Is your boss allowed to yell at you?

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Dealing with aggressive behaviour in the workplace can be stressful. If you have experienced such behaviour, such as your boss shouting at you, it may help to gain a clear picture of your rights and options. In general, you have a right to expect not to be treated in a way that could undermine your mental health and well-being. If you take the time to understand your position before deciding what to do about verbal aggression at work, you will be able to make an informed choice.


Your boss yelling at you can be an example of bullying in the workplace. Under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, your employer has a duty to ensure your health and safety while you are at work. This includes both physical and mental health. Bullying can have a detrimental effect on your mental health, so it can constitutes a breach of this legislation. If, for example, you have experienced stress as a result of your boss's behaviour, then it has affected your health. Bullying can have other effects on mental health such as low self-esteem and trouble sleeping.


You can approach bullying at work in a number of possible ways. The Trades Union Congress recommends that in the first instance you approach the person bullying you directly. This would involve speaking to your boss and explaining that you do not consider their behaviour acceptable. Other options include speaking to your Human Resources department or to your union representative, if you are a member of a union. If you are not a member of a union and are worried about resolving an issue with your boss, you may wish to consider joining one. Your organisation should also have a formal grievance or complaints process you can initiate.


Although it may seem intimidating, speaking to your boss directly about their behaviour may save you stress in the long run. Carrying out a formal grievance can itself be a very stressful process, so it tends to be an option explored when no other avenues have been successful. In the meantime, you may wish to keep a diary of when the bullying behaviour has occurred, so that you have information to illustrate what has been happening. If you are considering a formal complaint, bear in mind the fact that your boss may be in a powerful position within the organisation. This does not mean that you shouldn't complain, but be aware that conflict may arise.


If you are experiencing stress caused by shouting in the workplace, it can help to talk to someone about how you are feeling. If you have a colleague you trust, they may be the ideal person to talk to, as they will understand the dynamic of your workplace environment. If you do not feel you can speak to anyone else at work, speak to a family member or trusted friend to relieve your feelings of stress and gain some support.

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