Yelling at Co-Workers and Employees: Is It Ok?

Yelling at Co-Workers and Employees: Is It Ok?

employee conduct in the workplace Yelling at Co-Workers and Employees: Is It Ok?

Yelling; it’s a part of human communication. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes not. People yell for many different reasons. Maybe it’s to assert themselves over others, or to make their presence known. Maybe they want to incite confrontation or satisfy an ego.

However, what if this is a common practice at your workplace? With any organization, employees at all levels of the business are expected to treat each other with respect. The success of your business heavily depends on co-operation and teamwork among all employees. It’s all about workplace civility.

It also depends heavily on your culture and whether you choose to allow this kind of behavior or not in your workplace. Whichever you feel is best for your organization, you must spell it out for your employees.

What is the real cost?

An interesting statistic from the article “Is There a Cure for the Common Jerk?” 25% of people who are bullied at work and 20% of those who merely witness the bullying leave employment. What does this mean for your company? If you have a company of 1,000 employees and one of these things happens, 25% will leave. So, since the average cost of replacing an employee is $20,000, you can look to lose about $750,000 a year.

Even more eye opening? If you add two eye witnesses per bullied employee, and 20% of them leave, you can add an additional $1.2 million. That’s a total of $2 million lost, because you didn’t have a policy in place.

Employee Conduct and Work Policy

The Employee Conduct and Work Policy applies to all full-time and part-time active employees. Even though it’s impossible to list all forms of behavior that are considered unacceptable in the workplace, fighting or threatening violence in the workplace is considered an infraction of rules under this policy. It can result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment.

Workplace Civility Policy

Make it known in the job description that employees are expected to refrain from fighting, “horseplay,” or other conduct that may be dangerous to others. Such behavior can include oral and written behaviors.

“You must act and communicate in a manner that you get along with customers, clients, co-workers and management.”

If that doesn’t work, follow through with discipline.


If you choose the route of disciplining an employee who went against any of your drawn-out guidelines, there are a few different ways you could handle it.

  • Specify the unacceptable behavior. Just by telling the employee that they are “rude” or “negative” isn’t enough. Communication is key here. Tell them exactly what they did that was unacceptable.
  • State the expected behavior. Meaning, tell the employee what they must do differently. The employee may not realize they are even doing anything wrong. Just stress to the employee that an essential function of every position is to behave in a positive, cooperative, polite, and professional manner.
  • If you do decide to talk with the employee, be sure to give them adequate time to fully transition to the expected behavior.
  • If you feel necessary, based on your guidelines, there may be a “no tolerance” policy, and the employee would need to be terminated immediately.
  • You could also determine if the employee would benefit from anger managements counseling.


You cannot require an employee to receive any type of medical treatment. However, even if the employee is protected under the ADA (their mental condition rises to a level of disability), that employee can still be subject to discipline, up to termination.

Final Tips

Whether you choose to ignore a behavior like yelling, or choose to discipline based on your thought-out guidelines, be sure to carefully document everything. If you have any additional questions and are an ERC Member, contact our HR Help Desk. Or, contact your legal council.

Bullying in the Workplace Training

Bullying in the Workplace Training

This training covers the basics of professional behavior in the workplace.

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  • Allison Kenney

    Allison is ERC’s Manager, HR Advisory Services. In her role, she oversees the HR Consultant team that provides services to ERC’s HR Help Desk. She ensures members are provided with the most current information and professional guidance on a variety of HR and general business-related topics. Allison also delivers consultation on HR projects to ERC members and clients.