How to Answer Interview Questions About Anger at Work

Frustrated woman at her desk
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When the interviewer asks, “When was the last time you were angry? What happened?" he or she wants to know how you might handle stressful situations at work. The real meaning of the word "angry" to an interviewer is a loss of control, and it's important to know that you can handle difficult situations while remaining professional.

How to Answer

This question is similar to the interview question, “What makes you angry?” For both questions, your answer should contain two components.

First, describe the particular situation that frustrated you, and then explain how you handled that situation.

When describing the situation, avoid heated words like “hate” or even “angry.” Instead, use less intense words to describe your anger, like “frustrated” or “disappointed.” This will emphasize that you are not one to lose control in a difficult scenario.

Also try to select a situation that does not involve a previous boss or manager, as this will make you appear to be an easily disgruntled employee. Similarly, while it is fine to mention being frustrated by someone’s unprofessional behavior or a difficult situation, do not spend too much time blaming or attacking someone else in your answer. Briefly mention the behavior or event that bothered you, and then move on to the solution.

Conclude your answer by explaining how you handled the situation. Make sure you emphasize how you solved the issue in a calm, professional manner.

For example, if you were frustrated by an employee’s behavior, explain how you met with him or her and provided constructive feedback that led to a positive change in their actions.

Another option for answering this question is to say that you typically do not get angry at work – this will demonstrate that you do not lose control at work and that you realize that kind of behavior is inappropriate.

However, after explaining this, you should still describe a time when you were frustrated or disappointed by something at work, and how you handled it. To deny that you ever become frustrated would make you appear insincere to the interviewer.

The Best Answers

  • I try to look at every situation from an analytical perspective, and not let my emotions dictate my actions. I have had employees in the past whose professionalism has been questionable, and who have not met the requirements of the job. In those situations, I have found that the best policy is to be honest about the issues in question, and offer clear strategies for improvement.
  • I don’t think anger is an appropriate workplace emotion. I have dealt with situations that I found frustrating; for example, I had a coworker who was very confrontational in her written and oral communication. I felt like I was constantly being criticized for things beyond my control. I sat down with her and talked about ways that we could improve our communication. After having that calm, productive conversation, our relationship as co-workers improved greatly, and we actually became collaborators on a number of successful projects.
  • Anger to me means loss of control. I do not lose control. When I get stressed, I step back, take a deep breath, thoughtfully think through the situation and then begin to formulate a plan of action. For instance, when I am given multiple projects to complete in a short amount of time, rather than feeling frustrated, I come up with a strategy for how to complete the work in a steady, methodical manner that will not overwhelm me.