Yelled At By Co-Worker

Question:

I could use some advice. I admit I handled the situation incorrectly. But I was just doing what I thought was best. I asked a co-worker to leave items for invoicing in one location on my desk. Twice now, they have responded with yelling at me saying, “If you want something done, you can do it yourself. If you aren’t going to do it then I’m going to the manager to complain.” When I asked what their problem is, they continued yelling, “Shut up! Be quiet!” I mind my own business at work. I go in, do my work at my desk, and then leave. I have the work of about two people to do, so I’m swamped. I filed a complaint with the manager. I was then told about how I need to have better emotional control. I don’t get it. I calmly asked for one simple thing. Then a co-worker yells at me, and I’m told I need emotional control? Can you offer some advice on how to proceed from here?

Signed,

Yelled At


Answer:

Dear Yelled At:

Work is hard enough even without being yelled at. However, you don’t describe how you reacted to the yelling. Did you immediately yell back, roll your eyes heavenward, say thank you sarcastically, cry, or clam up and later spill your complaint at being yelled at to your superior? I expect you have reviewed that in your head more than once. So what have you learned from it? Possibly a response that would not have left you feeling like a victim, something firm and professional. Obviously the work rules are not clearly spelled out as to who does what, when, and how. Depending on how you reacted to the yelling, apparently your boss’s first impulse was to tell you to not be emotionally upset, but that wasn’t enough. Ideally your manager will bring your work group together to get clarification of work procedures and interpersonal communication rules. You might think through what you will make your and others work more effective and then again meet with your manager to share your frustration about the incivility of working with coworkers who yell. And that conversation should request his/her help to engage your work group in finding ways to make their jobs and their communication more effective. At the very least now you need to do your part to follow what your coworkers have yelled about to make clear what they wanted or didn’t want. You also should have a ready answer to the yelling, such as holding your hand up in a stop-sign motion and saying, “Jane, stop yelling. I don’t respond well to being yelled at. I want to do what is most helpful to you, and I will do what I can within reason.”

Think of what you might do individually to shape the kind of communication that makes working with your coworkers effective and pleasant. You describe your self as a lonely camper: “I mind my own business at work. I go in, do my work at my desk, and then leave. I have the work of about two people to do, so I’m swamped.” That description is far from working as a team. Your manager will only see her/him self as a coach of a team when he sees what is going on. Sure you don’t want to be a squeaking wheel, but you do have a need and right to request that your manager review assignments and help all under his charge to work efficiently and effectively. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, when applied, means that your operation and almost every operation in a work area, is only maximally productive when coworkers and manager think and express themselves interdependently. That sometimes must start with the one who is yelled at.

William Gorden