In my management and leadership development work, I use a behavioral profile called DiSC, which describes 4 different behavioral styles. The “D” or Dominant style is often described as verbally aggressive, insensitive, and impatient. Many executives I meet have a tendency to this style (the strengths of this style are decisiveness, accepts challenges, good problem-solvers, and get results). Those who have not learned how to adapt their D management style are often described by their employees as scary, fear-inducing, and prone to yelling.
A good article in today’s Wall Street Journal, When the Boss Is a Screamer makes the following points about these aggressive types in the workplace:
* Yelling bosses appear to be quietly disappearing from the workplace. The new consensus among managers is that yelling alarms people, drives them away rather than inspiring them, and hurts the quality of their work.
* Verbal aggression tends to impair employee’s/victims' working memory, reducing their ability to understand instructions and perform such basic task
* Even without yelling, there is still plenty of anger and frustration to be found in the workplace. Research show managers spend about 25% of their time resolving conflicts.
* However, expressing anger can be beneficial, helping people understand each other, strengthen relationships and improve attitudes and work performance. Just don't get angry too often, and when you do get angry, point out how the problem hurts other employees or the company rather than yourself, the study suggests.
* Tell the truth about problems and frustrations, but in a measured, calm way. Using short, seven-to 12-word sentences that start with "I," describe your emotions and state the problem. For example, "I hear what you're saying but I can't agree with it.
* Consider waiting 24 hours before responding to a colleague or customer, and then taking a softer approach.
* To get people focused on a problem, lower your voice and speak very slowly. "It forces people to dial down their own volume just to hear you. They lean in and hang on your every word."
In dealing with an office screamer, it's best not to react at first. Listen to what the screamer is trying to say, then summarize it calmly, "so they feel they've been heard." That may calm the screamer enough to let you state your position or start talking about solutions. For another perspective, check out this WSJ article: Arguing with the Boss: A Winning Career Strategy