Here’s what happens when you yell at your employees

Here’s what happens when you yell at your employees August 7, 2015

Getting terribly frustrated at his or her staff is as much a part of a manager’s job as brushing their teeth is (we hope!) a part of their daily routine. Regularly having good reason to feel angry is simply part and parcel of the management package.

Even the best managers can often find themselves so frustrated that they blow-up at their staff—and in front of others, too. But that’s one of the most counter-productive things that any manager can ver do.

When you regularly, and especially publicly, show anger to your staff, here are nine extremely counter-productive things you’re also doing:

1. You’re training your staff not to think. Managers are often frustrated at their staff  for not thinking things through. But by getting angry at them, you are actually training your staff to not think. Thinking requires confidence and a kind of internal initiative. But when a mistake can result in a public dressing down, your staff will lack that confidence and sense of initiative. They will stick to the safer, non-thinking way. And then you’ve lost a ton of potential.

2. You’re making your staff less productive. When someone shows anger at you, your entirely natural response is to show anger back at them. But because you are their boss, an employee toward whom you have shown anger can’t respond in kind. They can’t have it out; they can’t vent; they can’t rage and scream the way you have. But their natural angry response certainly doesn’t go away. They usually won’t say anything directly to you, but they will remain angry. They will fume; they will stew; they will think about quitting; they will resent the company; they’ll talk furious smack about you to their fellow employees–and, until their anger dissipates, you can bet they’ll be a whole lot less productive.

3. You’re diminishing your own authority. When you routinely show anger at your staff, they will do what people under stress always do: bond together for mutual comfort and support. They will roll their eyes behind your back; they will give someone to whom you’ve been harsh a comforting hug; they will tell each other that they are right, and that you, yet again, are so very wrong. Ultimately, they will get into the habit of simply discounting everything you say. Your authority, and your ability to lead, will be gone.

4. You’re causing your staff to lose respect for you. Losing your temper shows that you’re out of control. And no matter what other great qualities you may possess, no one respects anyone who is incapable of controlling themselves.

5. You’re giving your staff the message that it is okay to break company rules. Your staff knows that your behavior is out of line with your company’s employee handbook. They see that you do not respect the rules, that you get away with breaking the rules, that, because you are in a supervisory position, you have even been rewarded for breaking the rules. When you blow up at them, the clear message that you send your staff is that, in the company for which you all work, it is perfectly okay to break the rules—as long as you have the power to get away with it. That’s the kind of thing that makes people hate their jobs.

6. You’re guaranteeing you won’t be effective in your own responsibilities. If you’ve made your staff dislike you because of how often you blow up at them, you can bet they’ll watch you walk into an open manhole and never say a word. Most of them won’t purposefully and actively do you wrong, but it is a rare person who, for the good of the company, will risk the anger you’ve proven yourself all too ready to display by warning you that you are about to make a big mistake. Mostly they won’t care if you make a mistake. If anything, they’ll hope that you do. Then maybe someone will treat you the way you treat them.

7. You’re undermining your staff’s ability to work as a team. Because no one wants to be the one getting yelled at, your staff will compete with each other to be the one to whom you show the most favor. They’ll know what any kid knows, which is that a good way to avoid having authority figures get angry at them is to redirect that anger towards someone else. This natural stress response will often cause your staff to start actively working against one another. And without teamwork everyone fails—including you.

8. You’re encouraging your staff to make the same mistakes over and over again. Everyone wants to always be right and never make mistakes. And that basic human fact makes it hard for employees to change something wrong they’ve been doing, because the first step in changing is to admit that whatever they’ve been doing needs changing—that they’ve been in error. And under the best of circumstances, it’s difficult for an employee to admit they’ve been wrong. But when you’ve consistently shown anger toward them or their co-workers, their instinct will be to hunker down, dig in their heels, and grow stubborn about doing things in the same way they always have. That in itself becomes a way for them to fight when they can’t take flight.

9. You’re destroying morale. And that’s a terrible—and terribly unproductive—thing to do.

The main thing to remember is that because the people who work under you need their jobs to survive, everything you do as their boss becomes to them emotionally magnified. Every eyebrow you raise at an employee is likely to feel to them like a shout, any sharpness in your tone a major reprimand, every flash of anger a rage. As a manager you must know that any display of anger toward them will become an emotionally significant event to your staff, for the simple fact that you hold their livelihood in the palm of your hand. And that power you have over them means that they cannot respond to your anger in kind. They can’t fight back, because they know, or at least feel, that doing so could get them fired.

So what happens? They take your abuse. And that humiliates them. And humiliated is one of the worst ways any person can feel. If you routinely humiliate your staff by, to any degree, blowing-up at them, then their success, your success, and the company’s success is guaranteed to suffer. Then it’s you who have become a problem.

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  • paganheart

    In 30 years of being in the workforce, starting when I was 16, I can count one one hand the number of managers and supervisors I have worked for who _have not_ managed by yelling at their employees. And I can do it without using all of my fingers. It’s one of the reasons why I’m glad my current job allows me to work mostly from home, because, frankly, being in an office environment is often sheer hell, especially if you have a bad manager. And the bad managers too often outnumber the good.

    Sometimes I think we pick the wrong people to be managers and supervisors. It’s a function of the hypercapitalism we tout in the U.S. I guess; it rewards aggressive behavior and taking no prisoners. Nice guys finish last and all that.

    So we put the most aggressive employees in positions of power, never mind that that aggression often results in management behavior that, in almost any other context, would be considered bullying and emotional abuse.

    We have become more aware of the dangers and problems of bullying in schools and even churches; when will we address the issue of bullying in the workplace? Try bringing it up and you often get told “If you don’t like it, quit! No one is keeping you here!!” Oh, if only it were that easy. I did once walk away from a job where the environment was so toxic that employees were reduced to sobbing in the bathroom on a daily basis (myself included) and routinely dodging flying projectiles thrown by a particularly angry supervisor. But it took me a few months to find a new job, and those were hard months. Not everyone has the option of “just quit.”

    I wish I could say that sending this article to managers and supervisors who like to yell would make a difference. Unfortunately, my experience has been that calling out a bullying, abusive manager (or at least complaining, even anonymously, to HR) leads the bully to double down on their bullying in an attempt to reassert their power and make life miserable for anyone who might have complained. And if the boss somehow finds out that you were the complainer, watch out….you’ve got a target on your back and the boss will look for any excuse to fire you. I’ve seen it happen too many times.

    Ultimately, we just need to rethink what kinds of people we put into management.

  • Lookingup73

    In the professional world that I have worked in for the last 20 years, I have only once seen a manager/supervisor yell at employees. That was a partner in an accounting firm (this woman even yelled at clients!!!). otherwise, it has never seemed appropriate or common in the workplaces where people were college educated.

    When I was a waiter in banquets in a hotel (very nice hotel outside DC), every maitre d’ but one yelled and cursed at us every day. It was weird – it actually did not decrease morale all that much – it was such a fast paced stressful environment that we just took it and got things done. I guess it was a kind of a motivator in that environment. The sad thing is that I think it is too frequently the case that lower-level, lower paid employees receive the brunt of this kind of treatment. Curiously, the one maitre d’ who did not yell at us was a woman. She was extremely organized and stern. She ran the operation tightly. But never had to yell at us. Funny that everyone called HER a bitch just because she was “stern” (I think it was because she kind of never let her hair down and joked around with the staff). yet all the guys who called us every name in the book but would then have a smoke with us were “cool.” Ugh.

  • tonycutty


  • Ina Plassa-travis

    that’s an astute observation – I have seen, time and time again, management positions go to the aggressive, rather than the skilled – and since promotion is pretty much the only way to get a raise any more? they tend to go to the ambitious, rather than the competent.

  • James from Africa

    This is a Great Article ,i feel it’s SPOT ON when talking about Managers who always feel the need to shout everyday. I had a manager who was just the worst. He was a gay, drag queen type of guy ,with more personal issues than Snooki haha.

    But i feel this article plays down the importance of shouting when it IS necesarry. The reason i’m here is because i just started my first company and an employee , failed to deliver a simple task i asked them to do. Sun Tzu wrote in the art of war , “if the orders are not clear and distinct then the general is to blame. ” So i asked this girl to develop a certain feature and she gives me a half ass task . The client is paying $450 for this website feature and she does a job that looks like $5 worth. So i had it and i felt strongly it was time to let her know. Seeing as it was my first time having to shout, i thought i’d just google if shouting at employee’s is effective before i blindly rush in. I came across many articles like this one who all condone yelling. But then one article stood out, the writer pointed out that so many World Class sports Coaches, Managers, hollywood Directors ,and billionaires where renouned for yelling. The term ‘HairDryer’ was coined because Sir Alex Ferguson would get right up in the face of a player and yell at him. The writer didn’t actually state wether it was good or bad hejust pointed out Famous people renouned for yelling and enduring great sucess.

    That got me thinking, That maybe there is a time to yell and now was that time. Well i went down to see her, before yelling i prepared the context of what i was to yell about .Apparently this is very important as it can seperate your passion for the job(Important) and hate towards a person (Devistating) Eg your boss yells at you for a mistake and then spends 20 minutes going on about your haircut and attitude. Not effective yelling.
    So i went down all 6FT3 in a black suit, unfortunately women are really good at sensing when a man is about to ‘layeth the smackdown.’ So she picked up just how pissed i was immediately! Then straight away made cover up excuses and typical bullshit tactics, and she started using the word i hate most, it’s impossible cant be done. I Firmly said to her , “it can be done this is how and provided clear instructions.” I then asked her a very simple question, “Jane are you a professional ? She immediately responded with an emotional/reactional “Yes i am! , ” My response,”Are you sure ?” and using body language i looked away as if in disbelief. I asked her how long she would take ,she then said 2 hours . All this time she was looking down and avoiding eye contact , So i actually said “Jane, look at me, ” she looked up then i Looked her in the eyes and said ” Make sure it is done!” and walked out . 2 hours later it was all done with all the “impossible ” features and even more quality than i asked for. All without pulling out the hairdryer :D, guess i’l save it for a rainy day haha .

    I guess she really picked up how close she was to ‘getting it’. This incident taught me alot. That alot of 21st century adults are somewhat Big Children. So when you deal with your subordinates deal with MOST of them as if they were all 5 years old running around in Kindergarten. Very, Very few of them are the ‘leaders , Mature or the serious types,’ those are the ones who are both the most critical and respectful of Your tactics, business intelligence , enthusiasm, and skills the most because they’re actualy clever enough to understand what you’re fundamentaly doing. Don’t yell at these guys , they’ll be dissapointed that they failed already.

    But the rest are like most kids, they will only ACCEPT and EXPECT to be Yelled at when they have TRUELY Screwed up. It’s expected then, and guys always show your passion for your company when talking to employees it rubs off .

  • James from Africa

    In the First company i worked at Management Possitions went to the Best “ass kissers” No doubt , and they always tended to be Horrible managers to Subordinates and absolute saints to there superiors. However they’d usually be found out a few months down the line haha

  • TCH

    Great article!!! I use to have a boss like this and it was exactly as described in this article.