers, and the impact of this show of emotion on their work. The study found that, contrary to previous studies on the subject, anger is widely used by all Construction Project Managers, irrespective of age, to get tasks done and to successfully resolve problems.

Researchers from Liverpool University interviewed 19 Construction Project Managers from four different companies across the UK, ranging in age from 26 to 62 years old. Their experience in the industry varied from one to 35 years. The study found that Construction Project Managers use anger in a deliberate way reflecting the hierarchy of the industry. It is therefore less likely to be used by Construction Project Managers when meeting with architects, the design team or line managers but is more likely to used when liaising with contractors and operatives.

Other reasons cited for using anger also included a fear of losing reputation and "pulling rank" which was identified as a characteristic common to the construction industry. However, Construction Project Managerss recognised that if this approach was used too often it would not have the desired impact. Issues which provoked an angry outburst tended to relate to breaches in health and safety and questions about honesty and integrity.

Dr Dirk Lindebaum from the University's School of Management said:

" This project found that anger is embedded in the occupational culture of the construction industry and represents a core characteristic of the manager's role. Stress and anger are emotions frequently experienced by the Construction Project Managers and contrary to common management theories is widely used to achieve a positive outcome – to get the job in hand done.
_ The construction industry is fast-moving, fiercely competitive with many short-term pressures. It is one of the most male-dominated and aggressive industries in the UK which has implications on the nature of behaviour displayed and the nature of power structures. `Softer' emotions such as sympathy or understanding are rarely displayed whilst toughness and control prevail.
_ A Construction Project Manager is responsible for the day-to-day running of the construction site and oversees control activities on site including instructions, payments, progress meetings and commercial meetings and liaises with architects, civil engineers, sub-contractors and operatives on site.

The UK construction industry comprises of more than 300,000 firms employing over two million people working in many different jobs. Previous studies of anger in the workplace have argued that anger is a negative emotion which does not yield positive outcomes.

Source: Liverpool University -

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