One employee out of six reports being so angered by a co-worker in the past year that he or she felt like hitting the person--but didn't, a new poll finds.

Workers younger than 35 and those in clerical, office and sales jobs were even more likely to feel like socking somebody, with about 22 percent in each of those groups admitting as much.

"This is a serious problem for people who manage any of these groups. Their ability to recognize and deal with anger and potentially violent behavior is absolutely critical," said Frank Kenna, president of the Marlin Co., a North Haven, Conn., publisher of motivational, educational and safety materials for companies.

Marlin commissioned the telephone survey, focusing on workplace anger and stress, which was conducted July 6 to 27 by the Gallup Organization. Pollsters interviewed 750 full- or part-time U.S. workers ages 18 or older. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The company has commissioned similar polls in past years.

This time, nearly half of respondents--49 percent--said they generally are at least a little angry at work, compared with 42 percent in 1998.

Overall stress levels among workers, however, are declining. In 1999, 22 percent said they were extremely or quite stressed, compared with 25 percent in 1998 and 29 percent in 1997.

The hitting question hasn't been asked since 1995, when 21 percent of workers admitted to feeling like popping a co-worker.

High-tech office equipment seems to be a contributing factor to worker stress.

Nearly two out of three workers--64 percent--agreed at least somewhat that getting equipment such as computers, faxes and e-mail to work properly often is frustrating.

That extra tension apparently pays off, however. Workers estimate that their colleagues spend an average of 75 minutes a day making personal use of company technology, including the phone, e-mail, the Internet and computer games.