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Turn down the volume at work

by on
in Centerpiece,Workplace Communication,Workplace Conflict

man yelling at woman through megaphoneMost people would agree that it’s important to manage your emotions in the office.

But is it appropriate to create official policies that would ban heated exchanges?

That’s what one reader asked recently on the Admin Pro Forum:   

“Our HR department is thinking of levying a policy that would discipline an employee for ‘raising his or her voice in anger’ when involved in a verbal exchange inside the office.

“Some here say it’s high time that hotheads learn to debate respectfully so as not to poison the atmosphere, but this seems to reach too far to control worker behavior. I’d love to know what ­others think be­fore I vote on the policy!” — Cassandra, an accounts payable specialist.

Readers offered their take on the issue.

Some felt like this would be an appropriate boundary for an organization to set, even as they acknowledged that it would have to be worded and enforced carefully.

One reader, Amy, shared a story about how a similar policy made an impact in her workplace.

“About 15 years ago, I worked in an environment where anger/raised voices in the workplace began suddenly and seemed to slowly spread,” she wrote.

The company “implemented a policy where, if there was an altercation in the office, each party would be put on ‘probation’ and the primary aggressor was sent to anger management classes, no matter what position they held. ... I left soon after the policy was set, but it did make my remaining time in the office more peaceful and productive.”

Another reader agreed. “I actually like this idea, depending on what you mean by discipline,” Branson wrote.

“We have people who work in our office (an accounting firm) who get stressed out and carry on like crazy people, which just make things even more stressful. If they know that they will without a doubt get a talking to if they get carried away, maybe they’d control themselves just out of pride, since no one likes to be disciplined in even a minor way.”

But the wording on your policy should be crystal clear.

Others thought such a policy could just lead to more trouble because it’s so subjective.

“This could be very hard to regulate,” DeeCee wrote. “Raising one’s voice doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad, and who judges how much is too much? If you used that against one person, then you would have to be equally strict with everyone else. I think there can be some policies on self-restraint and discipline, but it would probably have to cover more than just a raised voice.

“I think overall demeanor would have to be considered, and probably a warning or notice given to someone that he is approaching the limit. Again, this would have to be equally applied to all persons.”

Finally, many were worried that it missed the real issue.

 “While rage is on the increase in a lot of workplace environments, volume is just one part of the issue,” Tara wrote.

“Really, disrespectful and bullying behavior is the biggest problem, and that can be accomplished at any volume.

“You could whisper and still be harassing someone. This just seems like it would be an ineffective ­policy. It’s well-intentioned but a bit misguided.”

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