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My coworker often throws tantrums when she is frustrated with team members on projects she manages. They have no choice but to endure it because they need to be utilized on projects to look good on their performance evaluations. I avoid her like the plague, but occasionally have to work with her, during which I am polite as possible to avoid a blow up. She can be heard down the hall yelling at coworkers, but her manager does nothing about it. She doesn't use profanities or attack them personally, but just never uses a respectful tone. Is it okay to do this as long as you don't attack the person? I think, the higher ups feel she has skills that benefit the companies bottom line, but why wouldn't they ask her to tone it down. When I bring it up, it's like I'm the bad guy, so I avoid her. Any explanation as to why this is allowed? Others say "she has a throaty voice" to downplay the issue to new employees. Is it wrong to confront these types of issues?

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Is it okay to do this, [scream at a subordinate], as long as you don't attack the person?

No, raising your voice is rarely acceptable in a professional environment. Increasing one's volume, especially to the point of yelling, is never acceptable except in cases where it serves a practical purpose (e.g., in a loud machine shop or in an emergency). Yelling to intimidate or demand attention of colleagues is entirely unacceptable.


There are a handful of things you might consider to address the behavior or help yourself and others to cope:

  1. Double check that you're viewing the behavior similarly across individuals. Is your colleague the only one who yells in the office? Do you have a different feeling or reaction toward other individuals that raise their voice? It's always worth a quick introspection to check yourself against possible bias or stereotypes.

  2. Disengage. If you're present for an outburst, act to disrupt the situation in the moment. You might do things like dismiss a meeting early or even just simply walk away from an individual inappropriately yelling. If your yelling-prone colleague is a part of your team, don't avoid him/her outright, but make it clear you are not available to be an object of an outburst.

  3. Confront your colleague. Give your colleague the benefit of the doubt - he/she may not be aware that the behavior is disruptive or threatening to others. Let your colleague know what you have observed, how it has affected you personally, and what you would like (or would not like) to happen in the future.

  4. Discuss your observations with a trusted leader. Your colleague's manager may not be willing to intervene, but other leaders in the organization may take a greater interest if the situation merits. Share what you've observed and how the yelling is making you feel with a senior leader in the organization and ask for help improving the environment for you and your colleagues.

  5. Submit a formal complaint. If you're a member of a union, you could submit a grievance. If your company has a decently healthy HR function, you should be able to submit a formal report of your concerns. In either case, a valid complaint will be investigated by an appropriate authority.

  6. Do nothing. It's entirely acceptable to take no action. While I encourage you to always intervene or make a report in cases threatening or aggressive behavior, you're not obligated to do anything.


I'm sorry you and your colleagues are having this experience. I hope you soon find your work environment to be peaceful and respectful.

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I can just tell you that being as polite as possible doesn't help. She's a bully. You can only stop a bully by demonstrating to them that being a bully hurts them.

What does help is if someone yells at you, is that you use a very quiet, very determined, and very threatening voice, pronuncating every word very clearly. The first reply is "Do Not Yell At Me. Do Not EVER Yell At Me Again". As soon as the other person yells, the subject changes from whatever it was to the yelling of the yelling person, and nothing whatever can happen until the yelling problem is solved.

  • I like this answer a lot. Some things are better handled there and then, in the moment, between the people concerned. Nip it from the bud. +1 – rath Aug 9 at 10:19
  • Being polite is not the same as accepting their behavior. You can (and should) tell them, in a polite but firm way, that such behavior is not acceptable, and that nothing else can progress until this stops. Being polite simply means that >> you << do not lose it like she does. It does not mean that you shouldn't nip it in the bud. – Dragan Juric Aug 9 at 19:33

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