If you haven’t already, you will eventually work for a “screamer” in television news. It’s just a simple fact of life in the biz. But that simplicity of fact does not mean reacting to it is simple. Screamers are alarming, and not just for the ear. It means the person loses control in key situations; very troublesome when this is the person who decides your fate. The good news is that the screamer’s boss probably is aware of the temper tantrums and hopefully takes them and any tirades about staffers with a grain. The bad news: The screamer is usually not forced to calm it. So the verbal abuse keeps on coming.
There is an effective way to protect your ears and your ego. The more the screamer lets loose, the calmer you need to be. You need to consistently do this, during public and private tirades. Screamers expect to unnerve you. It is a control technique for bullies. If you want the person off your back, don’t indulge it. Sit down, look slightly above the screamers head and watch him or her pitch a fit. Whatever you do, do not speak. The screamer is not interested in anything you have to say. The screamer needs to get rid of pent up stress. Once the screamer is done, say “okay I will keep that in mind.” Then go back to work.
Sometimes the screamer will follow you and start up again with insults or questions like “did you hear anything I said.” Say “yes” to the question and ignore the insults. Later, once the screamer is calmer, you might be called into that person’s office. Hopefully this is when you can get some constructive criticism and explain any extenuating circumstances. But if the screamer has a particularly insecure ego, you will not hear about the incident again.
This does make it harder to learn what “old yeller” wants. You can still listen to the rants and try and decipher the point. Just do not lower yourself to the standard of the screamer. You need to keep your cool. That can help you if things get really out of hand and you end up in human resources. You also would prefer the tantrums happen in public even if it is humiliating at the time. Witnesses can say it was the manager who lost control, not you.
Finally, no matter how tired you are at the end of the day, document the inappropriate conversation with the screamer as well as any follow ups. Include the time of day and a witness list in your notes. Remember human resources must have patterns and documentation. If you end up in trouble, you can use these tantrums to buy time and demand a formal critique of your work in writing. Your case: How could you be expected to know what to do with the manager screaming at you incessantly? There is a case to be made and, again, you have to be able to show a pattern of verbal abuse.
Now the caveat for your efforts: The screamer will become disarmed at your calm response. The screamer will end up noticing how out of line he or she is getting. This will throw the person off and you will take control of the relationship. After a few attempts at rattling you, the screamer will usually learn that you are tough skinned and probably not someone to mess with. You will probably be left alone. In some cases you will even become the screamer’s confidant. We have seen news managers develop a strange need to then constantly impress and please the employee that cannot be unnerved. You might even end up with better assignments. There is always another sucker on staff that will scream back or cry. The screamer will usually become focused on that person.