Why anger could be a key ingredient to success
Published 05/03/2009 | 08:28
Losing your temper in a blind tantrum, Victor Meldrew-style or Gordon Ramsey, has long been held up as a bad idea.
I’ve lost count of the number of employment experts and business consultants who have claimed that, once you start shouting, you’ve lost the argument and revealed far too much about your own weaknesses to your enemies in the process.
But anger is now being re-evaluated. A 44-year study by psychiatrists in the US looked at the careers of 800 people, and concluded that anger helped people rise to the top, provided it was expressed in a positive way.
In fact, the study’s authors say that suppressing rage and “thinking positive” when things go wrong merely suppresses emotions and inhibits personal development. Dealing with anger by taking mood-altering drugs or medication is even worse; you’re far better off letting it all hang out.
Another recent medical study confirms that losing it isn’t necessarily bad for you. More than 55% of the people questioned said that an angry episode produced a positive outcome, and one in three said it had enabled them to confront their own faults. I’m fascinated by what these researchers consider is the new socially acceptable way to express yourself when you’re furious. Over my years in the media, I have certainly experienced some top tantrums, and there are plenty of people who can testify that I’ve never been a wallflower when it comes to screaming and shouting.
Mind you, I have learnt from the best. I once worked with a top BBC executive who would systematically grind a pencil into a pad of paper as he gradually lost his cool, until he had destroyed a pad several inches thick. At this point it was best to head for the door. He once called me into his room to scream about the salary paid to one star. Far from being upset, I felt flattered that this sad chap could treat me as horribly as he did all the other male executives, ranting away at the top of his voice until his face was bright red and his forehead dripped with sweat.
At least I got equal treatment. It was much better to be on the receiving end of a full-bloodied tantrum than to be subjected to the sneery sniping of dissatisfaction normally encountered from those higher up the food chain.
Now we regard a good tantrum as an important part of a good night’s entertainment. Millions tune in to marvel at Gordon Ramsay abusing lousy chefs and second-rate restaurateurs. Kitchen Nightmares USA has replaced boxing as a top combat sport — it’s unmissable. Even better, the hapless Yanks Ramsay abuses pathetically call him Chef Ramsay as they snivel into their sleeves and take the public dressing-down as a life-enhancing experience.
Every episode ends with these pitiful people thanking Ramsay, pictured, for ranting at them about their appalling cooking, their filthy kitchens and their poor interpersonal skills. It’s the modern equivalent of the Papal Inquisition, but instead of thumb-screws we have profanities galore, and instead of heretics, chefs who resort to the microwave and frozen ingredients.
Gordon Brown is said to harbour grudges and have a ferocious temper. Would we warm to him if these failings were more visible? All we get to see is the tetchy manner, when a bit less buttoned-up repression might be more in tune with the times.
Can’t he at least try and emulate Ramsay and let us know what he really thinks about the appalling Sir Fred Goodwin and his pension?