POLL: Is It Ever OK For A Manager to Yell?

I took my pups to the dog park yesterday. While the pooches play, the owners chat. I was chatting with a new bunch, partaking in the normal pleasantries about our work. When I mentioned what I do, someone asked what I thought about something that had happened on Monday afternoon — the boss lost his cool and started yelling. It was directed at multiple members of their team, but was done in front of the entire team. Ouch.

Before this person finished their story, someone was ready to chime in with an opinion about whether or not it was ever okay for a manager to yell. S### got real. We had a real live debate on our hands going down at the dog park.  The group involved in the discussion (about 7 of us) ranged in age from 24 to 75ish and we had an nearly even gender split. All but 2 had experience managing multiple direct reports. So hardly a reasonable sample size, but important to note (nerd for life).

Here’s where we had full agreement:

If there is an emergency or someone’s well-being or safety is at risk, yelling is fair game (if the office is on fire, get loud)

That was the only area where there was full agreement in the group – which surprised me. Really interesting ideas. It was too good of a discussion to let it end there.

I’m flipping it to you. I want to hear your opinion:

Is it ever OK for a manager to yell, to the team or to individual direct reports? 

Specifically, outside the context of an emergency or event where someone’s well-being of safety is at risk.

Tweet me (@chelseaarowe), hit me in the comments below, or jump in on the conversation I started on Reddit.

Disclaimer: Some Reddit board comments may include profane language.

I’ll take summarize all the comments, tweets, etc. in a later post where I’ll also share my opinion and some recommendations. GO DO IT!


  1. JJ

    Never ok. You can’t alienate your staff and expect a cohesive working environment.

  2. Cara Lucas

    I don’t think it’s right to yell at or berate an employee for something they did wrong… I do think it’s okay to be pissed and show it. To me, yelling immediately takes away the learning opportunity that the situation could become, simply because it loses legitimacy through intense emotional escalation… and renders all subsequent feedback after that as useless, “emotionally-induced” screams. Not logical, clear-headed responses.

    Showing anger or emotion is fine at work… but it needs to be done in a professional way. Now… if someone’s hair is on fire, that’s another story.

  3. Elizabeth

    Yelling is never ok – aside from evacuation/emergency purposes. Let’s be serious…employees aren’t children (not that yelling at children is ok). There is nothing more deflating than being yelled at (this is where my link to childhood comes in).

    When employees (or kids for that matter) anticipate yelling instead of constructive, normal-toned feedback, they will avoid the source like the plague! Back to the kid example – imagine a child coming home with bad report card – that kid will envision hiding places that never occurred to him during his friendly game of hide-n-seek with his pals. Just think, if the child anticipated a constructive/pleasant conversation with his parents (e.g. let’s look in to tutoring to solve your low performance in algebra) maybe he could hand the report card over and be prepared for the discussion (and yes, miss out on that golden opportunity to find a new genius hiding spot).

    A working environment NEEDS feedback – you want the employees to view a manager as approachable and even-tempered. Otherwise, employees are going to do everything in their power to hide anything less than amazing performance (for instance scapegoating others, trying to solve an impossible issue alone – wasting time and resources digging into a black hole of nothingness, or just not showing up again, EVER).
    Regardless, 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.

    Every individual in a work setting should know better than to yell. Managing emotions is a skill that we all need to improve on; but, yelling at others in a “working environment” is something that should be checked/curbed around age 13.

    **This response in no way was to make an employee feel like a child – even though sometimes I wish that the workplace incorporated child-activities (e.g. nap time, snack time, outside time – ya know, all the important times).

  4. KFD

    Yelling at someone is the key. Is the person yelling in a group to denote passion on a topic. BECAUSE THAT WOULD TOTALLY BE OK AND CAPS MEAN THAT I’M YELLING.

    I work in Orlando, btw. Nice Reddit string – that’s interesting.


  5. Pingback: Ever OK for Managers to Yell? The Results Are In | Chelsea-Rowe.com

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