To Yell or Not To Yell…


Posted By

Jul 22nd, 2010

Well, I’ll be honest with you. If given the choice of being yelled at for poor work or performance or being gently coached to correction, I’ll choose the gentle coaching. Every. Time.

“But, wait!”, you may protest, “Some employees just don’t understand unless you spell it out for them loud and clear!” Yes, I would agree that there is merit to this point of view. It is true that some people, some employees, some family members, some vagrants simply don’t understand unless you spell it out for them l-o-u-d and clear. It is my sincere hope, that in the case of such employees, you handle their behavior appropriately through a corrective action or performance improvement plan – that does not incorporate brute force or the need for ear plugs. After all, in addition to the overall office culture issues you will create — which I will discuss in short order — is your uncontrolled outburst going to meet your needs over time? Probably not.

Before you let unbridled anger overtake you, think about a few things. Do you think this employee has never been yelled at before? Is yelling the most persuasive manager tool you have? Raising your voice with poor performing employees is seldom helpful. It is my experience that poor performing employees repeat the same patterns. If you yell at this employee today, you will likely be yelling at them tomorrow and next week. Why? They have adapted to the expectation of being yelled at. So, your words are literally falling on deaf ears. They don’t hear you. Rather than proceed down the slippery slope of employee abuse, why not do your vocal cords a favor, and place the poor performing employee on a written performance improvement plan? The written plan will clarify what is not happening, what needs to happen, and the consequences of not making it happen. If the employee’s performance improves, you win! If the performance doesn’t improve, you both say your good-byes and you begin the search for a new employee.

Now, it may be the case that the employee you are yelling at genuinely wants to perform better. They simply made a mistake. If the employee genuinely feels bad about the mistake they made, yelling at them is the metaphorical equivalent of clipping their wings. In the future, this employee may be reluctant to take chances and grow as a leader because they are afraid of getting it wrong. In this scenario, yelling creates a culture of fear that is often pervasive throughout the organization.

I know, when a huge mistake has been made, it may be tempting — it may even be instinct — to “rip a new one” for the guilty party. I ask that you don’t. The modern office is far too complex to communicate in unfiltered emotion. In the best case scenario, you ensure more of the same behavior from the offending employee. In the worst case scenario, you stifle leadership potential and do irreparable damage to employee morale.


  • avatar


    20 Aug 2010

    well written blog. Im glad that I could find more info on this. thanks

    • cbrunson

      20 Aug 2010

      Thanks! Check back for more info on this in the future.

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