By Chuck Violand

December 8, 2014

It’s confession time: I’m a recovering yeller. You probably know what I’m talking about. Yellers are people who don’t so much talk to get their points across as they yell—sometimes really loudly.

I haven’t always been a recovering yeller. When I was younger, I was an actual yeller. But it wasn’t entirely my fault—honestly, I got it from my father. My brothers and sisters are also yellers, especially when we’re together. Nothing says “loud holiday gathering” like a house full of Violand siblings.

When my brother and I were business partners, we carried the practice of yelling from the family room right into the office. Nothing cleared out employees faster than when we started “communicating” with each other at the top of our lungs. It took us years to discover that, while there may have been people in the office when we started communicating, there usually wasn’t a soul to be found by the time we finished. We were shocked to learn that people thought we were actually mad at each other when all we were doing was having a conversation, albeit a loud one.

The more I work with small businesses the more I realize we weren’t the only business owners who communicated by yelling at each other or at the people around us. I think it happens a lot. While I don’t have any hard data to support my belief, I would also venture to say management by yelling occurs more often in family businesses. Family members have years to refine the pitch, tone, and intensity of their yelling. They know all the buttons to push and which ones to leave alone. While some might regard yelling as just a conversational tone between family members, it can wreak havoc on the productivity and morale of a staff. It takes a while for employees to feel it’s safe to return to their desks without fear they’re going to be hit by a flying object or verbal grenade.

In an effort to improve productivity within your business, create a more harmonious work environment, and tell you things your people might never risk saying, let me offer a couple suggestions for those of you who are yellers.

Develop an awareness for who is within earshot. There’s no reason to needlessly cause collateral damage to unsuspecting employees with a sudden verbal outburst. When possible, take your loud conversations to a more private office or outside. If there’s nowhere else for you to go, you might consider giving your employees advance notice that you’re about to start communicating on a hot button issue and things may get a little loud.

Hand out emotional flak jackets. Wearing a flak jacket helps protect people from potentially lethal flying objects like bullets and shrapnel. The very act of donning a flak jacket heightens the wearer’s alertness to potential dangers, thus possibly avoiding dangerous situations in the first place. Letting your people know about your propensity to yell can help protect them from the emotional damage yelling can cause. You might even make it part of your new employee orientation to warn them ahead of time. You can be sure that if you don’t, their fellow workers will.