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work units in this study where childhood experiences were mentioned. For example, when asked “Were you ever explicitly told when or where anger was acceptable or unacceptable?” respondents stated:

“I guess maybe growing up I have been. I’ve been told that …you shouldn’t ever [physically] hurt anybody…” RA #9

“I guess I learned growing up; you control emotions as well as possible and express them appropriately.” RA #7

“When you’re growing up you didn’t show anger to your mom. You respected her. You didn’t show anger to your dad or mom. You could voice your opinion and show that you are unhappy, but anger is not acceptable.” RA #10

These responses suggest that in the absence of clear display rules or a strong organizational culture to clarify the appropriateness of anger expressions, employees may import such rules from previous experiences including occupational socialization (which we find in the social work departments) or previous life experiences such as those from their family. An abundance of evidence also shows that aggression is related to previous exposure to aggressive environments (Bandura, 1973, Berkowitz, 1993, Douglas and Martinko, 2001, Geen, 1990).

Labor Organization. The labor organization revealed anger legitimating norms. In contrast to the nursing home and the social work department, formal organizational display rules were not readily apparent. Instead, a strong culture that supported the use of anger was evidenced in the stories employees told, rather than in explicit rules they identified. Throughout these interviews anger expressions were evaluated in terms of whether they were useful for promoting the mission of the organization. The following quote illustrates the utility of anger expression in this work unit:

“The goal of the union is to help workers make their lives better on the job. And anger is a strong emotion—often, a negative emotion—but it unleashes a passion that often doesn’t get unleashed in the workplace. And there are times when that passion is useful. The greatest fear of the union organizer, or the greatest obstacle, is people feeling demoralized, like things can’t change, like it’s not worth it…flat emotionally.”  D#5

Within the union organization confrontation is viewed as valuable and an expected mode of operating. A labor organizer discussed the central role of anger in accomplishing work unit goals:  

“But there are times when you’ve got to go in and say, ‘Time to fight!’  And not just pissed off, but also inspiring. You have to have the confidence that you are going to win… Anger is part of the essence of the work in a very real way…” D#2-58

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