Why is the "Advocate of Anger" paradox very important to understand for use in the modern workplace?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In the article "Creative Conflict: working to Find the Pass in the Impasse", Mark Gorkin offers several ways to shift the energy of tension and antipathy that results from conflict and move it towards a different tone which would re-create the atmosphere of the workplace, from a negative one, to one that is at least worthy to co-exist within. 

One of the advices that Gorkin offers to leaders is that they must become "advocates of anger". This is paradoxical because it basically entails that the manager will encourage the employee to voice his or her opinions, and even to criticize the leader. According to Gorkin, research has shown that when the leader encourages the employee to express themselves even if it is against the leader, an ironic twist occurs: suddenly the angry employee becomes receptive of the leadership style of the manager precisely because the employee actually appreciates (whether they admit it or not) the allotment of time and the fact that his or her opinion have a place within the workplace.

Being able to tolerate criticism, to understand the anger of others, to accept the rejection of some, and to psychologically detour the discord that may exist within the modern workplace are traits that belong only to the best of leaders: those who separate themselves from the position that they get paid to fulfill.

These are individuals with good self-esteem, clarity in their plans, self-awareness of the role that they play, and with vast knowledge of what they do. When all of these factors are in place, becoming an advocate of anger comes naturally, for the energy and sense of control remains within the leader- regardless of how loudly, rudely, or insanely the angry employee expresses an opinion.

Conflict is to be expected in the workplace, however, a leader can make great use of the energy that is generated through conflict and transform it into something productive. In the words of Dewey,

Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheeplike passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving... Conflict is the sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.

This is when the paradox of the advocate of anger becomes essential: because when the leader takes away the energy behind the words she or he can listen to the true voice of the employee and this way the leader can sense if the issue is a trending pattern within the workplace. If it is, then the leader must take approaches to shift the bad energy and make it positive. However, if the leader ignores, fights, and consistently takes power away from the employee, what will happen is that the workplace will take sides. If this occurs, a great problem will start when factions, loyalties, and animosity take the place of productivity. Like Abraham Lincoln said

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

As it is, it is hard to be a good leader because a lot of personal and mental sacrifices must be made to maintain an atmosphere of order in the workplace. However, with order comes respect, discipline and, ultimately, productivity that makes everyone feel proud of.

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