HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy, Decision Science, and Management

Abstract

You’re late for work, and it’s pouring rain. In the parking lot, a car speeds around you and takes the last spot near the building entrance. You end up trudging from the back of the lot and get soaked to the skin. You’re mad, and you know your judgment at the moment is probably impaired. Worse, the leftover anger will continue to color your decisions at work, our research suggests, without your awareness—not a good thing for anyone trying to steer the best course through the day’s business problems. Many organizations have anger-management programs for their most egregious bullies, but the reality is that the vast majority of employees will experience anger triggered by anything from a family quarrel to a lost parking space—and their work will suffer for it. For example, angry people tend to rely on cognitive shortcuts—easy rules of thumb—rather than on more systematic reasoning. They’re also quick to blame individuals, rather than aspects of a situation, for problems.

Citation

Lerner, Jennifer S., and Katherine Shonk. "How Anger Poisons Decision Making." Harvard Business Review. September 2010, 606.