Last week, I asked you to weigh in on a discussion about whether or not it’s ever OK for managers to yell.
We left instances where safety or well-being was at risk out of the discussion. I refrained from sharing because I wanted to hear what you all had to say. Your opinions came in through comments to the post, twitter, e-mail and reddit. Since the sample was small (just under 20 comments), this is hardly a representative sample. But the your comments were still very interesting.
I wasn’t that surprised that several commenters endorsed yelling. While some of you think yelling is OK as long as it’s a last resort and/or nonthreatening. A few commenters indicated that yelling was always okay and that direct reports on the receiving end should toughen up. Thanks to all who contributed to the discussion!
In my view, yelling is a big No-No.
That doesn’t mean I think managers should be drones though. The research shows that emotionally expressive leaders tend to be seen as more charismatic and effective. And that means they express a range of positive and negative emotions. But the research also shows that negative displays of emotion can leave a lasting impact that managers probably don’t want.
1. Employees tend to remember negative emotional displays from their managers more often and more vividly.
2. Leaders who display negative emotions tend to be seen as less effective by their employees.
3. Leaders’ negative emotional expressions tends to impact the emotions of the group negatively. Emotions are contagious.
One commenter (Elizabeth) summed up some of the other outcomes pretty well:
“Yelling can only lead to bad things; here are a few for fun – (1) turnover, (2) destructive work behaviors, (3) lack of confidence in work, (4) reduced engagement, and (5) diminished performance”
Generally, she’s right. While in the short term, yelling might produce short-term performance gains. In the long term, yelling and other extreme expression of anger and frustration can lead to turnover, destructive work behaviors, diminished self-efficacy from employees, engagement declines, and diminished performance.
So does that mean that leaders should only express positive emotions? Hell no.
Leaders’ emotional expressions should match the situation and direct report. If your direct report gives you bad news, it’s appropriate to respond negatively. That means it’s okay to express disappointment, frustration, displeasure. But yelling is probably too far. Research also shows we expect our leaders to act deliberately and rationally — yelling communicates the opposite of that. Yelling at someone tells them that you’re letting your emotions take the lead, and that your rationality is taking a back seat. Not a message you want to send to the people you manage.