terms of potential positive outcomes, people experiencing anger tend to pay increased attention to their environment and have a heightened physical readiness for action (Frijda 1986), and angry people tend to have a stronger sense of control and certainty than fearful people (Lerner and Tiedens 2006). Anger expressions can also alert managers to employee perceptions of inefficiency, inequity and injustice (Glomb and Hulin 1997) and possibly instigate organizational change. When anger is expressed about organizational problems it can signal that something systemic is amiss, identify and focus motivation on critical issues, and create opportunities to increase knowledge and learning (Huy 1999).
Despite acknowledging the positive and negative potential of anger in organizations, researchers know less about the circumstances which enable either outcome to occur. Researchers have established that emotions are socially constructed (Fineman 2000, Harre 1986, Hochschild 1983, Mumby and Putnam 1992) and that organizational norms can encourage or discourage emotional expression (Feldman 1984, Rafaeli and Sutton 1989, Sutton 1991, Van Maanen and Kunda 1989, Kramer and Hess 2002). Still, there has been almost no systematic effort to demarcate differences in organizational anger contexts or how these differences affect the impact of anger episodes on individuals and their work units. Toward this end, our research addresses the following questions:
How do work units differ in anger expression norms (e.g., suppressing to legitimating anger expression) and the strength and clarity of display prescriptions?
How does the form in which anger is expressed during an anger episode affect the individual and work unit outcomes of the episode?
What differential outcomes accrue when anger expressions do and do not match the work unit’s prescriptions regarding anger displays?
To answer these questions we report results from a qualitative study of 158 anger episodes from employees in seven different work units that differ in their norms regarding display of anger. Our paper proceeds as follows: After reviewing the theoretical background on anger as a socially constructed emotion and describing how emotional labor research can be extended by studying different anger