Yelling Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about stress due to boss:

My boss yells at only me. I’ve asked him to stop but he continues to be abusive. The stress carries over to my home life where I yell about work. What rights do I have?

Signed, Stressed Out

Dear Stressed Out:

To the best of my knowledge, you don’t have rights to stop your boss from yelling, unless you are under a union contract that specifies what is unacceptable behavior by a boss. Yet you do have a sense of what is right and wrong: you deserve respectful communication. Yelling and verbal abuse are out of bounds in a civil society.

What might you do other than to say, “Stop” each time your boss yells? Here are several options to consider:

1. Log the incidents that have prompted your boss to yell. Determine what you might do to correct them.

2. Raise your hand in a stop-sign position as you say, “George, or whatever is his name, I asked you before to stop yelling. I’m saying that again because I know it is hard to break bad habits. And I’ll remind you again if you will promise to do your best to speak respectfully from now on. Will you make that promise?”3. If George continues to yell and ignores your effort for him to speak civilly, ask to meet with him to talk about why he yells. In that meeting, frankly say how it stresses you. Ask what triggers his yelling at you. Request a performance review and with his help develop a plan to make your performance free from those behaviors that cause him to yell.

4. Seek help from Human Resources or personnel.

5. Rather than secretly report him to his boss, tell him that you want a three-way meeting with him, his boss and you. In that meeting, say you are singled out for his yelling. Say that you are committed to do good work and that yelling causes you to work scared. Request that he be sent to anger management or that you are transferred.

6. Propose to your boss that your work group talks about talk that contributes to more effective teamwork. Suggest that he think of himself as a coach and that your work group should seek his “coaching” rather than worry about his yelling at doing something wrong. In that meeting, collaboratively develop a do and don’t list of how your team should communicate.Some of these options are overlapping. They are meant to say you can do more than ask him not to yell. They are not a quick fix and the only options.

One not suggested is to vote with your feet. Find a workplace that is employee-friendly and offers a career path. Don’t just bite your tongue try to please your boss. Don’t suppress your frustration with him and explode at your spouse or dog. Don’t obsess about this. Rather see it as a learning experience; learning how to deal with a difficult person in authority. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and to achieve that it might take courage on your part to assert your self.

William Gorden