The literature provides different answers for this question. Feeling annoyed may lead people to focus on the anger-eliciting event or stimulus, and this depletes the mental resources that are needed to continue to pursue the goal. Consequently, people are likely to disengage from the goal. However, other research shows that anger motivates people to persist in pursuing the goal.
We expected that the relationship between feelings of anger during goal pursuit and goal attainment would depend on the quality of the action plans that were developed to achieve the goal. We argued that high-quality action plans are detailed and focused on the long term. Furthermore, strong action plans consider future opportunities and hindrances and allow people to channel their actions toward their goals (Frese et al, 2007; Parke et al, 2018). When feelings of anger arise during goal pursuit, strong action plans help individuals remain on track and achieve their goals (Frese et al, 2007; Parke et al, 2018). When people do not develop strong action plans, they suffer from a lack of orientation and guidance‚ which makes it more difficult to mobilize energy and invest in further goal pursuit when anger occurs.
We tested these assumptions using two studies with student and employee samples. We first asked the participants to describe a personal goal they intended to achieve within the next seven to 14 days. We asked the participants about their action plans and feelings of anger during goal pursuit as well as their persistence, goal progress, and achievement one week later. The results from both studies showed that anger related to insufficient goal progress reduced persistence in the goal and negatively affected goal achievement in individuals without strong action plans. This confirmed our assumptions and aligned with previous research that concluded that individuals benefit from planning and considering ways to manage barriers and obstacles in the goal process (e.g., Gollwitzer, 1999). Inconsistent with our assumptions, the studies indicated that experiencing anger did not predict persistence and the attainment of goals when participants had strong action plans. Instead, for individuals with well-developed, future-oriented action plans, experiencing anger was unrelated to persistence and goal achievement. Thus, generating action plans does not guarantee that anger during goal pursuit will trigger persistence and the achievement of goals.