6 Ways to Keep Things From Getting Worse When Your Boss Starts Yelling at You

You might need to quit, but you probably shouldn't on the spot.

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By John Boitnott

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It can be difficult to remain professionally detached when you work closely with other people every day. It's only natural that emotions get the better of you at times, whether you're a boss or an employee. But nobody likes to be yelled at ,and even occasional yelling could earn your company a bad reputation.

When the yelling starts, though, it's important to know what to do. For an employer who has a tendency to get carried away, it may help to have a trusted employee suggest a break or say a code word when things start getting loud. For employees, though, handling a sudden bout of yelling can be tricky. Here are a few tips to help you the next time it happens.

Channel your zen.

Yes, remaining calm in extreme conditions requires practice. But you don't have to be a meditation master to learn to slow down your physical reaction to conflict. As the yelling is taking place, take deep, slow breaths. If it helps, imagine your happy place, whether it's the beach or the mountains or your own back porch. Tell yourself, "This too shall pass," realizing that in a matter of minutes, the yeller will probably stomp off in a fury and you'll be able to regain the space you need to gradually get things back to normal.

Related: Dignity and the Pink Slip: What Are You Doing to Bring Decency to the Process?

Don't match tone.

You may not realize it, but people tend to match the vocal volume of the other person in conversation. Fight this temptation and instead go in the opposite direction. Speak in a low, calm, measured tone and you'll likely find that the other person feels naturally inclined to match you.

At the same time, make it clear you're hearing and understanding everything being said. If it seems as though you aren't listening or you're unconcerned, it will only escalate the colleague's anger.

Related: How I Kept My Dignity and My Job When Our Billionaire CEO Screamed at Me

See their perspective.

Unfortunately, sometimes the blame rests entirely on you. Not that anyone is ever justified in yelling at someone else, but if you're consistently in trouble, it may be time to take a look at what you're doing wrong. Perhaps the job isn't the right fit. Maybe you're simply overloaded with work and it's causing you to let things slip.

Acknowledging the issue can be the first step to having a heart-to-heart with your boss that will lead to changes that will help resolve the issue. If it's the matter of a simple mistake, take steps immediately to apologize and remedy the situation.

Related: How to Tame Your Nightmare Boss

Weigh your options.

Let's be honest. This isn't the only employer in town. With so many businesses striving to offer a positive work culture, you should be able to find an employer who knows the negative effects yelling can bring. If yelling is a rare occurrence, only you can decide whether it's worth a job change.

However, if you regularly deal with working in this type of environment, you may be in a toxic situation. The stress and risk to your health might not be worth it. If you can start your job search in your free time, don't wait until you're miserable to begin.

Related: 9 Things Managers Do That Make Good Employees Quit

Show you're listening.

When someone yells, it's often as a result of frustration. You can lower that frustration through a technique called active listening, which is the subtle art of demonstrating that you're listening. This includes body language like nodding, as well as occasional statements like "Uh huh" and "I see."

You have to really mean it though. The most important part of active listening is repeating back what's being said. Use phrases like "What I'm hearing is…" and "Sounds like you would like for me to…" to show that not only do you hear what's being said, but you take it very seriously.

Related: 7 Things That Make Great Bosses Unforgettable

Know when to go to HR.

Whether you choose to look for another position or not, if your company has an HR representative, there are instances where reporting your boss's temper issues may help you. You can alternatively have a confidential discussion with that manager's supervisor if you feel it will be taken seriously.

At the very least, you should let someone know as you're walking out the door. If yelling is a daily thing, and it's isolated to you, you may have a legal case, especially if the yelling can be seen as workplace discrimination. However, in many cases, you'll find that your boss's behavior falls on the safe side of the law.

If you're the victim of a boss's anger, it's important to keep your cool and handle things professionally. Don't let yourself be dragged down to that level. If, however, you tend to occasionally yell at others in the workplace, it's a great time to reconsider that approach. As good as it feels in the moment, it isn't worth the cost to workplace morale.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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