Another limitation that we could not take into account in this study was individual personality differences, yet trait effects of both the expresser and the receiver may interact with work unit norms to influence whether and how anger is expressed and its attendant results. For example, people with high trait anger are more likely to express angry feelings (Tiedens, 2000b) and may do so regardless of work prohibitions, especially if such expressions provide them with positive experiences (Harmon-Jones, 2004, Lerner and Tiedens, 2006). Traits of the anger target may also influence outcomes of anger expression because more aggressive targets are likely to make more hostile inferences (Carver, Ganellen, Froming and Chambers, 1983) and then to take more aggressive action when anger is directed toward them (Tiedens, 2000b). Whether outcomes are judged beneficial or detrimental may also vary with personality traits.
Finally, provocative research questions remain to be explored including: Where and how can anger expressions be most productive? Where are they most harmful? This study suggests a fit between form of expression (authentic, controlled or silent) with normative context (suppressing, contingent or legitimating) is advantageous. Further research is needed to explore these and the impact of status and gender to be able to answer managers’ questions about how to harness the beneficial effects of anger.
We demonstrate that the impact of anger expressions is not uniform across organizations. Our study substantiates Isen’s (1990) contention that anger and its effects on work units produce complex and differentiated outcomes. We demonstrated that both work unit norms and form of anger expression contributed to very different patterns of outcomes for anger episodes; anger expression generated combinations of both negative and positive effects depending on where and how it was expressed. For example, anger can focus attention on critical problems and motivate effort. The role of anger for advocacy within organizations also suggests it is a critical ingredient in employee voice. Similarly, suppression of angry feelings, while improving relationships with clients and preventing short-term individual harm, may prove dysfunctional for work unit morale in the long run unless mechanisms for problem identification and voice (Pinder and Harlos, 2001) are also provided.