My Boss Screams at Me – Is That OK?

Short answer…NO!

Now for the longer answer. First, you have to choose whether or not you can live with this behavior. While you’d think a boss would feel bad about this and want to change (and of course some do and can), for other bosses this is just their SOP (standard operating procedure.) I’ve known bosses who say “Look. That’s who I am. Get over it.” And I’ve also known a few who think of it as a method of motivating and even toughening employees.

Fear certainly can motivate people – especially in the short term – but in the long run it’s not an effective management technique . The staff begins to withhold more and more creativity and settle into that gray place where they just do the work and hope not to be screamed at. Even if the boss mixes it with praise and rewards, in the end, people still prefer to avoid the pain.

So what are your choices? If this is really unsettling for you and you find yourself feeling stressed out way too often – or you simply prefer not to be in this kind of environment – you may have no choice but to polish up that resume and move on.

But what if you need to stay – or want to?

While there may be some situations where the behavior is part of an over-all pattern of abuse or discrimination, unless company policy explicitly forbids screaming at employees (don’t count on it) your boss can pretty much get away with it.

So what are your options?

First and foremost, do not be afraid to at least sit down with your boss and let him know gently and respectfully that you don’t enjoy being yelled at and would prefer if he could talk to you at another time when he’s calmer. I know this is hard – especially with a scary boss- but it happened to me once.

I was in charge of a huge project and we were under tight deadline. We were in a large meeting discussing the design of a major component of the project. To my surprise, my boss was trying to change the design right there in the meeting. I tried to move it back in the direction we’d all agreed upon. Next thing I knew, I was being yelled at by a master yeller who wanted to make sure the design went his way – even though he had never given me any advance notice this attack was coming. He decided right there in that meeting to undo what we’d been working on and he didn’t want me to get in the way. “I want you to shut up!” he screamed at me. And I was leading the meeting!

Understandably I was upset by his tactics and the screaming. After he had cooled off (me too), I met with him privately and told him calmly and respectfully that I do not want to be screamed at again – especially in public as was his SOP with everyone. And even though my boss terrified people in our department – as well as in the rest of the company – he listened, looked sheepish, and never again yelled at me. Our working relationship actually improved after that.

Oh…I still wound up leaving the job after the project was done since I don’t enjoy that kind of atmosphere – even if I’m spared the attacks. But for the time I was there, at least things were better for me. Interestingly enough, despite the public knowledge of my success, not one other person even tried to sit down with him and address the issue as I had done. Intimidation is a powerful tool for controlling behavior – but not a tool that keeps the workplace humming.

What else can you do if your boss is a Screaming Mimi – or Screaming Michael? If it’s a performance issue, you can try to figure out what sets her/him off and specifically ask your boss how you can improve. It’s important to let him know you want to do well and will try your best. And again, it helps just to let him know that you really would like to find a way for the two of you to work together without the yelling. It won’t stop an uncontrollable behavior, but it adds awareness and might help him learn to back off a bit. Remember…this stuff takes time. You could even ask him if there is something you could do – some signal or word – that would help him when he feels like yelling. You’d be surprised how many bosses might at least be open to talking about all this.

And yes…I know there are those who aren’t open at all, since the screaming is about a controlling personality who may not appreciate any challenge. But considering how all this is affecting you – and maybe eventually your health – it’s sure worth a shot.

If others would like to join you, a few of you (not too many) might want to ask your boss for a meeting to discuss something. Then, again gently, address the screaming as directly as possible – with everyone contributing. Let your boss know that you understand why he might need to blow his stack sometimes and ask him how you can work together to try to bring down the level a bit.

If it’s really awful and there is someone higher up you can talk to without it looking like you are trying to go against your boss, maybe they can help. I know of one situation where someone’s boss was doing something that made her uncomfortable and so she spoke to her boss’ boss in confidence asking him to address it as a group concern, which he did. Her boss made an effort to change what he’d been doing. Of course, you have to be careful with this if you have a boss who will take it out on you.

You may have noticed I haven’t mentioned HR. If you know someone in HR you trust, asking their advice might be a good idea. But in many situations, if the boss is liked by the company, HR may not be your best ally and may even leak your concerns directly to the boss. It would be better to have gone to him first. But if the behavior is threatening or intolerable, and your boss won’t even listen to your concerns, then HR may be worth trying. In a large enough company, they could even help you look for a transfer.

But, if you’ve tried your best and your boss still needs to erupt like Vesuvius, then it’s important to look at what else you can do. Since you basically can’t change a person’s basic behavior unless the person is willing to participate in the change, you might need to think about how you handle the screaming when it happens. This is not a time to try to talk or argue – that just feeds the anger. Just listen. It’s like a fit. Listen respectfully, let the yelling pass and get away as soon as possible. Save any talking for calmer times.

Of course, there are some people who scream as a way of communicating and I guess a lot rests in how we react. A friend of mine worked in an auto repair shop where the boss was an energetic Italian man who yelled a lot. I asked my friend how she could stand it. She just smiled and said “It’s just like my Italian family at home. He’s not really mad at me. It’s just how he talks.” For her, it was ok.

Still, no one should have to put up with a boss who screams all the time. But if for whatever reason you have to stay where you are and you have one of those bosses who make a habit of yelling at everyone, your best choices are to try to work it out with your boss, to stay out of his attack site as much as possible, and to learn as best as possible to let it go rather than taking it personally. Even if you made a mistake, you don’t deserve to be yelled at. In this case, it’s him, not you.

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. I guess all bosses should know that managing their employees is like managing kids. Never ever yell at them, especially in the public. They will end up either moving away from this yelling boss, or stay there as a statue…. as in never dare to speak out or contribute much.

    Just look at a child who always get yelled at by his parents in the public. The child will either become rebellious and never listen, or the child will end up being very quiet.

    Anyway for me, i had a boss who was nice but always raise his voice on the team. I got tired of this…. and as i was preparing my resignation letter, i “raised my tone a little” once when he raised his….and surprisingly, that shut him off. I know it’s not a good way…but heck, I did feel good after that. :P

    Well, I left a few weeks later…not because of him, but the company itself. :)

  2. Very astute. In many situations, we wish for a step by step plan, being mentally armed can change the balance. The issue is always knowing what you will accept, which means knowing your center. What is the end goal? Is it to get through the momenet? Is it a battle of ego where your very self is being attacked? No one, no one can ever have that power when you know at the essence who you are.

    The scenario, the very too real scenario though, deals with an imbalance of power. Who is being yelled at? A single mother with three kids at home? Children with special needs? Aging parents? Someone who has taken all of their energy just to walk in the door?

    It should matter, but for some reason it doesn’t to the one doing the yelling, I find they are too self-focused and can only see it their way, there is no easy way to open the blinders of their vision.

  3. Alvin – LOL. Thanks for the comment. Sometimes a person has to stand up for himself. As long as you weren’t rude and left without burning a bridge behind you, nothing wrong with showing a little backbone. And sometimes…well, you just gotta do what ya gotta do. I’ve left one or two singe bridges in my youth. (-;

    SurfaceEarth – I appreciate the questions you’re asking. It’s so true that when someone is yelling he rarely stops to consider the yellee’s personal situation. He yells because it’s what HE needs to do. And because he has the power to do so. (Or she, of course.)

    I’m also glad you brought up the idea of a person’s “center”. Zen Buddhism (and I’m sure many other thought systems) talks of balancing (centering) oneself so that no matter how strong the wind blows (or how loud someone yells), we still know who we are and that gives us strength. How a person treats us can’t take that away from us. When the center is strong, even when the wind blows hard and we bend way way back, we can still stand straight and strong after the storm has passed.

    Not that this is always easy to attain. But it reminds us that even if a boss decides to vent his own imbalance in our direction – while we can’t change what he’s doing – at least we can work on how we react and how deeply we let it affect us. Like I said…not easy, but no reason to let a big blowhard bring you down with him!

  4. I like the visual, it says what words can’t. Practically it is more than extremely difficult to be compelled to stay in a situation where a boss “yells”. The ultimate goal would be to preserve yourself and look to somehow better your daily environment by transferring out of his or her department or by finding a new alternative for work. Easier said than done.

  5. Nicely put. Of course, if you must stay for whatever reason, it still helps to try to better the environment in some way for yourself because that changes the balance. If it’s just about a yelling boss, than the day is 100% misery. If it’s about a yelling boss and some things you enjoy doing and some people you enjoy working with, well…the whole becomes a bit less oppressive. And again, different people have different levels of tolerance. I hate yelling, but the friend I mentioned finds it ok and even gives it right back. No one-size-fits-all solution for sure.

    But if at all possible, I still recommend approaching the boss in some way and making your feelings known as directly as possible – with respect and with strength of conviction. It’s always worth a shot. If that winds up leading to more harassment, then you need to think about leaving (and possibly reporting it) since it is abuse.

  6. Shame isn’t it? When the lack of self-growth affects others negatively? Sure he may also capitalize on the unspoken, ugly word ‘retaliaton’. Now that’s a pre-judgment on my part, I think, although I would rather call it a fairly certain forecast.

  7. kristen king says:

    well i guess this article wants everyone to feel like it is their fault that their boss yells at them and want us to change ourselves when we have done nothing wrong but be yelled at for no apparent reason but to our bosses so if you take their advice your in for the long haul get it on tape and sue his ass off

  8. I can understand why you might feel that way, Kristen. But that is definitely not the message I want to convey…so I’m glad you brought up the idea. After many years and many jobs where I had good bosses and bad ones, I finally realized I wasn’t getting anywhere by being “right”. I had to learn how to work within the system and figure out how to make it work for me the best I could. And there are real ways to make things better for yourself. By the way…When I talk about “changing yourself”, I don’t mean as a person – I mean figuring out ways to help things work more smoothly for yourself. I actually found these methods got me a lot further than waiting for my boss to “get it”.

    That said…if the situation is truly abusive, I fully support taking action. No boss should yell at you all the time and if that is your situation and you’ve tried to address it professionally first (for the sake of your career and for any lawsuit), then you need to either bring it to a higher level or move on.

    I hope you haven’t had to go through this. But I sure have and had the best laugh, because after dealing with it as my post explained, I left in good standing, became a consultant to the company, and charged about double. Now I think that’s the best revenge. (-;

  9. One more thought…and I think it’s a biggie.

    Taking responsibility is not the same as taking blame. We can wait forever in our job or personal life for people to start to act the way we want them to and treat us the way we know we deserve, but a more powerful and life-changing approach is to roll up your sleeves, think about anything you can do to help make things a little better for yourself, and then take positive action. Changing that perspective and letting go of the blame for others (easier said than done but worth it) will change your life.

    Hint: You would finally be carrying yourself as someone who deserves to be in charge. As time goes on, others will get that message and so will you on a deep level. Eventually you will be in charge with people supporting you this time. It really is up to you in the long run. And how you handle even a crappy situation is part of getting you there.

  10. Sue Stanton says:

    Simply put, the boss is not going to get the personal best out of his employees if he uses this yelling tactic. Maybe there is some sort of personal stress a boss/manager has and he does not know how to deal with it other than lunging out at the closest ones too him. After all, they are human beings with emotions and stress like the rest of us. Maybe someone yells at the boss/manager. When anyone yells at us and we do not resolve the initial trouble we are most likely to yell at someone else at a later time. It is similar to an abuse cycle. The boss yells at the employee. The employee goes home and yells at the wife/husband. The wife/husband yell at the kids. The kids yell at the pets or friends and so on and so on. I think a good boss/manager should be required to take a stress management course and learn this matter.

  11. You are so right, Sue. Unfortunately, there is no way to mandate that. I wish there were. It would be a nice campaign to initiate!

  12. I work under a gorgeous European boss in hightech. She thinks it’s fantastic if she screams, cries, laughs, raves, as it’s very motivating to others. She says it’s her passionate nationality & has her European boss convinced this is related to her nationality.. Especially the surreal & irrational screaming in meetings. She’s very proud of herself. She’s very self-satisfied that she never watches TV, so she’s never seen the Jerry Springer Show, or Cops…so she doesn’t know she’s exactly acting like the drunk prostitutes raving on PCP getting wrestled to the ground by the cops–that us Americans see every night on TV.
    Nobody volunteers to do anything for her, and everybody feigns ignorance, work overload to avoid helping her, so she has to vend out everything at about $100k unnecessary spending. The guys do enjoy it when she’s jiggling her boobs at them & trying to flirt up their cooperation, but they distract her by gushing over how many languages she knows, and sneak off. The last person before me, walked out without a word and never came back.
    The corporation would rather keep the gorgeous European pet who doesn’t understand the business, hates computers & technology, gets angry at MS-Paint & Powerpoint, gets angry at anybody who discusses computers in meetings——why I don’t know.

  13. I just saw a book on Amazon, “Slam & Scream”..about matching the agressive behavior: yelling or doorslamming. I wonder if it would work or not? I suspect since I’m not wildly pretty or exotic, just plain old whitebread female …I dont’ know if it’d work for me in the hightech workplace.
    I did notice with my first husband, he was being really ugly & I’d tried EVERYTHING. I matched the behavior of his dad—act like a quiet but angry, very contemptuous boss—it did work with him. It was a huge strain, and eventually I was able to realize I needed to leave.

  14. Uch. I’m so sorry, Traina V. that you have to work in this kind of environment! Your last line says it all for me. Your behavior – whatever you choose to do – won’t change the other person. Either you can live with it without feeling stressed out all the time (some people can) or it might be a great motivation to move on to something better. This applies to personal lives as well as business.

    Actually I’ve worked in IT and seen that kind of behavior before. It was in an investment bank. Took a while, but the charm wore off and the screaming person was eventually fired. But it took years and honestly…I wasn’t interested in subjecting myself to that and moved on. For the better.

    Others decide to just see it as a quirky boss and do what they can to enjoy their jobs the best they can – meanwhile looking to see if there are other opportunities in the company or elsewhere.

    No one can tell you what to do since it has to feel right to you, but I will suggest that matching her behavior (if that isn’t who you really are) probably won’t work for you in the end. I can’t possibly know how much real support she has from above, but it could be a long unpleasant battle. And I don’t think you have much to gain from it. Still, it’s your choice.

    I will tell you that yelling at employees is accepted in some cultures, but it sure isn’t an effective way to manage. In the end, the boss just breaks employee spirit and loses good people who like to think for themselves!

    Good luck whatever you decide. Please let us know.

  15. Just don’t take personally. They scream because of stress. It took me almost 4 years to get used to the fact that when my boss screams he just releases the stress but now I don’t pay attantion as long as I know I didn’t do anything wrong. Later, when he calms down he tries to “make it up” and make me smile. He gets more angry if he sees I got upset. Be respectful and don’t answer back until he calms down.

  16. Ah…you’ve discovered one of the keys to sanity at work. When someone is screaming at you, most of the time it’s not about you at all – it’s about him or her! With a boss who lets his or her temper get the best of them, the best you can do at the moment is let them cool down. Confronting them while they are stuck in overdrive won’t get you anywhere. They can’t really hear you. As you say…best to wait until the person calms down.

    Thank you so much for adding to the discussion Anna!

  17. I just started working for a boss that screams, not yells, but screams at everyone. You have to walk on eggshells around him until you can figure out his mood. He did to me for the first time last week, and I calmly crossed my arms and leaned on his desk and told him “I know you are having a bad day, but don’t take it out on me.” He quickly calmed down and we walked out of the meeting laughing. However, he continues to scream at everyone, I’m positive it’s only a matter of time before I get it again.

    I am keeping a detailed notebook of his behavior and will turn it over to corporate so they can understand why their place of business is like a revolving door. If that does not help, I will sue the company for pain and suffering. There should be a law about being treated poorly, just like sexual harassment.

    I am worried everyday I walk in there and stress out because of this guy. But my husband works there too and he was hired and contracted here, so he could lose his job if I walk. Not sure how much longer I can keep my cool. I am not the type of person to just sit back and take it. I will react and it is only a matter of time.

  18. Hi Sheila!

    Here’s the problem with anyone who runs a blog trying to offer advice from a distance: each case has it’s own unique players and circumstances! I appreciate you sharing your own story with us.

    Sounds like you did exactly the right thing when he blew his stack. You didn’t escalate and actually managed to calm things down. But you are also wisely staying aware and documenting. There are bosses who lose their temper a lot, but it sounds like yours is WAAAY over the line. This guy probably needs real anger management help.

    I understand that you don’t want to jeopardize your husband’s job, but this kind of stress is not healthy for anyone. Your story reminds me of a boss I had who was a screamer – and the company knew it and was fine about it. In fact, he’s been promoted several times since I worked for him. Sigh.

    He once yelled at me and told me to shut up in a key planning meeting I had called and was running! Since I didn’t want to scream at him (that’s a no win game), I calmly pushed my chair away from the table, told everyone with a smile that I wasn’t feeling well, and left the room. I stayed home the next day (Friday). When I returned on Monday he apologized profusely. I calmly made sure he understood that I think that’s not the best way to motivate people and, although I couldn’t control him yelling at others (he admitted he had a temper problem), I wasn’t going to accept that for myself. I left about 3 months later because I don’t like working in environments like that – but he never yelled at me again (although he did come close a few times). Unfortunately this is a deeper problem he needs to address for himself and just wanting to change isn’t enough. I would guess the same is true for your boss.

    I would hope that your husband’s job is not really contingent on you staying there. If you can, please make sure that’s really the case before resigning yourself to not resigning. :)

    But if you do want to stay, maybe another talk would help. You could ask if you could talk to him privately and then calmly tell him you understand tempers sometimes flare, but also let him know it makes you uncomfortable wondering when you’ll get yelled at next. A smile here would be good to diffuse any tension. Just be real and approach it with an honest desire to make it work for both of you. You’d like to know his ideas for ways that you could help keep yourself out of the line of fire. Maybe if you can subtly get him to admit and talk about these screaming fits, he might start to think of ways to at least keep them more in check.

    OH…I know people out there are screaming at me saying there’s no way he will change. Probably not. As I said, it’s core stuff and just wanting isn’t going to stop the behavior. But if you can’t stand it and if you are feeling trapped, I would guess it’s better for you to approach it positively and at least try carving out some breathing room for yourself. Just a thought. Up to you of course. Only you know how approachable this guy is!

    But if you are worried this could lose both of your jobs, and you don’t feel you can approach Human Resources for help (sometimes they help, but sometimes they only try to pacify you), then your best bet as long as you stay there is to work on ways for YOU not to blow your cool. Breathing exercises and meditation are useful for lowering your own boiling point.

    Something else that you might want to try is visualizing scenes between you and your boss again and again. At first, let yourself blow all the way! Then try doing it again, handling it differently. Keep practicing that visualization, allowing him to just be who he is and remembering it has nothing to do with you. Like Mount St. Helens, he will blow when he needs to and all you can do is back off from the hot lava flow. In fact, you might try imagining his face on a volcano. He blows. You back off. Maybe it will help.

    Other than that, all I can say is good luck. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. I always wonder how these bosses live with themselves. Remember…when they go home, they are still there. It always makes me feel better to know I don’t have to be there with them!

    I wish you all the best, Sheila. Please let us know what happens. Maybe your advice can help others.

    Ronnie Ann

  19. Tired of it says:

    Screaming behavior is rampant in the legal field. It’s almost the norm. It doesn’t matter what you do. There are attorneys who scream, curse, and slam things around because they can’t locate a file that usually turns out to be within arm’s reach.

    After almost 28 years of dealing with attorneys, I’m looking into another career choice. I have just been glad through the years that no one has ever asked me to bring them a cup of coffee or tea, because I would have been hard pressed to avoid slipping something into it.

  20. Hi Tired of it!

    I have to say I have known quite a few screaming lawyers in my lifetime and I do not envy you – although I do admire your ability to stay sane during all these years! And I too am glad they never asked you to bring them coffee or tea. ;-) But just so you know, I also know some truly wonderful people who are lawyers. No one deserves to put up with screaming bosses no matter what the field.

    I wish you much luck in your next job – whether it’s in a new career or with one of those lawyers who don’t scream. (By the way…I want to law school for a year and I swear there wasn’t a course called Screaming 101. But maybe it came later in the program.)

    Good luck Tired of It! Thanks for sharing your story. Please let us know what happens.

    Ronnie Ann

  21. I decided it was time to move on. The new boss arrived on the scene and it didn’t take anytime at all for him to set the stage for one screaming session after another. The first time he attacked me I was on the floor (manufacturing plant) supervising my crew. Before learning any facts he was in my face shouting at the top of his lungs for not having the line up and running. What he didn’t know was I had stayed late the night before to ensure I was prepared in the morning. Another department failed to supply us with the needed product to run so it was out of my control. Of course he never apologized and tried to avert the blame my way regardless. The morale of my team was crushed as well as mine. I was going to leave but decided to give it time. Big mistake! He did this with my immediate supervisor as well as she in turn picked up his method of operation. When I complained about a breach of company policy by other members of the plant regarding an emergency incident which had impact upon my department they both hit me full force with screaming (which included using the F word), public beratement,etc. I’m talking right up to your face and screaming as loud as possible in your ear. Even though the thought of resigning still hadn’t registered in my mind, my mouth somehow uttered the words. I will never give a boss who would do this once, another chance. Leopards never change their spots. Best to move on if it ever happens to you. Just my opinion.

  22. Actually Cried says:

    I came across this article today as I was trying to find a way to deal with a boss who is constantly moody and screams at everyone.

    Today it was my turn. Not my first time mind you but it is the first time I was nearly in tears. Yes I was at fault too and I am a grown up enough to admit that I made a mistake in my work. I refuse however to take 100% blame because as a superior, it is part of his job to review my work and where he didn’t do so and provided misleading directions to start with, I truly believe that he shares the blame with me.

    I guess I misstepped because I tried to defend myself and that’s why he blew up even more. Even now just thinking about it makes me want to cry again. I am trying to think of the best way to tell him how unsettling it is but I don’t know how and when I will have the courage to do so.

    Anyways just wanted to thank you for the article. It gives me hope.

    • I really dont like him says:

      This is not the first time hes snapped on me before and not just verbally threw a hammer scared the shit out of me calls everyone idiots and today i just kept telling him to not raise his voice to me over and over how is this not harassment i know hes pissed because im pregnant and planning to take materity leave but now they are trying yo make it out to be all me and im not backing down but its extremely stressful working in this enviroment and i know ill have to see him tomorrow oh joy ive never been this terrified to go to work but i know i have to and its not like anyone else would hire me pregnant so i have to tuff it out another 20 weeks

      • chandlee says:

        Sorry to hear that you are experiencing this at work — especially when you are pregnant. That must be very hard.

        In general, I recommend Ronnie Ann’s advice that she provides in the post. I also recommend the following tip — don’t ever respond to anyone in the work place with a potential charge like, “is this not harassment?” When people feel they are being accused, they often react by getting angrier or defensive. And neither will help if you are in a situation on your own and without witnesses.

        What does work — sometimes — is to simply state, “could you lower your voice?” When people speak loudly, I have a hard time doing my best work. And I know what’s most important to you in working with me is that I perform well on the job.”

  23. In my last job, it was actually the person who was in charge of HR who’d scream at the top of her lungs. A total drama queen who would stop answering your ‘hi’ and ‘good morning’ when she finds out that you have your own thoughts and mind and can’t be controlled by her.

  24. Hi JO BO! I am soooo sorry you had to go through this. But congratulations on having great instincts. Sometimes no matter what our logical (and not always accurate) brain tells us, our better instincts step in to save us. I wish you much luck!

    Glad to offer you hope Actually Cried – although I’d also like to give your boss a piece of my mind! May you find a job and boss that appreciates who you are. No one deserves to be treated this way. Ever. But unfortunately people with personality flaws all too often get to be bosses. Good luck finding a job and boss you truly deserve. ;-)

    Thanks for adding to the conversation, Jay! Amazing that HR folks can get away with that. But sadly it’s not uncommon. Glad you found a way out. Best of luck in your new job!!

  25. To all the bosses out there:

    I believe Lord Acton said “All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s a great responsibility to be in a position of power over others, such as when you are a boss or even a supervisor.

    Even if you’re doing your very best and still feel the frustration creeping up on you, please remember that shouting is not a management skill – it’s something you do when you feel powerless. If you feel the urge to yell…excuse yourself, go back to your office, shut the door, breathe deeply, count to 10 or 20 or 100, and then think about how to best get your point across in a way that can be received by the other person(s) in a non-fear state (which actually doesn’t allow them to hear you well at all.)

    I know all too well how hard it can be some days for a manager, but really…although with some employees it might take a while…you’ll get back what you give many times over. Remember that all employees respond to what they observe, even if they aren’t the target – and simply keeping them in a fear state will not get you the pest efficiency or productivity in the long run.

    And if they can’t do the job and you’ve tried your best…please don’t torture them. People who might not seem good in one job, can excel in others (either within the same company or elsewhere); I’ve seen it. If you can’t find a solution that works for you, then end it for both your sakes and support them in finding their next job – hopefully a better match. ;-)

    Finally…if you have a rage problem in general (many folks do), please just admit it and get help. You’ll be amazed how many parts of your life this will improve – and how differently people will treat and respect you!

    Thanks for listening.

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  26. yes a yelling angry supervisor is what I have he treats everyone the same .He gets so angry that you take a step away from him.Ive had it with him and the owner knows and does nothing.The only thing to do is hold my head uo and go look for new employment.To bad because I love all of the other people I work with .
    Sad in Vancouver giving my notice !!!

  27. Hi jojo5555!

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to put up with that. I had that once and did exactly what you’re doing. And I never looked back. If the top boss and/or HR won’t do anything, then it’s up to you. Congratulations on a smart move. While I know you’ll miss your co-workers, I hope they get the same courage to do what you’re doing.

    Just make sure you have good references and, when you do interview explain that you moved on because you are looking for more opportunity or some such thing (and not because of the terrible boss.) Keep it positive and leave the crappy stuff behind you. ;-)

    Good luck finding a great new job and great new co-workers!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  28. My boss is the owner of the company and gets so ticked off about every thing. If any of you have ever seen that two year old kid that throws a temper tantrum in the middle of the store because mom won’t buy him any candy that’s him. I have been working at this job for 2 1/2 months and I recently put an invoice on his desk because I was not sure how he wanted it entered. He was so ticked that it was on his desk that he took the “posted” stamp and stamped it so hard while yelling and screaming about it that I swear his monitor jumped 6 inches off his desk. This was not the first tantrum I have witnessed. Every day he complains about how stupid all his employees are and how stupid all the vendors are. I am very good at my job but he has a certain way he wants every thing done but if you ask him a question so you do it to his specifications he gets ticked. The other employee I work with is so gun shy that he just keeps making mistakes because he is afraid to ask a question. The problem is that the employees are not stupid they just don’t want to talk to him to see how he wants something done because they are afraid of getting reamed. I will be talking to a customer on the phone and I have to muffle the phone so they can’t hear him yelling f this and f that and he actually throws things around the office. I feel like building a cage around my desk. Time to start looking for a new job again. I can’t handle the every day stress of this place. He has another company that the comptroller is leaving and so far the first guy they hired lasted 1 week, the second girl left for lunch on the third day and didn’t return. He doesn’t have direct contact with this person but the stress level of every one else is so high that the new person just can’t handle it.

    • Exactly a year ago, I left a very promising position in a start-up because the 24/7 harrassment was unbearable. The insults, the sexual remarks, the disrespect and that incessant burrowing into my personal life at every waking moment. It’s as if I had married this nightmare of a man by accepting the job. At the 90-day review, I asked for more respect, less screaming, etc.. and was told..”Too damn bad. You’re so miserable here? Go ahead and quit.” I did. For a year, I was considered the little princess who couldn’t handle a vocal boss. But, Karma has a strange way of coming back around. The man, although he was part owner and director of operations of the company, was fired. Apparently, I was not alone in refusing the treatment. Clients and employees alike began to abandon ship in droves. It took me a while to get over losing a job, lots of self-doubt, but I finally feel beyond justified. Ironically, people who ignored me for a year are now trying to be friends again. Such irony!

      • Kelly,

        Sorry to hear of your experience. As for the outcome, as my mother says, “Being right can be the booby prize in life.” What I am curious about is how you are faring now: Did you find another position that you appreciate and where you are appreciated? If not, are there any opportunities lurking behind the door you decided to close?

        All the Best,
        Chandlee

  29. Oh Tom! I feel for you…and everyone else that works for this tyrant. Wise words “Time to start looking for a new job again. I can’t handle the every day stress of this place. ” If it were me, I’d do the same.

    No one deserves that treatment. I had a boss like that once (ok…more than once) and I do not consider that acceptable behavior on any level. And yet there are so many bosses like this out there. Grrrr! But thankfully there are also good ones.

    As I can tell, you are seeing this in a clear and healthy manner as far. Good luck finding a human boss and a great new job, Tom! Please let us know how things turn out.

  30. Hi

    Recently I have faced some problems at work where the workplace from the beginning i found very stifling with a boss who had some irrational policies at times and expected them to be followed without questioning. The politics in the office was intense with lots of backbiting due to the insecurities amongst employees – the boss however welsomes the and those who do it are seen as loyal (who report every damn thing to the boss).

    All this is actually fine, I have survived it all, however boss’s wife runs a company too – I call her the screaming banshee. Nobody says no to her. She wants things done at the snap of her two manicured fingers and you often find everyone scurrying around to get things done fast! cos of how much they fear her shrill screaming and insulting derogatory remarks. (“Don’t you have a brain???” “why aren’t you answering????”- asked when she looks at your work and shouts “what the hell have you done here??!”).

    SO it came to a time when i repeatedly kept getting assigned her work and the stress was overwhelming the work itself is fast paced and honestly the nature of it is not something i liked at all (PR work). Although our boss has been approached with the problems employees face when working for his wife he rarely deals with it brushing it aside with a lame excuse such as ‘you need to toughen up’

    Finally i went and told the management i no longer wanted to do that work since i didnt like the nature of work.

    I found myself in the dog house.

    I have put up with enough of nonsense at this workplace (including working with a friend which ruined the friendship and not to mention how much of the company mascot she became, and although a lot better now there manifests in here quite a few complexes still – even after many promotions.

    Its all too much. does anyone have a take on this? I for one am looking for jobs.

  31. Hi TIN!

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with all this for as long as you have. It sounds horrible. I’ve had a couple of screaming banshee bosses myself, but my choice in each case was to start looking and just do my best until I could get out. It was much easier to smile once I made the decision to leave.

    Since it seems like you have nowhere (and no one) to turn to in the company, your thoughts about leaving sound wise – at least worth looking to see what’s out there. And remember when you interview…it’s about finding a better opportunity and NOT how bad the current company is. Dirty laundry stays behind…you move forward. ;-)

    I wish you much luck finding a better job soon!

  32. Upset and Angry says:

    Today, I was screamed at by one of the assistant managers. For me it was the last straw in what has been several weeks of verbal harassment. Every time I have worked with her has been unpleasant and she takes pains to only do it when one of the other managers is not around. A couple of weeks ago she belittled me and ordered me to do a series of unpleasant tasks after I disagreed with her. Earlier this week I came into the store in my off-time to make a purchase. When I asked her a question she ignored me. When I got home today after being screamed at by her I did make an anonymous complaint. I plan on making at least one more for the other incidents. I don’t feel that I can go directly to the head manager because the assistant manger is a favorite of hers. So I feel that making an anon complaint is my only avenue. I hope I don’t get fired.

  33. Hi Upset and Angry,

    I can see why you feel that way. So sorry. No one deserves to be treated like this in the workplace or anywhere else. I hope your anonymous complaint doesn’t get pinned on you. But I like that you’re looking for a way to stand up for yourself.

    While I understand why you don’t want to go to the manager, sometimes there isn’t much else to do. You have a right to speak with her and ask for advice, saying you really want to do a good job and learn how to work with that particular assistant manager. Because the manager likes her, the best approach is not to attack or put the assistant manager down, but to look for practical advice and solutions. If you get a cold shoulder from the manager or the assistant manager is even harder on you afterward, it is probably time to move on. In fact, no matter how bad the economy is, I’d be looking for another job right now, just in case. You shouldn’t have to fear your workplace!

    Good luck.

  34. Screaming starts at the top in the company i work for and it funnels down through various management areas. It is a daily/weekly occurence. As the old adage tells us, shit rolls downhill. The aforementioned Fear certainly can motivate people – especially in the short term – but in the long run it’s not an effective management technique . The staff begins to withhold more and more creativity and settle into that gray place where they just do the work and hope not to be screamed at. Even if the boss mixes it with praise and rewards, in the end, people still prefer to avoid the pain. The culture in the company i work for is exhausting and stressful. It has put me into a state of depression : (

    • Hi jay!

      I’m so sorry you have to deal with this kind of workplace environment. You said it so well…it kills creativity. And your point about your company, where it starts at the top, leaves little room for change. Unless the boss realizes that change has to start at the top.

      Hope at some point you can find a place that is better at treating its employees with respect. Even if you can’t change yet, now is as good a time as any to start seeing what’s out there and thinking about how you might get to something you would enjoy.

      I wish you all the best!

  35. I have been in this job for about 12 years. and have been through several Head Chefs. i’ts food Service. THis current one is 48 years old and yells, screams, slams and kicks product all around the kitchen. He seems only to talk to the Male Chefs and ignores the female Pastry Chef and Dining Room Manager. He only acknowledges them when he wants to complain or put them down.
    THe first week in December he came to work complaining of Chest pains. He demanded to be driven to a private hospital 20 minutes away instead of the Emergency Hospital 5 Minutes down the road.
    In any case, He had was is known as the WIdow Maker blockage. 90 Percent. After two stents in his heart. and a couple of weeks bed rest he is back at work…And while not yelling as much…He is still hard at work finding problems with those employees he does’nt like. Mainly the Women. He is ignoreing any issues with the Male Chefs. Needless to say, THe women who once were proud of their work. are now doubting themselves and panicking about how they will survive this Chefs Behavior to them. And finding another job rigt now that pays decently is hard to come by… So that’s My story..
    PS> I’m one of the women.Who this Chef refers to as “Evil” He is European trained and does’nt
    believe women belong in a professional kitchen.. only Men… Women should only look pretty and be in the front of the house.

  36. I really appreciate that you shared your story with us. My guess is there are many many people out there who can relate. And many women in the food industry with the same story.

    I’m so sorry you or anyone has to put up with such abuse in the workplace. There is nothing to justify his behavior and ignorance. It certainly doers not get the best out of his female workers – and it also probably instills a fearful self-censorship in the males, even if they seem to be treated better. The one hopeful thing I see in your words is that there could be another head chef in your future since this is a position with turnover and you have outlasted them all. :)

    It’s a shame that a group of you can’t go to the chef’s boss and bring his abusive treatment into the light. Or go right to him, tell him all together that your goal is to support him as strongly as possible, but you would also like his respect in return since you are doing your best. But as someone who has had some experience with food service (and watched too much of Chef Ramsey), I know this is not the only food industry place where such verbal abuse takes place. And I know prejudice is deep.

    If you are unable to speak up / stand up for yourselves and if changing jobs is not possible right now, then I can only wish you that he finds a new job in the new year and a better boss takes his place. Would it be wrong for me to suggest you send his resume to other companies and hope for a win-win? :)

    Please tell your fellow workers I am rooting for a miracle like with Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. And please also tell them not to forget how good they are. Just because he’s a prejudiced bully, doesn’t change who any of you are at the core. It’s about him, not you. If all of you can remember that, even when he’s yelling, then you can get through the day just a little easier.

    I wish you all the best, Tyler. Here’s wishing for a much better 2012!

  37. Upset90 says:

    I have a screaming mimi as a boss and she has already screamed at me on two occasions already. I have been documenting the incidents and looking for other employment. I am older then her and I guess they haven’t shown her how to respect adults. As a supervisor she has much more to learn about supervision. She also tends to play favorites and has one employee micro manage all the other employees.

  38. StressedSingleMom says:

    Actually had to leave my job today b/c of a panic attack that was a result of my new managers yelling at me, in front of other co-workers. He took over the store a year ago, and since then the employee turn over, b/c of him has doubled but the higher ups are happy with his results as far as labor and all goes…So really no matter how many of us complain about him, we are told tough..I’m currently looking for another job as I type this. But it is hard b/c locally there just aren’t that many. It really stinks that someone can come in and ruin what was good and family friendly work place..And apparently its okay with upper level management to treat the low level ones like dogs. :(…But it helps to know I”m not alone.

    • Dear Stressed Single Mom,

      Sounds like a new job and work environment is in order. Keep looking forward and keep smiling in the interim. Many people have been in your situation. Personally, I recommend the song “For Now” from Avenue Q when things get tough — “everything in life is only for now.” Keep looking forward, and don’t give up.

      Best,
      Chandlee

  39. I am working as a nanny. I am not happy with my boss. I do all the work at home, can’t even tell what work am I doing. But my boss think that I don’t have any work except 4 or 5 work. If I made any mistake or if I forget to do something she will yell at me n shout at me. I couldn’t tell her that I want to go home, if I tell her that she will complaint against me with her parents, who is the boss of my mom n brother then they will be in trouble. I can’t take any decision. Can somebody give me the solution for this. I am really struggling in this

    • Disha,

      Why not make a list of all the you do for three days. Then show it to her so that she understands what you are doing. Be kind and non-threatening, just say “I understand your concern that I am not doing anything. Here is a list of what I have been doing over the last three days. This is representative of what I normally do. Are there things on this list that you would prefer I not do — or do instead?”

      It sounds like you also may want to look for a new job as well — good luck!

      Best,
      Chandlee

  40. My boss yelled at me in front of a customer the other day. I did cry, for an hour, and I still had to work the register so most of our customers showed concern by offering hugs and one said they were upset with managment because I should have been sent home if I was that upset. I was also at fault in the incident leading up to this and was written up and forced to write an apology letter, however, I have not received an apology for being humiliated in front of our regular customers and the rest of the staff. I work for a national company but there are only a few employees in our store so I know that any complaint will be identified as coming from me. I don’t want to leave this job.

    • Sofia,

      I wish I could tell you differently, but being able to show that you can manage your emotions at work is important to companies. While it’s okay to cry behind closed doors, crying in front of customers over how your boss has treated you — and letting them know the reason why you are crying — is potentially damaging to the company and reputation. Imagine how senior leadership would feel if they read on Facebook or Twitter of the incident. All it takes is one customer to mention it online and it has the potential to go viral.

      Without knowing what the situation was, it’s hard for me to tell you the proper response. In general, I don’t think you should expect an apology — nor should you ask for one from the company’s headquarters. If you’ve received harsh treatment from your boss, chances are good that you are not the only one — and it’s likely that other colleagues will ultimately let senior management know of the problems in these areas.

      Remember the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Go back in with your head up high, and if you feel you can — own up to your mistake and have a discussion with your current boss about how you like to be given feedback.

      Another alternative: Could you perhaps think about finding another job with a kinder, gentler boss?

      Good luck and all the very best,
      Chandlee

  41. It seems like this article only caters to screaming bosses. Giving them chances, negotiating what you can do for them to make it better. BS. If my boss screamed at me, it would be a lawsuit, period! No one should ever be screamed at like that.

    • I need help, my boss screams at me all the time. Now I can’t sleep at night and dread going to work. The last occurrence happened 5/31/13. A patient called requesting to speak with him, so I transferred the call to him. He came out a few seconds later screaming and yelling at me. So I told him she had requested to speak with him. I got up and moved closer to him and told him I didn’t appreciate him screaming at me the way he did. He got upset and told me to clock out and go home, told him I was not going home. Then he got irate and started screaming some more’ I said leave my office, I said clock out and go home.
      I just found out he paid me for 4hours even though I got to work 8.32 am and left at 1 pm.
      Is that legall?

      • cazorla says:

        hi cutie

        no its not legal, on one has the right to scream at anyone for whatever the reason is , especially for work related. i would notify the HR or the people more senior than him. it seems that he is a doctor and you are the receptionist? u live in uk? you should call the national Acas helpline they will advice you

      • Susan P. Joyce says:

        Hi Cutie,

        I’m not an attorney so I’m not sure of the legal implications of the situation. What is legal in one location may not be legal in another.

        This sounds like either a personality conflict between you and your boss, or he’s a nut case. I highly recommend that you look for another job elsewhere. Being screamed at is very hard to take. You do a good job standing up for yourself, but it is still obviously taking a toll on you. Not worth it.

        Find a boss who doesn’t scream.

        Good luck with your job search!
        Susan

      • I have issues with my boss at work, and now he’s inviting me to twoo and claiming to be single.

        • Susan P. Joyce says:

          Hi Cutie,

          You could tell him that you don’t think it’s a good idea to date someone you work for, and you would rather not put a good working relationship and a job you like at risk by dating him.

          I think looking for another job might be the best thing for you to do if this guy is abusing you verbally and now asking you out. Don’t quit first, if you can help it, but getting out of this situation by finding a different job sounds like the best idea.

          Good luck!
          Susan

  42. JOANNE NEVILLE says:

    NO WAY IN HELL IS THIS ACCEPTABLE…

    You have two options:
    1. Approaching him and give him a verbal warning, that his behaviour is affecting your health. If he continues….onto Option 2.
    2. Take legal action.

    You will need to Google Bullying in the workplace – your location (ie. Canada etc…..)

    You do have options and you should never ever let anyone make you feel like that, you are worth more than that and you need to stand up for your rights as a human.

    Good luck and don’t give up.

  43. Againstbullying says:

    My boss told me it was because she was PMSing that she screamed at me.. This was unacceptable so I had a meeting with her. She still screams at me-

  44. My boss (the owner) didn’t like my opinion on something we’ve been discussing and it came up again today in a meeting… so I asked him if we could just agree to disagree about it… oh no… oh hell no… he wanted to keep talking about it… and he was RIGHT.. I was WRONG… and then he stood up at the table. and slammed his pointed finger down on the table and told me to shut the fuck up and listen to him. I flipped… I got right back up in his face and told him he wasn’t going to talk to me like this anymore.. I started to gather my stuff and said I was leaving and he told me go ahead and get the fuck out of here… if you don’t want your job. He knows I need my job. of course i need my job you fucking asshole. I’m a woman. he’s a man… I thought he was going to hit me. His brother (business partner) and another employee witnessed it. They were trying to get us to calm down. the other employee stood up and was trying to get my boss to back off. he just kept screaming at me. He’s been on edge for the past month or so and we’ve had a few other times when it’s gotten heated for no reason.. and he later apologizes to me … what the hell. I LOVE my job, really love it. I was in an abusive romantic relationship and got away from that and swore that I would NEVER let another person treat me that way and I’ve allowed him to do so. What should I do? I’m looking for another job but I make decent money and it’s not very easy to find a good paying job these days, especially one that you love. I’m 53 years old. I’m too old for this shit. Why is he so mean to me? We’ve always gotten along really well. I’ve worked for him for 4 years and I”ve been like his right hand woman. I don’t understand what is going on. I’m so frustrated and angry and hurt. I don’t even want to go back to work now.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Wow, Karen, tough spot!

      I think you need to go in to work tomorrow to make it clear that you want to keep the job. If you need to find another job, it’s much better to do that while you are still employed!

      This treatment is obviously unacceptable. I’m not sure it’s illegal, but definitely a bad working situation that does sound like bullying or worse.

      It feels to me like there could be any of 3 things going on:

      1. He’s got something else going on in his life or in the business, and, as a result, he has a very short fuse right now.

      OR

      2. He might be right, and you might be wrong.
      Is there a possibility that new things or changes are being proposed that really are a necessity, perhaps beyond your understanding of the reasons? Is there ANY possibility that he is right and that you are just not aware of all the possibilities and ramifications?

      OR

      3. He’s just not a good person to work for. He’s a bully, and he’s not going to change.
      Simply because someone is smart enough to start a good business or has inherited it doesn’t mean they are good at management. If turnover is high in the business (no other employees who have stayed as long – or longer – than you have), this might be the answer.

      I don’t know if you can talk with him or his brother about the situation. You know them much better than I do. But it might be worth trying.

      Perhaps explain it like this: You love the job, and you really want to stay (not a threat to leave!). But your commitment to him and to the organization plus your experience in the business stop you from being a “yes man” when you have a different opinion. You thought he valued that in the past. Ask him (or his brother) if he wants you to simply agree to all of his ideas because he’s the boss.

      Be prepared to be told that they want you to simply follow orders. Then, do your best to do that, perhaps while you look for another place to work where you can use your brain. Many businesses will value that commitment!

      Good luck with this situation!
      Susan

  45. JoAnna Zachman says:

    Hi,
    I’ve had similar situations at work. What I’ve done is took a step away from the situation to calm down
    Myself. His anger is his to deal with. but to take care of yourself, You need to Calm yourself.
    Although it feels personal, it really is not about you. You’re just in his sights at this moment.

    So,
    Step away from the situation to get clarity. That means don’t go out of your way to be in this persons prescence. And if you do have to see this person. Be very calm, don’t exhibit any emotion other than that of a cool professional.
    I say this because this is how you will be taking care of yourself throughout your work life

    Regardless of how this nut case acts, regardless of how Stressed his life has been.
    You can not react, you can not take it personally and you can

    MANAGE THE SITUATION.

    I am telling you this because 10 years ago I was in almost the exact situation with a crazy lunatic and
    I thought it was about me, I lost sleep, I was really frustrated and angry, and I went in search of a lawyer to teach this employer a huge lesson.

    Well imagine my surprise when the EEOC told me I did not have a case,
    I then went to the most powerfull Law office in my state and after I went through the whole story of why I wanted to Sue this company for Hostile Work enviroment.
    They listened and told me I did not have a case.
    Then, an incredible thing happened,
    One of the older female attorney’s sat me down.
    And she said,
    MANAGE THE SITUATION.
    She went on to tell me there would be lots of nut case people in my work life, and it really is up to me to do the BEST thing for my self when these bosses come into my life. and she also said that sooner or later everyone meets the Boss from Hell.
    She advised,
    If I have another job lined up, if I have reserve money in the bank then by all means leave.
    But if leaving would put ME in Hardship.
    Then that would not be the Best thing for me.
    and I did’nt quit, but I did outlast this boss, and some of the bosses that took his place were great, some were awful and actually one was so angry that he had a heart attact and was hauled out by the fire department never to return. ( these were all they’re issues and how they managed themselves)
    not about me.
    I am still at this job, I have continually earned more money and ultimately I outlasted them all.
    Which for me is a win.

  46. Record the screaming with your smartphone and file a complaint with the state AND apply for other jobs and when they ask why you’re looking for something else, play the soundclip.

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