When is it OK to Shout at a Colleague? - [website] Email Print
Published: 3rd of Apr 2019 by: Carolyn Kessler

Let's imagine:
"Sheila is responsible for a weekly payroll of 540 staff members. She collects, collates and captures everyone’s hours, sick leave etc. and makes the relevant payments. She is pretty much snowed under and mistakes are creeping into her work. They manifest in the worst way possible – incorrect wages for staff members...

This has happened twice to John in the past 6 months and he is furious. He storms into her office and verbally vents his frustration, no holds barred.”

Does he have a right to be angry? Well yes, he certainly does. Does he have a right to expect his pay to be correct? Once again, yes he does. It’s hugely stressful when money is involved.


Does he have a right to become verbally abusive? No he does not.

Let’s unpack that a little. We’ve agreed he has a right to expect this area of his work life to run smoothly and it’s seriously anxiety provoking when you are short paid. I get that.
But, step back for a moment and look at the situation more objectively.

Is his outburst likely to result in Sheila making less errors in her work? It will certainly make a difference to how she processes his wages, but it won’t help the fact that she’s overwhelmed with work. So the errors will happen, and possibly worse than before, because she is now overwhelmed by her own negative emotions and feels even more useless.

Add to that the animosity that will now sit between them and colour all their future interactions. The situation has grown exponentially worse.

John has a right to need this problem to go away. In fact, he has a responsibility to surface the fact that this area of the organisation isn’t running at anywhere near an optimum level. His behaviour however will not bring this about. Not because he raised the issue, but because of the manner in which he chose to raise it.

Please understand, even if you or a colleague has made a huge mistake, abuse is never ever an okay response. Let me state that again: It doesn’t matter if you are 100% in the right – you may not ever, and I mean ever, become abusive either with overt aggressive or covert passive aggression.
Neither of these behaviours should be tolerated in you or in those around you.

You see, communication is seldom about what you say – it’s how you say it that counts.

You can communicate your dissatisfaction and raise highly controversial issues in a calm, clear and respectful manner. In fact, it is imperative that this is your default style. You don’t avoid unpleasant stuff – you resolve it in a respectful way.

I’m talking about assertive as opposed to unassertive communication methods. The first will work towards problem solving and the second will cause further problems.

Assertiveness is not the majority of peoples’ default style of conveying their displeasure, which is why you need to join us on our extremely popular Assertiveness and/or Communication Excellence

You have an obligation to up-skill yourself and your staff - poor communication kills productivity. It’s integral to your success.


Staff Training is a South African soft skills training provider with more than 60 workshops on offer.

Email us at info@StaffTraining.co.za for more info or give us a call at 0861 996 660





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