Yelling… as a method of peronnel management.

DrMrA and I have been having a conversation lately about yelling. Not yelling for fun, or joyful yelling, or enthusiastic yelling after a great result, or just plain speaking loudly, …. DrMrA is from southern Europe- so it seems like everyday conversation is just done at a higher volume with him… but we have been together a long time so I’m used to it. You can imagine the volume at gatherings of our extended families, my gentle northern European self has gradually become acclimated to this.

No, I’m talking about yelling as a form of personnel management. That yelling at people out of frustration, yelling to belittle someone, yelling as a form of manipulation. You know what I’m talking about.

I personally have never can not ever remember having yelled at one of my employees a single time- and nor could I ever in my wildest imagination see DrMrA doing so.   I may be perfectly blunt sometimes, I may be direct- but I do not do this with a raised or threatening voice.  Ever.

I have colleagues though who regularly yell at their students and postdocs- … and then when personnel announce that they are leaving the lab… because -guess what- they don’t like being yelled at… said colleagues scratch their heads and wonder why they can’t retain personnel.  ?!?!! C’mon people.

I’ve got a news flash for you yellers out there… I can’t tell you this in person- you will get defensive and YELL… others have tried to and you wouldn’t listen…. but here goes anyway.

1.  Yelling at people is inappropriate and disrespectful. PERIOD. You expect your employees to treat you with respect, and I’m here to tell you that this is a two way street.

2.  Yelling is a form of abuse,  trying to manipulate and intimidate someone with your voice.  Do you enjoy it when someone does this to you?  Does it make you respect, listen to, or complete whatever project needed to be done more quickly? I didn’t think so.

3.  Yelling does not work as a form of personnel management.  If you are frustrated with an employee, find a way to take this frustration out somewhere else PRIOR to talking to the employee in a logical, reasonable way that has a higher chance of getting what you want done, done.

4.  If you can’t figure out a better way on your own- get yourself some training in effective techniques for personnel management. Buy a book if you must, talk to colleagues whose labs always seem to be running smoothly and whose employees are productive and beloved by their ‘people’.

Lest you think I never get frustrated with my employees- not so- I’m not sayin’ that from time to time I don’t have a personnel issue or two that vexes me.  I do, everyone does. What I am saying is that it is more effective to use your head and make a pro-active plan to deal with a situation INSTEAD of yelling out a litany of complaints and demands at someone…. a poor strategy that I have seen many times but have never seen work.

That concludes this lecture by drdrA. And no, I’m not YELLING.


8 thoughts on “Yelling… as a method of peronnel management.

  1. Oh LordieMercy, do I agree with this! This is my PI’s favorite mode of communication. Happily (or unhappily?), it’s readily apparent to me that once she yells, the angry moment passes, and she’s back to her steady-state mood (which is cranky, but at least not yelling). I’m more than willing to put up with occasional yelling fits coupled to a reasonably normal mood, as opposed to simmering passive-aggression 24-7 (a PI behavior experienced by several of my grad school friends).

  2. I’ve never been actually, properly, yelled at by a boss, but my PhD supervisor did once start to raise his voice in an argument with me. I gave as good as I got – resulting in him walking out of his own office! He came back to find me in the library a couple of hours later, which resulted in an almost exact repeat of the situation, and a sympathy cup of tea for me, made by the lovely librarian. He came back a second time at the end of the day and apologised, and we’ve got on fine ever since. But I hated that day with a passion (despite later finding out that it wasn’t personal – he’d got into arguments with two of his postdocs on the same day, and this was completely out of character) and can’t possibly imagine working for anyone who used this tactic on anything approaching a regular basis.

  3. Yelling drops your status. That is part of why people leave when yelled at. Most grad students (and other subordinates) will take unbelievable amounts of abuse if they are convinced of the abuser’s importance, but when they yel they signal that they are out of control and lose their hold over others. High status people speak softly and carry big sticks.

  4. Cath- Great story. I have been involved in only one yelling incident as an employee. It damaged my relationship with others until this day, I’m sad to say. Things do improve with time however.

    Yolio- this is an excellent point.

    damngoodtechnician- yelling is not communication… I know that’s not what you were meaning to say- but its manipulation.

    I think though, as in the case of your boss- there are some people whose yelling is more just an expression of frustration, and when it is over, its over. The trick for these people is to figure out how to get over their frustration another way. Working out works for me.

  5. I have a PI now that yells every so often…and as a bonus, the yelling is laced with profanity. It makes everybody in the lab very uncomfortable. Remarkably immature behavior from a grown individual.

  6. Yes, Yolio does have an excellent point. Yelling diminishes the yeller in the eyes of witnesses. Yelling means that you’ve lost control–and who can respect that?

    I’ve only witnessed yelling in the workplace once. My postdoc supervisor lost control and yelled at a postdoc in the lab. Everyone there was completely freaked out by the scene. Later, the PI apologized. I’m not sure he actually apologized to the postdoc in question (he really had it in for her, it was a complicated situation, he ended up firing her) but he apologized to the rest of the lab for behaving unprofessionally and making us reluctant witnesses to an uncomfortable scene.

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