ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (5): 812-830.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.00812

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of coworker anger expression on leader emergence: The mediating roles of perceived warmth and competence and the compensating effect of anger apology

JIANG Xuting, WU Xiaoyue, FAN Xueling(), HE Wei   

  1. School of Business, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China
  • Published:2023-05-25 Online:2023-02-14
  • Contact: FAN Xueling


Although previous research has paid much attention to examining whether leader anger expression is effective in enhancing leadership effectiveness, the social consequences of employee anger expression are underexamined. Integrating the stereotype content model with implicit leadership theory, we propose that appropriate anger expression, compared with suppressed anger, has ambivalent effects on leader emergence by increasing coworkers’ perceived competence of the expresser while decreasing coworkers’ perceived warmth of the expresser. In addition, appropriate anger expression, compared with deviant anger expression, is theorized to positively affect leader emergence by increasing coworkers’ perceived competence and warmth of the expresser. We further propose that apology after anger expression (anger apology) is likely to benefit leader emergence by repairing coworkers’ perceived warmth of the expresser.

We conducted two online scenario-based experiments (Study 1 and 3) and two field surveys (Study 2 and 4) to test our research hypotheses. In Study 1, we employed a two (type of anger expression: expressed vs. deviant) by two (anger apology: yes vs. no) between-subjects experimental design, with a silent anger condition (i.e., no anger expression and thus no anger apology) as the control group. The sample consisted of 279 full-time Chinese employees recruited via an online survey panel ( To replicate the findings in Study 1, we conducted a critical incident technique study (Study 2), with a sample of 200 full-time employees recruited via the same panel used in Study 1. Participants were asked to recall and describe a workplace incident of coworker anger expression and then to evaluate their perceptions of competence, warmth, and the likelihood of leader emergence of the expresser. To reconcile some controversial findings in the two studies, we conducted Study 3 (a sample of 354 full-time employees recruited online) to provide a more nuanced examination of the effects of different types of anger expression. Specifically, we employed a three (type of anger expression: muted anger, appropriate anger expression vs. deviant anger expression) by two (anger account: other-orientation vs. self-interest) between-subjects experimental design with an additional condition of silent anger. To further replicate our findings and enhance the external validity, we conducted a field study (Study 4) by collecting two-wave data from 248 full-time employees from a Western online survey panel (

In total, empirical results from four studies (see Table 1, 2, and 3)1 suggested that, compared with deviant anger expression, appropriate anger expression positively affected the likelihood of the expresser’s leader emergence by enhancing observers’ perceived competence and warmth of the expresser. However, the effects of appropriate anger expression, compared with anger suppression, were found to be contingent upon the type of anger suppression (silent vs. muted anger) and the cultural context (Chinese samples in Studies 1-3 vs. Western sample in Study 4). Moreover, anger apology was demonstrated as an effective relationship repair strategy that can increase observer perceived leader emergence of the anger expresser. These findings contribute to anger expression literature by shifting the focus from how leader anger expression affects leadership effectiveness to the social consequences of employees’ anger expression on leader emergence. Additionally, we contribute to implicit leadership theory and the dual threshold model of anger by testing and extending their core theoretical arguments in the context of coworker anger expression in the workplace. Finally, we develop a new construct of anger apology and examine its compensating effects for anger expression, providing new avenues for future research on the social functions of anger expression.

Key words: anger expression, leader emergence, perceived competence, perceived warmth, anger apology