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Yelling Bosses: Good Or Bad?

Intention behind shouting at juniors.

Covid 19 has created a new world; a nervy world. Death toll is rising. Health infrastructure is crumbling even in the most advanced and affluent countries. Global economy is in shambles. Jobs are being lost. Salary cuts have become the norm. Lockdowns have made people jittery and nervous. The future looks bleak. The pandemic’s impact will be felt for years. Anti-Covid vaccine seems to be the only silver lining in the dense clouds. But it is only being heard of, not seen.

In the business world, a very large number of managers and employees have been forced to work from home. Those who dare to go to office are being viewed as soldiers not business executives.
Worse is the case of top managers who are responsible for delivering glowing results, quarter after quarter. They are at their nerve’s end. Yelling and shouting at juniors has increased.

Loudly reprimanding one’s juniors and mentees has been part of the game forever, and not just in business. The best athletes and sportsmen rose to the top thanks to some of the harshest and foul-mouthed coaches.

Champions continue to consider such coaches no less than gods. In the armed forces too, non-commissioned sergeants have been known to train cadet officers into men of steel through methods not suitably suave and sophisticated. Their booming orders laced with unique abuses during parades, runs and battle drills are remembered with humor and respect even when officers become generals. The basics of real war and survival training imparted by the no-nonsense sergeants enabled many officers to return alive from fiercest of battles with honor and glory.

Some of the younger managers may be feeling that I am building a case for regular and public scolding by their seniors. Certainly not! Even an entry-level manager has the sense to distinguish between malicious yelling and purposeful guidance by seniors even if done loudly and bluntly. You can easily find out whether the boss is shouting at you to give vent to his own frustration or to transfer the blame to you for his own mistakes or, worse still, because he is inefficient and incompetent and has no solutions for your meaningful queries and doubts. Many a time, the knowledge and dedication of his young teammates intimidate an old timer. Unable to keep pace with them, the senior tries to run them down by insulting them publicly or by carrying tales about them to higher-ups. The senior’s insecurity makes life miserable for youngsters who start looking for companies with better work culture. Ultimately, the company loses.

It is slightly difficult to recognise seniors who remain reserved, set a grueling regimen for you, give daunting assignments and give a pat on the back only when you perform outstandingly. They are frugal with laudatory words but you will really feel motivated when they smile at you. You will realise that you have earned the praise, have learnt new facts and have acquired new skills. You feel you are getting equipped for the fast track. Therefore, it does not matter if the senior has been rather gruff and not too amiable.

It is worth listening to author and management researcher Michael Schrage who stated in Harvard Business Review, “To be sure, yelling does not make a better leader or manager. However, the notion that raising one’s voice represents managerial weakness or a failure of leadership seems to be prima facie nonsense. The empirical fact pattern suggests that in a variety of creative and intensely competitive talent-rich disciplines around the world, the most successful leaders actually have yelling as both a core competence and brand attribute.” Schrage named Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, etc. in support of his premise.

Having lent a perspective to yelling by bosses, let me caution you that you cannot wish obnoxious bosses away. They have been there and will continue to exist. How to deal with such overbearing creatures is an art in itself.

We shall discuss that in the next column.

Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. (feedback@basantchaudhary.com)

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