Why a lot of us are feeling angry at work
We’ve navigated a global pandemic for over two and a half years, not knowing if our jobs were secure, if we’d be furloughed, or handed new responsibilities. It’s been a period of huge uncertainty as well as political unrest that has particularly impacted BIPOC people in the US.
With all this pressure, mental health has suffered. We’re exhausted, we’re quitting our jobs, and we’re reaching burnout and beyond. In fact, many of us are feeling outright anger at our employers.
Resentment has built for a number of reasons.
Employees who worked throughout the pandemic were often given additional responsibilities without a corresponding pay rise. This was during a period of extreme uncertainty. 86 million workers lost their jobs, 38 million people fell ill with Covid-19, and 625,000 Americans lost their lives in the first year of the pandemic. Yet billionaires got richer.
In the first year of the pandemic, American billionaires got 62% richer, and Elon Musk actually saw a whopping 600% increase in his wealth. This huge disparity between the owners of big businesses and their workers has understandably caused anger, frustration, and upset. Inequality seems more apparent than ever.
The pandemic has also thrown many workers’ career paths off course. Lack of clarity from senior management, as well as lack of clarity from the government, has led to increased stress and meant tensions have run high.
‘The Great Resignation’ in 2021 came from employees fed up with their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Reasons for quitting range from low pay to no opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected, leading to 4 million employees resigning every month in the latter half of 2021 to find jobs that offered them more.
The end of working from home?
Even though working from home provides greater work-life balance in theory, in the context of a global pandemic, this balance has been non-existent, with so many internal and external pressures building.
For a lot of us, working from home wasn’t forever. As offices began to reopen in 2021, a third of us felt that a return to the office negatively impacted our mental health. In the summer of 2021, the pandemic was far from over yet employers wanted us back. Our health and safety were no longer a priority for employers. Employees have been pushing for increased flexibility for decades, and many employers reported increased productivity during Covid-19, so why should employees give up a good thing? Parents and caregivers felt even more of a strain, with 44% reporting the negative impact that returning to offices had had on their mental health for reasons such as a lack of flexibility to work around their family lives.
For Tesla workers for example, where their CEO’s wealth has risen by 600%, it seems absurd that they must now all return to a minimum of 40 hours in the office when their “pretending to work” made him so much money.
Diversity and Inclusion
Anger rising from working through the past few years of Covid-19 has also been compounded by the expectation that employees must work through traumatizing events. During mounting political unrest, people of color have been- and still- expected to return to work the day after traumatizing events, such as the murder of George Floyd and Breona Taylor, with little sympathy for the expression of anger during these times. For black women, this is compounded by the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype, where anger from a black woman is more likely to be attributed to her personality, as an intrinsic characteristic, rather than as a separate situation warranted by an external action or situation.
Returning to the office now raises the question of how this will lead to a wider disparity gap. Diversity, equity, and inclusion has been a hot topic within the US. Employers insisting on a return to the office is going to disproportionately affect minority groups, with Black workers feeling flexible work has been critical for greater inclusion, with 97% wanting the future of the office to be remote or hybrid.
With the influx of support from organizations for campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, there is now evidence that most of the activity seen was performative and in reality, very little has changed for people of color within the workplace. The initiatives from companies to support DEI, such as creating new roles for chief diversity officers and commitments to hiring and retaining people from underrepresented groups were instead motivated by the desire to look good. It’s only natural that anger over the state of affairs in society will come into the workplace.
Cost of Living
With many Americans turning to side hustles to make up for the increasing cost of basics such as food and rent, there is also anger over salaries increasing, but not in line with inflation. Industries such as healthcare, which took one of the biggest hits emotionally and physically during the pandemic, are expected to see on average just a 3% expected pay rise in the next year, significantly less than other industry averages of 5-7% and significantly less than the current rate of inflation.
You’re not alone
If you’re feeling angry at work- you aren’t the only one. Chronic stress and trauma leads to emotional outbursts, with 45% of people admitting having cried at work. Anger is an important emotion that tells us something is wrong, and that there is something we need to change. Your feelings are valid, so don’t judge yourself or try and push the feelings down.
The next steps can be starting a conversation with your manager to highlight how you’re feeling, or if this isn’t an option, making sure you have a healthy outlet to decompress after a difficult day.
It could be that choosing to look into other job opportunities is the best option for you. If you do decide that a new job is what you need to remove anger from your day job, knowing how to find a good employer during an interview will help you recognize the red flags to look out for, so you’re not stepping away from one toxic working environment and straight into another.