work misery
June 25, 2007 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Some knuckle-dragging, hot-dog eating dufus at work thinks it's okay to yell at me.

My position is, nobody yells at me. His defenders claim, oh, that's just the way Caveman B. Neanderthal is. Just cut him some slack. He doesn't mean it. He gets mad, but he gets over it quick. After a few months you won't even notice it. Subtext: "He's more important/has more seniority/has a better job/puts in more face time/has more of a history with us/makes a bigger contribution than you, so suck it up. It's more important that he be happy than that you be happy." This attitude is making me unhappy.

I'm a new person at work, and I'm the first new person (and woman) this particular office has had in a few years (except for the accounting department, which is almost all female). The official cant around my hire was, "Wow, we're so happy to have a woman on staff. We've really been needing someone like you." Most of these people have been nice so far, and a few have bent over backwards to train me, reassure me, help me navigate the unspoken network of job-related bullshit, etc. For the most part, I've been treated well.

The only real problem is my inability to work with a co-worker, Caveman. He has this thing where he shouts constantly, and I realize that his shouting is normal for him--that is, the fact that he's shouting doesn't necessarily indicate that he's horribly upset, although it sounds like it to the uninitiated ear. He'll start screaming about something--losing his hotdog or whatever--but it doesn't necessarily mean he's going to commit hara kiri or kill someone else over it. Over the three months I've worked there I've learned how to interpret this, and am not unduly alarmed when said shouting commences.

However, I know very well when Caveman is mad, and he's mad at me a lot. Why? Because I'm the new person. I make one or two mistakes a week, on average, because there are about a billion fucking little procedures in this place that I've either 1) never been told about, or 2) was told about on my first day, and have forgotten completely by the time I was expected to implement them. I'm writing down the important things, and I know damn well I'm the only employee doing my particular job (there are five others who do the exact same thing) who has to use notes. But I do, because I need them. And STILL I get things wrong and forget stuff. And most people have been fine. I get a little correction, either in person or in email, and it's over.

Caveman, however, will come in and start yelling at me if I forget something. And he'll do it in such at way that I start to question my own intelligence. He's the tard, but he treats me like a tard. I honestly don't get it. I only need to be told once about most things. Twice, max. I don't need to be treated like that guy in the insane asylum in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I'm not a handful. I don't need discipline. I'm normal. I don't need instructions and corrections screamed at me. I GET it for God's sake.

Others have said, "Oh, he doesn't mean it," and provided a million different excuses. But I don't care. People don't yell at me. So last time he did it, I was so tired I couldn't think of a rebuttal. I've been trying out two different tacks in my mind for next time.

One: I could try to be charming--use honey rather than vinegar, as in: "Caveman, doll, don't speak to me at a sforzando level. It hurts my shell-pink ears. Speak to me in pianissimo, dahling." (It's a music-related business we're in). I figure enough of that sort of thing might do the trick, but I would have to use the broken record technique and do it again and again and again.

Two: I could really blow up at him, sort of copy his own style and fight fire with fire: "Look, you fat fuck, nobody yells at me. If you keep doing it, I'm WILL shit on a plate and serve it to you!"

Which method would be the best, do you think? The only other piece of info I want to offer (this is way too long already), is that I'm a neat, well-groomed, cheerful, punctual, reliable, smart, organized, every-manager's wet dream of an employee who occasionally screws up--now, moreso than usual because I'm trying to learn every little piece of this godforsaken new job. I'm not a dunce. But these people either tell me something once, or forget to tell me a really important piece, and then jump on me when I fuck up.

And now I'm ready to quit, I'm so mad. But I need this job for a variety of reasons.

Is this something I should involve the manager in? Do you think it sounds sexist? I don't hear Caveman yelling at others like he yells at me. It's like it's okay because 1) I'm a woman, 2) I'm new, 3) I need correction, 4) I'm stupid, 5) He doesn't like the brand of jeans I wear. I mean I just can't imagine why else it would be okay to treat me like this, when he treats others deferentially. And I've been wonderful to him.

Any ideas are welcome.
posted by frosty_hut to Human Relations (61 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Stop saying things like "tard" when you speak of him.

And I'm not clear on what the hot dogs have to do with the yelling.
posted by Sheppagus at 2:30 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Can you try something more like your last paragraph? "I'm not sure why you think yelling at me will help. You normally act perfectly nice to everyone else, and I've been as wonderful as I can be to you. When you yell, even if you don't mean it or are trying to be helpful, I get flustered and pissed off and it doesn't really seem to get the problem solved. So how can we get the problem solved in a way that doesn't involve you yelling at me?"
posted by occhiblu at 2:31 PM on June 25, 2007 [6 favorites]

Sinking to his level will only result in an escalation of hostilities. People like that don't work well when confronted with facts. Just stay calm and present the facts when something goes wrong. Make it clear that you don't appreciate the yelling and that going forward you will remove yourself from the situation if it happens again.
posted by Octoparrot at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Shep, thanks for the correction. You're right, it's insensitive to use "tard"--I'm sorry if I offended there.

The hot dog thing doesn't have anything to do with it, and I sense you're calling me on stacking the deck against the guy. Even just calling him Caveman has that effect. Okay, let's take the other side, just for grins. This guy could be a saint in his non-work life, and I'd never know it. Maybe he rescues kittens with broken legs and supports his bedridden mother and her iron lung single-handed. Maybe he pays alimony religiously and without complaint to four ex-wives, and is so poor that he can only afford to eat on Fridays, when it's Dogs for a Dollar Day at Jerk In the Box, or whatever. It still doesn't excuse his outrageous behavior.

But I am guilty of trying to make you dislike him as much as I do. Point taken.
posted by frosty_hut at 2:41 PM on June 25, 2007

After taking 5 minutes away from everyone to go breathe, go do what occhiblu said. Talk to him, try to get your head around where he's coming from, see if you can work it out with him.

If not, go see the manager, absolutely, this should be documented but only AFTER you've done what you can to resolve this between yourselves.
posted by disclaimer at 2:41 PM on June 25, 2007

talk to his supervisor. tell him that caveman's constant yelling is making work very unpleasant. supervisor should take caveman aside and ask him to behave more professionally.

if that doesn't work, you might try saying, "i'm sorry, would you mind lowering your voice? i'm trying to concentrate." or "would you mind lowering your voice? it's hard to stay professional when the volume gets that high."

finally, if you want to get really passive-aggressive, don't take the bait. but the louder he talks, the quieter you respond.
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:44 PM on June 25, 2007

Well. I'd say tell him in a very polite and restrained voice, that you appreciate his attempts to assist in correcting your mistakes, but if he continues to yell, you'll deem it as harassment and take it to the nearest manager or human resources.

And if he yells more, go to the nearest manager and/or human resources and drop the H-word. We have a set of rules to govern workplace behavior for a reason, and no one should be immune from treating everyone civil.
posted by Atreides at 2:45 PM on June 25, 2007

Very calmly, slowly and quiety, while making eye contact:

"I do NOT allow anyone to speak to me that way. Either make your request in an acceptable tone or talk to my manager."
posted by tristeza at 2:45 PM on June 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

1) Stay calm. I know this is hard. If you can't stay calm, then pretend you're calm. Bite your cheek and think of dollars.

2) Say very calmly what occhiblu wrote. Or, "Look, I know you're frustrated that you have to help me out, but I'm new here and I haven't got all the rules ingrained in my head yet. If you can't deal with me respectfully, and that means not yelling at me, then lets talk to our manager about finding a better person to train me."

No matter what anyone says, it is not acceptable that he's yelling at you in the course of a work day. It doesn't matter if you've been working there for 2 days or 2 years. You have the right to be treated respectfully.

In fact, unless you've confronted him, this guy probably doesn't even know he's being unreasonably agressive. This is probably just Situation: Normal for him.

I work in a rather male-based business too, and I've found that it's best to pretend that the "man vs. woman" factor isn't there at all, even if it is. Couch this in the terms of, "He is yelling at me and that is unacceptable" rather than "He is yelling at me because I'm a woman and that's unacceptable because I'm a woman."
posted by muddgirl at 2:48 PM on June 25, 2007 [5 favorites]

First, you have to decide if you really want to work at this place. If you do, you have to learn not to take Caveman's ranting personally.

The worst thing you can do is bring up his behavior, either with him, or with your superiors. Now, if you feel that your employers are not providing you with a safe or supportive working environment, and are willing to go the distance at a labor tribunal, then you should bring up the issue with them, document it, get witnesses, and plan to fight a long war (as you look for another job).

But it should be said, that there are many men (especially in construction or the trades) who yell, a lot. The secret is to decode what they're trying to tell you, ignore the yelling, and get on with work. It's nothing personal. Just stand your ground, look him in the eye, acknowledge his remarks, and get on with work. Assertive (but not aggressive) body language is the key. Some men need to feel someone pushing back.

However, usually these yellers refrain from outright insults, so if Caveman is calling you stupid, your assertive behavior may result in him escalating his own aggressive behavior - because he wants you out.

If you do go down the route of confronting him about his behavior, make sure you let an ally know ahead of time.

As well, do not use "please" or "thank you", as these will be interpreted as weakness.

List the offenses and when they occurred:

"Yesterday you yelled at me for XXX. In the future, do not yell at me like that. It does not make my job easier. Okay?"

It would also be wise to do this in a private setting, where he won't be embarrassed, but it will also be important to have backup waiting in the wings.

Ideally, your backup should be your supervisor.

Personally, I would look for another job, and would tell your current employers why you are leaving (you are the first woman, after all).
posted by KokuRyu at 3:01 PM on June 25, 2007

I've found that it's best to pretend that the "man vs. woman" factor isn't there at all, even if it is.

Amen, sister. Playing the gender card won't help you here. It sucks, but that's the way it is. But you can, and should, insist upon professional behavior, both of yourself and of your colleagues. Just because you are still working your way up the learning curve at your new job doesn't mean that yelling is OK, and occhiblu's already pointed out you have the words to express this already.
posted by ambrosia at 3:02 PM on June 25, 2007

Couch this in the terms of, "He is yelling at me and that is unacceptable" rather than "He is yelling at me because I'm a woman and that's unacceptable because I'm a woman."

Yeah, while I would certainly be among the first to suspect that gender may be an issue here, it doesn't really matter in a pragmatic sense. You're asking to be treated respectfully as a human being, and while his disrespect for you may stem from his disrespect for women in general, you should insist (and are insisting) on respectful behavior because you're a human being, not because you're a woman. If that makes sense.
posted by occhiblu at 3:04 PM on June 25, 2007

But I need this job for a variety of reasons.

Pretty good chance that, no, you really don't. You should quit. Loudly.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

you should insist (and are insisting) on respectful behavior because you're a human being, not because you're a woman.

I just wonder if it's realistic to expect this guy to change his behavior.

Aaah, the shit women have to put up with in the workplace...
posted by KokuRyu at 3:16 PM on June 25, 2007

I'd go with choice #2, but step it down a notch or three. something like what tristeza suggests. You want to tell him not to shout at you, and not ask. If you are a good enough actor that you can make it look like something might happen to him in the future if he keeps treating you this way, all the better.

Of course, I'm assuming that the shouting is in the form of a mini-tantrum, and not a constant thing. I worked with a guy once and was convinced he had voice immodulation syndrome. He seemingly had no control over the volume of his voice, and always spoke at the shouting level. It made going to work with a hangover extra painful.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2007

You need to use some active listening.

1. Do not interupt him or try to respond. Keep your eyes on his face and make it clear you are listening (look directly at him, keep a neutrally pleasant expression, nod and say things like "okay," "uh-huh" "I see" etc.

2. Let him finish speaking. Make sure he is finished (but not by saying "are you done?" This will come off as hostile)

3. Tell him, again, looking directly at him. "Caveman, you are very upset with me for making this error. I understand that I am supposed to do (describe procedure or whatever). Is that correct? At this point, he will probably tone it down to his usual heightened decible level, rather than the angry yelling.

4. If he still yells, tell him, "when you yell at me, I feel intimidated and incompetent (or whatever). Don't tell him what HE is. Tell him how YOU feel, which he can't really argue with. Don't elaborate. Then stop speaking and make him respond to that. (what can he do except apologize).

You will not only fix your relationship with him, your office will hail you as a hero.

What you are doing is:
--making him look like the bully and the asshole that he is while
--acknolwedging the legitimacy of his feelings (not that he is right, but that his reaction is his own) without acknowledging the legitimacy of his position or his tactic.

It takes a lot of self-confidence and nerve, because you don't get to state overtly what a jerk he is, or how competent you are. I use this technique to deal with parents and I'll tell you, it takes the wind RIGHT outta their sails. How can you argue with someone who is agreeing with you?
posted by nax at 3:23 PM on June 25, 2007

I've had to deal with yellers. People who think it's ok to freak out about a missing pen, etc.... You need to make sure you're telling them not to yell and not asking, as already mentioned. You're going to have to do it a few times. It's kind of like training a dog, the key is in the consistency. The whole sugary approach comes off as submissive.

If he keeps it up, then type of your resignation letter and when your manager asks why you're quitting, make it clear. If this guy has no supervisory capacity over you, then go to the manager sooner and ask for a different person to train you.

Yelling is totally unprofessional in any office environment and I don't tolerate it being directed at me or anyone who reports to me. If you're very clear, very calm and very serious when saying you won't tolerate the yelling, that stands the best chance at getting through.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:29 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Sorry, what did you say? I can't understand you when you speak that loudly..."

And then after the ellipsis, you can say your choice of:
"...because I'm too distracted by the little tiny pieces of spit flying out of your mouth."
"...because you remind of how my alcoholic father acted when I was a little girl, and I kind of just shut down"
"...because you stop enunciating the louder you get"
"...because once I was in a streetfight with these three girls from the Triad, and one of them hit me in the ear with a baseball bat. Anyway, long story short, after I cut off her fingers, come to find out she ruptured my eardrum, so now I can only hear in a narrow range of sound."
"...because I'm thinking of Baxter's correlary, which states that the smaller a man's intellect and ability, the harder he tries to prove it to others."
"...because I'm pretty sure you haven't brushed those walrus tushes since Woodstock '69, man"
"...because I notice how you're sexually aroused every time you come in here to yell at me, and I'm pretty sure that's sexual harrassment. Do I need to talk to someone about it?
posted by TomMelee at 3:31 PM on June 25, 2007 [4 favorites]

I have to disagree with nax on letting the guy know how you're feeling, btw. It may work, but if you're the only woman in the office and you start talking about how he makes you feel, that will turn into the issue and it'll all be about how you, a woman, can't take the heat. Just my opinion.
posted by Salmonberry at 3:32 PM on June 25, 2007

I think the "this makes me feel X" thing can work, but I'd weight it heavily toward "angry" or "pissed off" or "fucking mad" or whatever's appropriate for your office setting. It sounds like he may be into intimidation as a motivator, so saying or implying that you're intimidated may not encourage him to change his behavior -- it'll make it sound like it's working.
posted by occhiblu at 3:35 PM on June 25, 2007

Everybody else puts up with his behavior, so he has had no incentive to change. It may therefore be quite difficult to get him to change, but I think it's worthwhile.

I'm on the same page as tristeza. Describe his behavior. "You're really yelling loudly." Be bland and accurate. Keep patiently explaining to him that you're new, and there are a lot of details. As he bitches about today's annoyance, respond to the content. "You want me to use the new TPS report cover sheet, right? And they're on the intranet, right? Let me make a note of that." and write it on an index card. If he keeps yelling, tell him that you're not willing to listen to him yell, and ask him to leave your cube/office. If he won't, tell him you aren't willing to be yelled at, and go get a drink of water.

In any interaction where he does not yell, or is polite, reward him. Tell him you like his tie, or find some other way to praise him, or think of some other positive reinforcement. Probably not "See, you're much nicer when you don't yell."

Do make sure that you are clear with him and others that the yelling is deeply offensive. Dont campaign or beat it to death, but if asked, be honest. People who are chronically angry can beat you down.
posted by theora55 at 3:36 PM on June 25, 2007

Point taken Salmonberry. Maybe try combining my technique with one of TomMelee's suggestions?

"When you yell I can't think of anything but whether YOU can smell MY breath when we converse"

"when you yell I keep thinking about that Seinfeld (Raymond, Simpsons, Malcolm, whatever) where (yeller demonstrated his utter contemptuousness)" (there must be one--or maybe even just some random one that has nothing to do with the situation).

The point is, if you criticize him or belittle him, you affirm him. If you make it about you, you negate him (and he doesn't even know it, which works for me, but maybe that's my passive aggressive nature)

who can find the post with the poor command of english from the guy who was all about shutting down assholes? It was a couple of weeks ago-- I can't think what keywords to search. He had some good stuff too, once you got past the really bad english.
posted by nax at 3:41 PM on June 25, 2007

Is it this guy? not just funnin. The 2 threads seem to have something to teach each other
posted by theora55 at 3:41 PM on June 25, 2007

No theora55, it was in the blue.
posted by nax at 3:42 PM on June 25, 2007

I remember yelling and shouting co-workers. One thing that worked for me in the past was to actually make the football "time out" symbol with my hands, then say very, very loudly, "Stop! Time-out!" That startled the individual(s) enough that I could say, "It's my turn to talk. We're going to discuss this calmly. I hear you saying ___ and ___ and ___. Now you're going to listen to me." And so on.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:43 PM on June 25, 2007

At some point, I would enter an office or some place private. Say something along the lines of: while you are correct and I made a mistake, please do not use that tone of voice with me when pointing out my short comings. Your tone is unacceptable and if you talk to me that way again, I will go to our manager. Then document your conversation (send it in e-mail form to yourself and save it.

I am a woman in a male dominated enviroment also. From the language you use, it sounds as if you probably hold your own just fine, so I wouldn't worry about seeming whiney. This guy is inappropriate and needs to be told so. Good luck!
posted by beachhead2 at 3:49 PM on June 25, 2007

Maybe try combining my technique with one of TomMelee's suggestions?

No, for the love of god, don't do this. I'm pretty sure that was sarcasm. Purposely trying to piss off the guy who's already yelling is really not going to generate the outcome you want.
posted by Mikey-San at 4:20 PM on June 25, 2007

Wow, good advice, I would have insisted the guy go away until he could calm down and come back for a conversation, but I don't think that's as good as other methods here.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:24 PM on June 25, 2007

I would say, regardless of if Yelly McScreamypants could hear me or not, "Please come back when you can speak to me in a normal tone of voice" and then if he continues to yell, just walk away.

Repeat as needed. Which is to say every single time he does it. Go hide in the bathroom if you need to, just walk away. It's totally like training a dog. Your faults have nothing to do with his yelling.

Yelling yourself, or being sarcastic, or any other kind of aggression isn't going to do anything except make it worse. The guy can't even hear you when he's all het up and hollerin', and you can either opt to teach him how to speak like a grownup, or sink to his level of discourse.

All else fails, this is what your real boss is for. It's his job to ensure you're not being harrassed, or in a hostile work environment.

Of course, there are two sides to every story, and one man's impassioned speech is another person's asshole yelling, so perspective is always a good thing. It seems like if this guy was really being as totally horrible as you're portraying him, nobody would work with him at all. People, for the most part, are pretty self-policing, and guys who are real rampant fuckbags don't get put up with in the way you just stated, in my experience.
posted by mckenney at 4:40 PM on June 25, 2007

No one has the right to berate you and make you feel like a 'tard. Dealing with it deftly and getting the right result is going to be tricksy. You have to factor in what kind of person you are, how everyone else reacts and how your caveman is going to react.
My first suggestion is to play deaf in front of an audience.
CM: RAAAR RAER stupid hotdog RAAR RAAR
You: huh?
CM: RAAAR RAER stupid hotdog RAAR RAAR!!!
you: wha?
CM: blah blah
you: sorry man(sir, mister etc), i can't hear you, can you say that again? please?
repeat and smile mischievously whilst doing this. Eventually the dude will stop and realize he's been yelling the same thing for the last 10 minutes and calling you stupid things and what not in front of a smirking audience. The trick for this is to smile nicely, be assertive and let everyone else know(non-verbally) that you're just toying with him. When he resumes normal conversation you can go back to being hearing-abled. If they are a cool bunch of guys they'll get it.

The other thing you can do is just talk to him.
"Look sir, i really don't appreciate being yelled at. I'm gonna do the best damn job i can, and yes i need your help, but yelling doesn't work in this case. So stop it." then do your best impression of a stern schoolteacher.

"dude, are you some kind of caveman?"

make monkey noises and dance around acting silly. This will work best in a crowd of younger ppl.
posted by captaincrouton at 4:42 PM on June 25, 2007

No one has the right to bellow at you, period. The next time he does it just say "Look, if you cant speak to me civilly when I make a mistake then even don't bother speaking to me at all." You're right, he is a caveman.
posted by supercrayon at 4:42 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's a workplace, not a playground. He is a grown-up and has a resonsibility to behave like one. You need to tell him exactly *one* time, that his behavior toward you is unacceptable. If he goes off on you again, then immediately go to your manager or to HR. Call them while he's still yelling if neccessary. Use the magic words "hostile work environment". This is management's problem to solve, not yours.
posted by kc8nod at 4:43 PM on June 25, 2007

Here's the musical reference I'd advise. Very quietly, so Sforzi has to lean in to hear you:
"You know how they used to make castrati, don't you? If you don't pipe down, your pipes will be much higher, capisce?"
posted by rob511 at 4:51 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bring in a recorder and tape his butt then when you do finally confront him you will KNOW you have those tapes and he will NOT know that and you have the upper hand in any follow on events. And/or make a copy and send it to HR with a nicely bound volume of printed sections of the applicable work rules, state laws, federal laws, HR manual section(s) and of course verdicts involving similar court outcomes.
posted by Freedomboy at 4:58 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

What muddgirl said!
posted by ericb at 4:58 PM on June 25, 2007

Freedomboy's suggestion is a felony in some states, and most likely a terminate-on-the-spot violation of HR policy.

kc8nod, if his behavior is not motivated by a protected bias group, no matter how hostile, it really isn't going to push HR into any sort of action. From the sound of things, Caveman has proven his worth to the company many times over; they've made it clear that they are willing to pay a price for his value, and if you make a "him or me" threat to HR, they'll pick the caveman.

While you have the right to look for a job where you don't get yelled at, I have to disagree with those saying you have a right to THIS job AND no yelling. This job came with yelling; maybe you didn't realize that up front, but you do now. I suspect HR and the caveman's manager will see it this way too.
posted by nomisxid at 5:13 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

note, I'm not saying you can't talk to HR/Caveman/etc and try nicely to change his behavior, simply suggesting that trying to force HR won't work out well...
posted by nomisxid at 5:14 PM on June 25, 2007

When we had a guy like this in the office, the most effective solution was to just ignore him. Like, not ignore that he was being a dick and still listen to him, but just flat ignore him. He'd get red in the face and his veins would bulge out, but he'd have no recourse aside from complaining to the boss, and the boss had no interest in furthering his shenanagins.

All bullies are different, but zen silence worked for mine.
posted by klangklangston at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm impressed you've lasted this long, honestly.

Personally: I'd say something along the lines of "Don't yell at me, it is painful, and inhibits my ability to get anything useful from our conversation. If you want me to actually be able to hear what you are saying, moderate your voice to an acceptable volume, or send me an email instead."

I have worked where the HR policy was 'Yelling is Abuse.' My boss got one free strike - when I informed him of the HR policy. The next strike would have been out. I quit before it happened. Check your company's HR policy - it's there for a reason.
posted by ysabet at 5:18 PM on June 25, 2007

Tell him, his boss and HR how you feel about the yelling, but be nice, yet firm. Frankly, you are probably not the only person annoyed, but as a woman you have more power to effect change. This could easily be interpreted as sexual harassment. Regardless, yelling is poor work behavior and should never be tolerated, sexual harassment or no. You let him, his boss, and HR know right up front that this is not OK with you and do not change your tune despite pressure from others.
posted by caddis at 6:06 PM on June 25, 2007

I'm curious about nomisxid's statement that Freedomboy's idea to use a tape recorder is a felony. Why? I mean, couldn't frosty_hut just "happen" to have a voice-activated tape recorder -- maybe with little tips about office procedure (just to be super-safe) -- and have it handy when Caveman comes around and starts yelling. Would that not be just innocent, accidental and convenient to have her recorder there? Where's the felony in that?
posted by Smalltown Girl at 6:36 PM on June 25, 2007

No, my post wasn't sarcasm. I listed lots of choices specifically so the OP could decide what level of obstinance to inject.

Also, do what I do with children when they yell:
Talk quieter. And quieter. They have to shut up to hear you.
posted by TomMelee at 6:39 PM on June 25, 2007

Oh yes, I've seen this before.

"Stop. Hold on a second. I'm going to make this very clear. This is the workplace. At no point do you get to yell at me. Is this clear? I don't care how frustrated you are. Is this understood?"

If he continues, get up, walk away. To the women's room if necessary. Wait five minutes.

"Are you calmer now? I expect to have someone instruct me in a calm fashion, even when I make mistakes. If you can't do this, perhaps you ought to have someone else help out. But again, I'm going to make this clear, I'm not willing to put up with this. You're not my father, and even he knows it's not appropriate to yell. So it stops now."

If this escalates, and there's a chance it might, state simply to your boss (etc.) that you weren't aware that the job comes with the rights of others to yell at you, and he should have made that clear. Make it also clear, that you're willing to work hard to 'make things right,' to spend extra time if necessary to 'fix mistakes you've made,' but at no point do you consider the yelling appropriate.
posted by filmgeek at 7:22 PM on June 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

All the touchy-feely stuff and long-winded retorts won't work. This guy is monosyllabic. Stand your ground, look him in the eye, point your finger at his face and calmly say, "That's enough."

If that doesn't work, start putting grease in his workboots, visine in his coffee, a potato in his tailpipe and anything else you can do without getting caught. He'll get the message, written in a language he understands.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:27 PM on June 25, 2007

There's some really bad advice here too.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:34 PM on June 25, 2007

Hmm. I've worked with several guys like this. Misanthropes congregate offshore. It's a wet dream for them to find a liberal to pick on, with their non-confrontational ways. You're free to consider my advice is horrible; I expect it won't go over well here. But I've seen it work.
posted by atchafalaya at 8:42 PM on June 25, 2007

Unless you would literally have died had they not offered you a position, it's safe to say that you do not need this job. Don't forget that.

P.S. If you put visine in his coffee you will rightfully be charged with attempted murder.

posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:43 PM on June 25, 2007

Just haul back and kick him right in the nuts.
posted by flabdablet at 10:54 PM on June 25, 2007

I Think atchafalaya has it right: be clear, brief and to the point.

I have just come out of a situation where my (former) boss was bullying everyone in the company, unbeknownst to the Managing Director. It is really hard to keep your cool, because you feel angry and confused-- don't let that cloud your judgement.

Stay 'On Message' and keep it as simple as possible. Don't respond to any nonsense.

"That's enough." (Put up your hand, palm first. Halt!)

Don't get sucked into little games or the bandying about of nonsense. State your boundaries. You don't have to justify them or explain why they are there.

Demonstrate where they are firmly. If he can't catch on you need to start thinking about how much longer you'll be able to tolerate working with someone like that. Because chances are, he's more valuable than you to the company, and you'll burn yourself out fighting the little fight.
posted by gerls at 11:15 PM on June 25, 2007

Don't blow up on him. In my experience this has worked for me before, but it's also backfired, and I think you can never know which will happen.

Best thing is what all have been saying--stay calm, be professional. Be cold and formal, even. If Caveman is a co-worker and not a boss, talk to your direct boss about him. He has seniority over you, but it doesn't sound like he has the power to fire or discipline you. So don't let him get to you in that way.

He sounds like a bully. As we all know, bullies are in reality weaklings in disguise and it just takes a bit of pressure at the right time to set them straight. I like a lot of the responses above like "I won't let my MOTHER talk to me that way. No one." etc.

Thing is, as long as you keep fueling the fire, he'll continue to consider you a punching bag. I warned you of blowing up at first, but you do need to demonstrate that there will be consequences to his attacks. Be polite, but firm. Think of it this way: if someone gave you shit--literally handed you a turd--you wouldn't want it. So you drop it...OR you give it back to that person. No more, no less.
posted by zardoz at 12:28 AM on June 26, 2007

I like theorra55's "you're really yelling loudly" deadpan. That approach combines "I don't care one bit what you think of me" with "I am a professional and will learn to do this job well."
posted by salvia at 12:58 AM on June 26, 2007

Oops, I meant to link to theorra's comment.
posted by salvia at 12:59 AM on June 26, 2007

Looks like Optimus Chyme is right about the Visine. Sorry about that. I'm not advocating death, just diarrhea.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:25 AM on June 26, 2007

I mostly agree with KokuRyu. Confronting him isn't the worst thing you can do but you aren't guaranteed a good result either. My main problem with some of the advice here is that it comes close to making threats or declaring how things will be without the means to back it up. If you have really great acting skills or just superior command over your voice you could probably get away with it. But I suspect that if that was the case, then you wouldn't be asking this question here. I'm not saying you shouldn't bring it up with him, I think you should. But if you tell him how things will be in the future and then nothing changes on his end and you can't quit, work will be even more unpleasant.

So if you do confront him, it would be good to have an ally, someone who agrees that this is inappropriate no matter how long it has been going on. You'll also feel less alone when you talk to him although I again agree with KokuRyu that you should talk to him alone.

A number of the scripts here are good. Telling him is better than asking and 'thank you' or 'please' are to be avoided. Pay attention though to the difference between, "You will not yell at me again." and "I don't get yelled at" vs. "Stop" and "You have made a habit out of yelling at me. This is a problem...". Not only do you lack the authority to enforce the first group while keeping your job, these statements will provoke some people into showing you that your position isn't that powerful.
posted by BigSky at 6:30 AM on June 26, 2007

I'm sorry. You're probably a token in your department in sociological terms. This means that females make up less than 15% of the group you work with. It sounds as though you are being discriminated against in subtle ways that may be hard to prove. It's likely that the people discriminating against you are doing so implicitly, without even realizing it.

Feel free to email me if you want some suggestions about studies to read and tactics for overcoming your new unpleasant status.
posted by bilabial at 6:39 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

His behavior is unacceptable. You cannot placate him or it will continue.

My recommendation:

First, next time he does it, simply say, "I'm tired of you yelling all the time, please stop doing it." Or some other extremely clear request to stop. No nuance or subtlety here. Be clear and firm.

Second, when he continues, go to your manager and explain that you have asked him to stop, and want your manager's suggestions on what to do, since this is making it hard for you to get your work done. Be clear that you are asking their advice, but that it is a real on-going problem.

Third, if the manager doesn't take action, go to HR or higher management. They will have to take it seriously.

The important thing is that that at each step you give the person you are talking to a chance to resolve the issue before you move forward. If you have to go to HR, it is invaluable to have already spoken personally to the person and requested your manager's help.
posted by Argyle at 8:25 AM on June 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Man why the hate for hot dogs
posted by Tinen at 10:23 AM on June 26, 2007

"Man, why the hate for hot dogs?"

I added some punctuation to your question. I dunno, maybe I'm really unusual, but when someone rubs me the wrong way I tend to notice other obnoxious things about them and pile it all on, partly because it's unconscious and impulsive, partly to get my own back. And it's also a quick identifier. When I tell my husband about this guy, for instance, I have a habit of saying, "Grant, you know that fat fuck at work with the hotdogs? Yeah, well today he yelled at me again..." It's just a quick-brushtroke sort of thing, a form of shorthand. That what's done, for instance, in caricature. Is any of this getting through to you at all?

Thanks to those who responded to the gist of my concerns regarding this situation. I have a lot to think through and pursue here, and I'm very grateful for your thoughtful responses. You always come through for me ;-)
posted by frosty_hut at 12:56 PM on June 26, 2007

The passive strategy being discussed needs to be contextualized. Note, I'm not suggesting doing this -- I prefer taking a more active approach, myself -- but here's the general worldview in which the behavior makes sense:

There's some set of things he needs done.

When he says them rationally, you do them, and you do them perfectly.
When he says them irrationally, you act as if you never received the request.

Management can't exactly tell you that someone screaming in your face is part of the job -- so they can't expect you to respond to it as anything better than a temporary disturbance. You'll handle it, because you can handle anything, but nobody should expect you to take direction from it.

The idea is to align his goals with yours. He wants things done his way, he says it yours. He wants things done your way, he says it his.

This approach won't stop him from yelling at his lost hotdog or whatever. Get an MP3 player for that. But it will stop him from yelling at you. (He may no longer have use for you though.)

Again, not exactly my way of doing things. But when people are talking about ignoring him -- it's not about being a pedantic "neener neener I can't hear you", it's about actually tying the volume of his voice to the absorption of his message.
posted by effugas at 5:05 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Neanderthal has a crush on you. Tell him his behavior precludes your having any involvement with him whatsoever and you prefer cro-magnons anyway.
posted by sgobbare at 7:12 AM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

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