No Yelling Allowed!

January 2022 |

Stop raising your voice at your employees and improve productivity.

Have you ever yelled at an employee at your veterinary hospital?

If so, you are not alone, according to Heather Romano, Managing Director of HR and Training for iVET360, a veterinary business consulting firm. “Veterinary managers yell more than managers in other fields,” she says. “We’re often dealing with angry clients and a lot of stress.”

That said, yelling and snapping at employees on a routine basis has serious consequences for your practice, says Romano. “It’s more than demeaning and insulting,” she says. “It tells people that they are less important than we are. We’re telling them not to think for themselves or take any risks, and to work with less confidence.”

Worst of all, it creates poor morale for your team and your practice at large, which affects retention and recruitment. “If you have poor morale in your hospital, you will have a harder time finding people to work for you,” says Romano. “And poor morale is because of poor leadership, 100% of the time.”

It is not usually anyone’s plan to make yelling part of their management style. “We don’t want to yell or to hurt anybody’s feelings,” says Romano. “But many of us aren’t people persons. Most of us wanted to work with animals rather than people.”

How do managers get over this? First, advises Romano, know what doesn’t usually work. Skip the classic strategy of counting to 10. “You either become more mad about having to wait, or you come up with more things to yell about,” she says. She also doesn’t recommend walking away, which delays or prevents feedback altogether.

Instead, curb your yelling habit with these steps:

Acknowledge and commit. Make a conscious decision to stop yelling, and empower your team to help you. Tell them, “I know I yell at you from time to time,” and give them permission to stop you. Create a safe word, such as “pineapple” or “porcupine,” for them to use to remind you of your decision not to yell, suggests Romano. “That’s your cue to close your mouth, step back and think about how you are portraying yourself,” she says. “If you don’t think you were yelling, you can say, ‘I’m sorry, what about what I’m saying is coming across as yelling to you?’ ”

Think. When things start to heat up, pause before you speak. “Craft the conversation before it happens,” says Romano. If you feel like the volume about to come out is a little too loud for the circumstances, ask yourself:

  • What do you want to accomplish with the words you’re about to say?
  • How do you want the employee to feel? (never shame).
  • Does your team member need direct feedback?
  • Is this a person who needs delicate communication? Don’t let tears keep you from giving needed feedback, though. “Crying in most cases is a conditioned response; they have learned that if they cry, you will back off,” says Romano. If someone starts to cry, she recommends saying calmly, “Do you need a Kleenex, or can I keep going?”

Reflect. After each conversation, ask yourself, “Did that go the way I wanted?” Think about: Did the message get across the way you wanted? Did you keep your cool? Did the employee react in the way you wanted? Were they offended? Were they taken aback? Always ask yourself what you could have done differently. “Whenever I provide somebody with feedback or even fire someone, my goal is for them to thank me at the end. It works 80% of the time,” says Romano.

Apologize. If didn’t go well, that’s okay. Just apologize. “It doesn’t make you appear weak. It makes you appear strong,” says Romano. “Your team does not want to hate you—they want to like you. They are so quick to forgive when you are vulnerable and you explain why.” Come back in a few hours and say, “I know that I yelled at you a few hours ago in here. I’m sorry. I was way out of line. I’m working on being better.” Don’t worry about losing face. “Your team will respect you if you own your mistakes,” says Romano.