Are Supervisors Allowed to Yell?

Work can be stressful at times. Projects may be piling up or sales goals aren’t being met. Depending on the leadership in your organization, you may come across a supervisor or manager who tends to communicate in a more aggressive fashion, by yelling. A supervisor’s tendency to yell at employees may seem like it is the “wrong” way to manage people. But is it?

Yelling at employees is not exactly something that automatically makes a person a better supervisor or a better leader.

However, the Harvard Business Review noted in article that some of the great leaders of our time such as Steve Jobs of Apple and Jeff Bezos of Amazon have reputations of being yellers.

It was also noted that “the notion that raising one’s voice represents managerial weakness or a failure of leadership seems to be prima facie nonsense. The empirical fact pattern suggests that in a variety of creative and intensely competitive talent-rich disciplines around the world, the most successful leaders actually have yelling as both a core competence and brand attribute.”

On the other hand, there are plenty of beneficial reasons to not yelling at employees. The Wall Street Journal noted in an article that “the yelling boss appears to be quietly disappearing from the workplace. The new consensus among managers is that yelling alarms people, drives them away rather than inspiring them, and hurts the quality of their work.”

Regardless of what you feel is the right management style for you or your leadership team, is yelling actually allowed in the workplace?

The short answer is yes. Legally speaking, supervisors and managers are allowed to yell at employees.

However, when that yelling is about or against a protected class, the yelling may qualify as harassment. Yelling being a form of harassment depends on the situation in which someone is being yelled at and what the supervisor is yelling at them about. Therefore it might be smart to just avoid yelling and work on better communication skills.

This doesn’t mean a supervisor is never allowed to get angry or frustrated, no one is perfect. It just means that the anger or frustration should be communicated properly. A supervisor may be angry or frustrated about the lack of productivity from their employees. This type of conflict can be “good” when communicated and navigated properly. Instead of screaming at them, the supervisor should address the issue, explain what precisely the issue is, and express why the issue effects the organization and/or other employees, whatever the case may be.

If you have supervisors in your organization that frequently yells or you are a supervisor that frequently yells, take a step back and reevaluate past conflicts to help identify the commonality that triggers the yelling.

From there, you are better suitable to seek assistance in developing a plan and obtaining training that will make for a better supervisor and a better workplace environment for employees.

In conclusion, supervisors may be allowed to yell but it is important to think long and hard if that communication pattern is the best tactic as a leader and the best thing for your organization.

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