Terrance Heath

Yelling Is Not a Management Style

Filed By Terrance Heath | April 01, 2013 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: managing


I'm not a manager, and I don't think I'll ever be one. I have no management training, and little in the way of management experience. However, I have been managed all of my adult life -- sometimes well, sometimes abysmally -- and I think that qualifies me to offer some management advice, from the perspective of the managed.

Here it is: If screaming and/or yelling is your primary method of motivating people or getting them to do what you want them to do, you do not have a "management style." You have a management disorder.

Many managers yell at their employees. Some managers feel the need to shout at the employees to get them to start working work or work harder. Perhaps you've heard managers repeat, "Just get it done!" Here are some similar behaviors: Managers getting angry, barking, being impatient, and announcing their worry or panic over a situation.

This means that the manager is losing (or has lost) effectiveness at being a manager. It is a reflection that the team isn't behind the manager, and that the manager keeps returning to the same, ineffective methods for getting the team to perform (yelling, admonition).

If you are a manager doing this, you are "managing from a deficit." You are behind the game, and you are losing. What you are doing isn't working, and you are not getting the results or performance you need from your team. You need to turn this around, but there are no shortcuts. In fact, that's what got you into this hole in the first place.

If this is the path you've chosen, it is just going to get worse.

In fact, if you can't exert authority without yelling or screaming, then maybe you're not cut out to be "the boss" at all.

Do you know how to get things done without resorting to fear tactics? Weak managers often resort to getting things done through rigid control, a climate of fear and anxiety, and behaviors like yelling and making unreasonable demands. Will you be able to calmly lay out expectations in an open and straightforward manner, hold people to them in a fair and positive manner, and back up your words with action without become negative or frustrated?

It's not just that "the team isn't behind you." It's that your behavior is one of the top ten reasons your employees hate you.

You're a Bully

Bullies reside in boss's clothing more often than you'd ever think possible. In fact, bully behavior is one of the bad boss indicators that is shared on this site most frequently. Bully behavior encompasses bosses who yell and cuss at employees, physically intimidate employees by physical proximity, and block employees from getting away either from their desk or the room.

Bullies intimidate employees with words, threaten employees and their jobs, and have even been known to throw objects at employees. Bullies belittle employees and chip away at an employee's self-confidence and self-esteem with criticism, name calling, and ridicule. Bullies are condescending, demeaning, and cruel. It's tough to describe bully behavior, but employees know when they are being bullied and they will hate you.

Yes, if you're a bellowing boss, your employees hate you. No, they don't respect you. They may fear you, but right behind fear is loathing. They hate you. Hate to see you coming, even if you're not stopping at their office. They may breath a sigh of relief, but they know they're going to hear you yelling and screaming at someone else in just a minute.

They can hear you all the way down the hall, through the closed door of your office. They stop their work to whisper about it amongst themselves. They interrupt their work to get up and close their  doors, fumble for their earbuds and iPod to find something else -- anything else -- to listen to.

They get up and walk away from their desks, to find somewhere to shelter until the storm is over. They can't do the jobs you hired them to do, because of your behavior -- which, by the way, they wouldn't tolerate from their own children --and they hate you for it.

I, for one, find it nearly impossible to deal with a boss or a manager who yells and/or screams on a regular basis. And by regular, I mean weekly or even daily. I have worked in places where that's been the case.

I've even worked with people who proudly acknowledged that yelling and screaming is the way they get people to do things. To do that, know you're doing that, to keep doing it, and even brag about it is beyond disordered. It's embracing your disorder.

It's just possible that there's something to that. My way of "managing the manager" in that situation is to give them what they want and get them out of my face as quickly as possible, because I want as little interaction with them as possible.

I want as little to do with them as possible. I don't want to exchange pleasantries with them in the elevator, or make small talk with them at the holiday party, because I know that mask is going to slip again, and soon. And the next time, it may be my turn.

Part of the reason may be because I'm an office introvert, trying to work in an extroverts' world. We're here, you know. If you're a screamer, you may not notice us, but we notice you. We close our doors when we hear your tirades starting. If we don't have doors, we put our noise cancelling earbuds in, fire up an app like Ambiance or something, and try to go to a happy place. Or we just get up and leave to go for a walk, stopping work and  taking our productivity with us until you quiet down and/or cool off.

If you're a screamer, you probably don't notice us. You certainly don't understand us. You may not see us at all, because many of us prefer to telecommute.

It's not just a women's issue.

Granted, that's how many of us are framing last month's decision by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! Inc., to end telecommuting and require all employees to report to the office. It ignited a firestorm of controversy over whether Mayer, a working mother herself, has backstabbed the sisterhood. Columnist Kathleen Parker called it the latest iteration of the "mommy war."

But there's another reason we should be debating Mayer's policy: Some people simply work better alone.

My colleagues are rolling their eyes now, so let me rush to provide full disclosure. I've worked mainly from home for more than 20 years, going into the office just enough that they don't give my desk away. I don't do it because it's more convenient. I don't do it because I hate the commute. I do it because I'm an introvert.

The word is not a synonym for "shy," though as a boy, I was that, too. But where shyness is an outsized fear of other people's disapproval or of social embarrassment, to be an introvert is to be inward turning, more at home in small, intimate groups than large, boisterous ones. It is to prefer the quiet to the loud, reflection to exhortation, solitude to socializing.

We're more productive, not only because we're not getting pulled into impromptu meetings so that  some extroverted boss has an audience to hear themselves think out loud. We're more productive, and happier, when we don't have to deal with your decibel levels. (And if you go "fortissimo" on a conference call, we can turn down the volume or "accidentally" disconnect ourselves.)

We're more productive, because the further away from you we are the less stressed we are. And, yes, you are a big source of stress to the people you manage (and who manage your "management style"). Dealing with you is so stressful that the internet is full of articles advising us how to deal with you. "How To Deal With a Yelling Boss," "Dealing With a Boss Who Yells While Keeping Your Cool," "When the Boss Is a Screamer," "What to Do if Your Manager Yells at Employees," "How to Deal With a Boss that Yells," are just a few that came up in a random web search.

If we're not in the office with you, we're not walking on eggshells and wondering when the explosion du jour is going to hit. Even if it doesn't hit us, even if we're not the ones being yelled at, it's still stressful, like being in a war zone is stressful.

What do soldiers under fire and bullied workers have in common?

Not much, you may think.

However research from a leading psychologist suggests that bullied workers go through the very same emotions and stresses as battle-scarred troopers.

Dr Noreen Tehrani has counselled victims of the troubles in Northern Ireland, soldiers returning from combat overseas and victims of workplace bullying.

"The symptoms displayed by people who have been in conflict situations and workplaces where bullying happens are strikingly similar," Dr Tehrani told BBC News Online.

"Both groups suffer nightmares, are jumpy and seem fuelled by too much adrenaline.

"In addition, they show greater susceptibility to illnesses, heart disease and alcoholism."

That stress can be downright deadly.

If you spend your workday avoiding an abusive boss, tiptoeing around co-workers who talk behind your back, or eating lunch alone because you've been ostracized from your cubicle mates, you may be the victim of workplace bullying. New research suggests that you're not alone, especially if you're struggling to cope.

Employees with abusive bosses often deal with the situation in ways that inadvertently make them feel worse, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Stress Management. That's bad news, as research suggests that workplace abuse is linked to stress -- and stress is linked to a laundry list of mental and physical ailments, including higher body weight and heart disease.

In at least one extreme case, workplace bullying has even been linked to suicide, much as schoolyard bullying has been linked to a rash of suicides among young people.

Some of us leave. Some of us stay (perhaps because we haven't found anywhere else to go, yet) and walk around "shell-shocked" and probably surfing from PTSD.

Chances are, if you're a chronic yeller, you probably spend most of your time between shouting fits wondering what's the matter with the rest of us. Why can't we seem to get anything right? Why can't we read your mind? Why don't we make exactly the same assumptions as you? Why can't we seem to understand what you want, without you explicitly telling us? Why do we have this annoying way of thinking that we might have ideas to contribute? How do we have the audacity to think that you hired us for our ideas? Why can't we just shut up and do what you say?

The rest of us know the real problem is you. We're just quieter about it.

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