My Boss Was Rough With Me, But I Deserved It

Suzanne Murray

parent yellingMy boss yelled at me the other day, and by yelled, I mean screamed. She used a tone of voice so loud and scary, it was jarring. Here's what happened:

We were in a meeting and I knocked over my can of seltzer. That's when my boss lost it. "What is wrong with you?!" she yelled. She screamed so loudly, the room went silent for what seemed like an eternity. None of my co-workers said a word.

I quickly wiped up the spill and the meeting continued. I felt terrible. I was sick to my stomach and really stressed-out. I had disappointed my boss and made a fool of myself in front of my fellow employees. I should have known better than to knock over that can of seltzer. What is wrong with me?

I should have been more careful. She's been under a lot of stress lately and things aren't going so well in her personal life. I shouldn't have been so thoughtless. I vowed to be more careful.

The next day, I was sitting at my desk, and my boss came over to ask me a question. I was drinking a can of seltzer. I was feeling a little jumpy, and I wanted to get the can out of her sight so she wasn't reminded of the terrible thing I had done the day before. And that's when it happened. I spilled the seltzer again! Even after she had yelled at me the first time. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

My boss roughly held my elbow, and again yelled, "What is wrong with you?!" I was scared. I really wanted my boss to like me and instead, I had screwed up again. But like the first time, I knew I deserved the way she treated me. Spilling seltzer is clearly the mark of a very, very bad employee -- even if I hadn't done it on purpose. My boss clearly has the right to yell at me and treat me roughly when I do something she takes issue with. After all, she is the boss of me.

I totally understand where she's coming from. Every boss loses her patience once in a while, and often the only way employees can learn their lesson is with a good screaming -- and maybe a little nudge here and there for good measure. It worked for me. I'm going to try as hard as I can never to spill something by accident again. I'm even giving up seltzer. So really, it's no big deal.

Or is it?

My friend doesn't think it's okay for a boss to treat an employee the way my boss treated me. She's a boss, and she says she'd never scream at her employees or manhandle them. "Just once?" I asked her. Nope. "Maybe if you were having a really bad day?" No she said. "Maybe if you had already told them more than once that you wanted double spaces in the spreadsheet?" Not even then, she assured me.


If you don't already know where this is going, change the word "boss" to "mom" and pretend that I'm a child. Is it okay for my mom to yell at me in a really loud, scary voice and to manhandle me?

Many moms think that yelling at your child is perfectly acceptable because, hey, everyone loses their patience now and then. But assuming you don't think it's okay for a boss to treat an employee this way, my question is this: Why do you think it's okay for a parent to treat a child this way?

As adults, most of us manage to be patient with all kinds of people we'd probably love to scream at. Why is it that we can manage to keep our cool in those situations? Why is it that we think that even one workplace screaming/nudging incident would be one too many?

Don't our children deserve the same respect?


Image via Hamed Saber/Flickr


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