Answering the 'What Makes You Angry?' Interview Question

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Challenges and heightened emotions may occur during high-pressure situations at work. Employers may ask questions about these circumstances during an interview to understand your temperament, anger management skills, coping mechanisms and conflict resolution strategies. Knowing how to answer the question, 'What makes you angry?' skilfully can show the interviewer that you know how to manage your negative emotions effectively in a work environment. In this article, we explore why employers ask this question and review how to answer it professionally.

Why do employers ask the 'What makes you angry?' interview question?

Here are some reasons employers ask the 'What makes you angry?' interview question:

Understand your temperament

The employer can easily evaluate your temperament by observing your body language and tone of voice while you recall the situation. Your answer reveals if you're someone who gets angry easily and your composure level when handling stressful work situations. Employers usually value candidates who are calm and measured in their responses even when facing a challenging situation. It's important for you to demonstrate that you're a balanced individual with a good temperament and maturity.

Know what makes you angry

Everyone has different trigger points when it comes to anger. The employer seeks to find out the situations or behaviours from colleagues that might make you angry. For example, you can be angry with an unfair situation, unethical colleagues, delayed project delivery or when others aren't performing to your expectations. The different situations reveal your professional triggers and give an insight into how well you can integrate with the rest of the team members.

Assess your anger management skills

The employer wants to find out how maturely you can handle your anger in a professional setting. Your answer reveals if you're reasonable and whether you take ownership of the situation, know how to recognise your own negative emotions and resolve them. It's an excellent opportunity to show the employer that you have well-developed anger management skills and coping mechanisms. You can highlight your maturity and professionalism in managing frustrating situations and emotions in ways that benefit the entire team.

Evaluate how you manage conflicts

You can demonstrate that you can manage conflicts by recalling how you successfully deescalated the challenging situations and resolved tension between colleagues. The employer benefits from having a person who can solve problems objectively despite the frustration and anger. Better conflict management skills usually mean better team rapport and work efficiency.

Related: What Is Conflict Resolution? (With Methods and Examples)

Check if you're a team player

Often, we get angry because of differences in professional opinions when it comes to the way we handle various tasks. The employer is trying to discover if you're open-minded and mature enough to accept and handle differences in perspectives. This is a very important attribute for being a good team player. You can show your ability to work professionally and constructively despite being frustrated at the situation or colleagues.

Related: What Are Personal Attributes? Definition and 20 Examples

How to answer the 'What makes you angry?' interview question

Here are some suggestions on how to answer this interview question:

1. Choose a specific scenario

You can relate to a specific authentic scenario so that it's easier for you to share the episode honestly. This scenario can be any work-related situation. You can talk about getting frustrated with a team member because of their unprofessional behaviour, a situation where a project failed to meet the deadline or challenging technical constraints that hindered work progress. You can think of scenarios in your professional career that left a deep impression and provided learning opportunities for you. The aim here is to show how you turned a negative scenario into a cohesive and good outcome.

2. Explain why you were angry

By rationally explaining why you were angry, you can demonstrate to the employer that you're a reasonable person and your anger is proportionately justified. It helps to show that you're a self-aware individual who can recognise negative emotions quickly and resolve tensions to find beneficial outcomes. It's important to stay calm and composed when recalling the scenario. You can be professional and objective when describing your reasons.

3. Describe how you managed your anger

An employer likes to know that you have the skills to manage your negative emotions. You can describe the specific ways you reacted to the situation and resolved the conflict. For example, you can discuss how you calmly put your anger aside and decompose the problem to solve it eventually. You can also mention useful anger management techniques like taking some time alone to de-stress and calm down before you return to the tense discussion. It's useful to specify that you always direct your anger at the situation and not at the person.

4. Discuss how you overcame the challenging situation

The aim here is to show how you transformed a negative scenario into a good outcome. For example, you can talk about how you successfully resolved tensions between colleagues by talking to them in a measured manner and the incident brought about better rapport and understanding in the team. You can also mention specific actions like taking the time to listen to the various perspectives and getting extra staff to meet the project deadline. This is also a good time to elaborate on the learning points of the stressful episode that benefited you and the team.

Related: How to Handle Difficult Customers in 10 Steps (With Tips)

Examples of answers to 'What makes you angry?'

Here are some examples to consider when answering this question:

Example 1: Handling tension between a colleague and the team

'In my last job, our team was very productive and efficient. Everyone performed to the best of their abilities and we could consistently deliver the projects on time. There was a new colleague who joined this team, and he didn't put in the effort to ensure consistency and high standards of work. This was very frustrating for me as his attitude had a significant impact on the progress of the projects and the morale of the team. I felt anger at his lack of productivity and competency.

I took him aside to explain calmly how his behaviour was affecting the team performance and set realistic goals and areas of improvement for him. I gave him a concise and clear explanation of the expectations and told him that I am most willing to help him work towards achieving better results. Once the discussion happened, I could see obvious efforts from him and his work performance improved. He became appreciated by me and the rest of the team.'

Example 2: Managing a colleague who makes mistakes

'In my previous job, I was a data scientist who guided a team of four data analysts to achieve process and service optimisation for a major airline. One data analyst created many inaccuracies and mistakes in the data findings. This had an enormous impact on the progress of our project tasks and we had to waste a lot of time correcting the technical codes. As his team leader, I was naturally angry at the tardiness and how it affected the entire team.

I recognised my frustration at his incompetency and handled it professionally and swiftly. I took the time to speak to him calmly about his competency issue. He found a training course for improving his coding techniques after I talked to him. He paid attention to my advice and attended the short-term training course to improve his skills. This worked very well and he soon gained the respect of the team members as his work efficiency improved. I felt satisfied at how I handled the situation and transformed that into a positive outcome.'

Example 3: Serving a dissatisfied customer

'Previously, I was a contact centre manager for an international coffee machine company and I had to take calls from customers who can be rude or aggressive in their complaints. There was one time when this dissatisfied customer screamed on the phone and vented his frustration on me. His coffee machine had failed, and he couldn't get a replacement machine on time as we didn't have the exact model he wanted. He relies heavily on coffee to start his hectic work days and not being able to have the coffee machine was frustrating for him.

Though I was angry at being yelled at, I kept my composure and professional attitude. I displayed understanding and empathy about the situation. Then, I offered to send him a better coffee machine model with a few sleeves of complimentary limited-edition coffee capsules. He was happy with my service recovery and wrote an email to our company to express his gratitude and appreciation for my service delivery standard. As a result, my manager praised me for my performance and smooth handling of a difficult customer.'

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