The manager who yells is managing from a deficit

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Many managers yell at their employees.  Some managers feel the need to shout at the employees to get them to start working work or work harderPerhaps you’ve heard managers repeat, “Just get it done!” Here are some similar behaviors:  Managers getting angry, barking, being impatient, and announcing their worry or panic over a situation. 

This means that the manager is losing (or has lost) effectiveness at being a manager.  It is a reflection that the team isn’t behind the manager, and that the manager keeps returning to the same, ineffective methods for getting the team to perform (yelling, admonition). 

If you are a manager doing this, you are “managing from a deficit.”  You are behind the game, and you are losing.  What you are doing isn’t working, and you are not getting the results or performance you need from your team.  You need to turn this around, but there are no shortcuts.  In fact, that’s what got you into this hole in the first place. 

If this is the path you’ve chosen, it is just going to get worse. 

It is easy to get in the position of managing from a deficit.   The first way this happens is that you are looking for shortcuts in managing, perhaps so you can get to more important stuff.  It is certainly more succinct to say, “Just get it done” to your team.  Or to yell at the team when the chips are down and things fall behind.  That is very efficient, but it is not effective at turning things around.  So don’t do this.  Don’t yell.  Don’t panic.  Don’t look for shortcuts.  That’s what got you into the hole, and you’ll just dig deeper into a hole, and further lose your ability to lead a team.   You may feel like you are asserting your authority by yelling, barking, or commanding, but in fact you are actually proving to your team that you aren’t in control, that you are falling behind, you are out of ideas, and you don’t know what you’re doing as the leader of the team. 

If you are in the habit of doing this, you’re probably used to managing from a deficit and getting deeper into the deficit.  Perhaps you probably don’t know any other way to lead a team, because when you started, this reflected the most immediate response to some tough situations that you found yourself in from the outset.  Perhaps this is how you were managed before, and consider it normal.  Perhaps you’ve seen managers rewarded for this, as it is often interpreted as “strong leadership”.  While managing from a deficit may be common, it isn’t effective.

If you’re in the managing from a deficit mode, start to focus on ways to get out of it, change your ways, and turn the team around, and manage from ahead.  It may be tough, but start by saving the yelling for when the work environment is actually noisy and people can’t hear, or when there are a lot of people around and you have no amplification.  If it’s not noisy, then you don’t need to yell.

When you turn things around, you will be able to increase your ability to get things done, leverage the strengths of your team, construct an effective work environment, and avoid those nasty moments of panic and assertions of authority.   Your authority will then come through by getting good work done, by bringing up your team, and by creating a positive work environment.  You’ll like your job more. 

This blog provides an ongoing series of articles and tips that will help you avoid managing from a deficit, and how organizations can, by design, help managers keep from falling into this hole and lead teams effectively.    It is possible to turn this around!  Keep reading for tips (such as this and this and discussion on how to stay ahead of the problems, and stay focused on getting work done, for creating a high performing team.  Share this blog with your HR department and your own management to identify ways to help your organization construct superior methods for assuring good management is created, sustained and rewarded.

For you management designers out there, identify the ways to prevent managers from going into a deficit, and ways to prevent yelling in the workplace as a management technique. 

Do you find yourself managing from a deficit?  What have you done to turn it around?  Have you seen managers yell at the team—does this make them appear stronger or weaker? 

I look forward to seeing your comments!

Related Posts:

Management Design: The “designs” we have now: Make the loudest person the manager

Public feedback drives performance down and doesn’t count as performance management

Five tips for reducing drama on your team

What it really means when a manager swings by and asks, “You doing OK?”

Five reasons why focusing on weaknesses with employees is absurd and damaging

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About Walter Oelwein
Walter Oelwein, CMC, CPT, helps managers become better at managing. To do this, he founded Business Performance Consulting, LLC .


5 Responses to “The manager who yells is managing from a deficit”
  1. another Walt guy says:

    Dear Mr. Oelwein,

    THANK You! THANK YOU. When a manager yells at one of their employees it not only affects the yelle but also others who happen working in the area. We all expected the same to happen to one of us at some time in the future. I and those who couldn’t deal with it would leave the area.

    Other times two managers would start a yelling match which left us shaking or heads and wondering who of us would be next.


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