22 January 2019


When playing a high-collision sport like rugby, the ability to react instinctively to an aggressive attack with a counter-aggressive action is celebrated both on the training pitch and the field of play.

About the author:

Robbie Hunter-Paul is a former professional rugby player; playing 19 seasons and representing his country, New Zealand, 29 times. Robbie graduated from Huddersfield University with a BA in marketing and pr. Never one to back down from a challenge, in 2016 Robbie launched his own company: Xtra Mile Marketing and is an official ambassador for Rugby League Cares.

I spent hours upon hours, daily over the course of 19 seasons (in both codes of rugby) drilling these actions into myself so I didn’t have to think about what I was doing, developing an automated response that would control my actions whether I was feeling normal or fatigued.

123747_3It was an amazing state that most people are not allowed to enjoy: being able to give yourself over to the emotion of anger and let the chimp out of its cage, almost encourage it to come out and run free. It works in certain environments (like rugby) due to the bi-products of the emotion which helps you become fearless and productively physically aggressive.

Where it didn’t work for me was when I retired and entered the office environment. Those years of conditioning left me with emotional triggers leading to mental and physical responses that were not appropriate in this new workplace.

When confronted with any type of anger or even general negativity, my instincts would often take over, and I could feel my heartbeat rising, my mind becoming cloudy and rational thought leave me, often with an inappropriate outburst following.


Looking for an Anger Management programme for your business? Learn about Offload here 

ROBBIEP2I knew this was not helpful in my new profession and I needed a solution: luckily enough, I understood I realised the need to reprogram my approach to this emotion, so I did a course on anger management. This proved to be, professionally and personally, one of, if not the best decisions of my life. The tools learned on this course helped me both professionally and personally at home.

So, if a long-in-the-tooth rugby player (that received way too many knocks to the head) can learn new skills and reprogram his brain, then I guess anyone can!


In this blog we explore the emotion of anger, covering: 

  • What is Anger?

  • What impact anger can have personally?

  • How anger impacts the workplace?

  • Explaining anger management?

  • Managing anger with ‘Offload’


Let’s not dilly dally about and get into it…

What is Anger?

Anger is a completely normal emotion that most people experience multiple times a day. How you experience anger can range from mild annoyance through to bloodcurdling rage.

Anger can be triggered by an external factor outside of your control or something you have personally initiated by your own actions or even thoughts.

The emotion is a flight-or-fight response left over from our primal beginnings as a mechanism to help us survive when confronted by a perceived threat.

When activated, the emotion triggers our brains to increase our heartrate and release testosterone and other hormones into our blood.

Experts explain that as we become angry, our body fills with blood, adrenaline is called upon, our attention focuses on the target of anger, blood pressure rises and energy flushes through us. This provides us with the ability to attack or protect ourselves better than if we were in a normal resting state.

This response gives us the ability to have courage in the face of adversity to fight and/or run away from the danger.

The state of arousal from the adrenaline can stay with us for hours (sometimes days), making it difficult to return to a balanced state, and as we calm down, we are more susceptible to being angered again.


What impact anger can have personally?

The extreme in which you react to the emotion is dependent upon a few factors like how severe the threat is, whether you were already in a volatile mood (culmination of minor stressors), how you were brought up to react and, for some, there is evidence that it may even be in their genes.

Being in a constant state of anger is not healthy for you due to the physical impact it has on your body.

As well as increasing blood pressure there are a number of further negative effects anger can have on you physiologically. 

Anger experts have noted that a prolonged increase in cardiovascular activity can impact on many of the body’s systems such as immune, digestive and central nervous system. This can then increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, gastric ulcers, bowels disease and cancer, as well as decreasing healing times for wounds. 

You are more likely to become susceptible to these physical issues if you have a low ability to deal with anger.


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How anger impacts the workplace?

Life isn’t getting easier and the workplace is having a direct impact on our mental fitness. 

The latest figures show that more than three out of five employees in the UK have experienced mental health issues due to work, or where work was a related factor.

In 2017, the impact of poor mental health in the workplace is also unproductive and is expected to impact UK employers an estimated £70 million.

When anger is displayed in the workplace it doesn’t operate in a vacuum and will have a direct impact on members of staff exposed to it, according to research. 

Further findings discuss the negative impact on creative thinking once staff have been exposed to anger or aggressive behaviour.

There is now a greater awareness and acceptance of responsibility from businesses and their managers for the mental fitness and wellbeing of their workforce.

Research into issues surrounding anger in the work place have the academics concluding that it is important to plan, implement and monitor anger management and emotional intelligence interventions for staff.

The research goes on to state that “an institutional approach is essential to transform the anger in an opportunity that is vital for individual and organisational performance.”


Explaining anger management?

The goal of anger management is to reduce both negative, emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes.

It normally starts with identifying the triggers or cues that let you know you are getting into a negative state of arousal. 

Often adrenaline will first be introduced to your system so you can look for identifiable signs like heartrate increasing, jittery legs and the need for more oxygen.

Identifying the signs of becoming angry as well as learning skills and techniques will help you head off and manage the symptoms and reactions more effectively before they reach the point where you lose control.


Managing anger with ‘Offload’

Anger management techniques are not something people are born with and over the duration of a person’s life and their experiences, how you react to negativity is different for different people.

Rugby League Cares’ Offload programme was created from tools and skills used by elite athletes to help them deal with the pressure of life as a professional sportsman: pressure that comes from areas such as media exposure, a competitive environment and, most importantly, self-driven pressure.

As it leans heavily on the experiences of high-performing competitors, Offload now uses ex-professional sportsman and associated experts to deliver support and education on anger management in the work place. 

The programme will work with your workforce to coach them on managing their own and others’ anger in a practical way and share techniques for implementation including:

  • Understanding the brain, the reason for anger
  • Understanding the ‘Chimp’
  • Identifying triggers
  • Supporting others
  • Coping techniques (such as)
    • Reframing the mindset
    • Learning to unload
    • Mindfulness
    • Refocussing energy and direction
    • And more


Find out more about Offload


Final thoughts

As discussed, anger is a natural emotional response in times of stress or danger but through dedicated structured understanding we can lessen the negative impact anger can result in. By preparing ourselves to avoid the stressors and triggers we can have a better relationship with this emotion and enjoy better productivity and working relationships. 


If you are struggling or know someone who might need support urgently click here for extra resources from Rugby League Cares.