Have you been shouted at by your CEO?

The combination of being in lockdown due to COVID, going for frequent walks to get some exercise and either giving talks or being interviewed about my career has led me to start remembering particular events and situations that have reoccurred during my career.

The type of situation that came to mind on my walk today was “Being shouted at by the CEO”. The situations were, on each occasion, when I was working hard to be useful to the organisation in question and had done absolutely nothing wrong.

These situations all occurred in board meetings and all some years ago. In one instance I was suggesting that it would be useful to have a breakdown of membership data by gender so that we could look at progression of women through the organisation suggesting that if we had that information it would be easy to target specific interventions to improve progression overall. The subject of the discussion at the time was “How can we improve progression?”

The CEO in this case shouted at me something that was extremely offensive so I’ll not repeat it here. There were about 30 people in the meeting. I can’t remember exactly what happened after his outburst as I was so shocked and traumatised by his outburst.

The second incident occurred at a different organisation when I reported back on some really great feedback I’d ascertained from an external expert which gave lots of ideas on how to improve our web and social media presence. I’ve still got no idea why the CEO went ballistic at me for the ideas I spoke about. He completely erupted in the meeting in response to my feedback. Again I can’t remember what happened straight afterwards because I was so traumatised and in shock. He later apologised quietly to me in a coffee break. I accepted his apology.

The third incident happened at a university exam board. The chair of the meeting, my boss’s boss started shouting at me after I presented my report for the module that I’d taught that year. There had been some issues with the module, I can’t remember what they were, but I’d managed to sort them out. I’d met up with the external examiner before the exam board to explain what I had done and why, and they were happy with it.

So I presented my module report, then said that I’d spoken to the external examiner and that they were happy with what I had done. The chair of the board then shouted at me that the external had agreed because I had “charmed” them, and that I was good at charming people and blah blah rant rant. Again I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. The external examiner then came to my defence repeating that they were completely happy with what I had done.

3 traumatising instances from my career, I still don’t really know why they happened.

I can’t be alone. Have you had similar experiences? If so how did you deal with them?

What exactly was going on? Bullying? Misogyny? If you gave some insights id love to know.

Also what is the best thing to do in these type of situations ? 🤷🏽‍♀️ if you have advice it would be great to hear it.

Thanks for reading my post, please share if you have found it valuable 🙏🏾🤩

12 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. I was shouted at by my CEO in front of 6 other members of the leadership team. She was asking for opinions on an action and I did t agree with her. She abruptly ended the meeting then took me into another room and shouted at me for 20 minutes. Following g this, she left it for 2 days and called me in to a meeting. Just me, her and a head from another school. I was not given the opportunity for representation. My life became hell from then on. I was supposed to take over as head teacher but she shunted me out and spent her days trying to find fault in my work. She found none. I was broken. I went off sick as I could take it no longer. Things didn’t get any better as she was constantly contacting me asking me to do things whilst I was off. She refused fir me to go for interviews so I arranged one in my PPA at 4:30pm. Two years later I am in a wonderful school with fantastic colleagues but I am still struggling. I feel useless. I am anxious of making mistakes and have panic attacks if I make the slightest error. I find it difficult to trust anyone abs feel they all have hidden agendas. I loved my job and my role but now I want to be rescued out of teaching. I’m trying to fix myself but it’s not easy.

    1. OMG that’s so awful, I’m so sorry to hear that Anne. Have you had any counselling for PTSD? I had Cognitive Behavioural Theory counselling for deression after my brother committed suicide and it helped me enormously. Lord of love xxx

      1. I haven’t no. I was signed up to counselling but with lock down it was over the phone and didn’t seem right. I will chat to the doctor about CBT – thank you 🙂

  2. Early in my career I became so accustomed to that type of poor behaviour from senior people, that I descended to that myself. I truly regret that – I didn’t serve my organisation, team members or self well. It reflected my immaturity as a manager. With education and personal development, I improved. Until I worked for another Director who was equally incapable and I caught the contagion again – partly driven by him insisting I change my management style. Not exactly square one but more work needed (and done).

    I know from experience that such bullying (I can see no other term for it now) has longer term impacts. It can be cumulative too. The more it happens to you, the more likely you are react to it.

    I’ve also witnessed male colleagues being screamed at by managers. As a witness, I’ve become as disappointed and disengaged from that manager.

    It isn’t right and it’s not an effective way to manage people. It wrecks psychological safety. It means people are acting in freeze/ flight/ fright mode which means they aren’t using analytical or creative thinking. You get poorer quality work (despite what the “big gorillas” who thought it motivated people claimed) by and it really does not “put a fire” under people- it’s actually more likely to distract and slow progress.

  3. I’ve only once been shouted at. Actually reduced to tears by the female CEO of a famous parenting site. I don’t think of myself as someone who has experienced bullying but I sure was on that day.

  4. I think sometimes it’s a power thing. Anxiety about someone having a better idea than you. Or showing you up for what you are.
    I have had a manager shout at me – I remember exactly why and what happened. I challenged him because he was misusing resources for his own benefit. He didn’t like it and became intimidating and shouted, which reduced me to tears! I threatened to hand my notice in if he wasn’t prepared to change his behaviour. So he told me to carry it through. And I did.
    A senior director heard what had happened – and asked me to stay. I was just going on leave – so was given some time to think about it. By the time I had returned after agreeing to come back – the original manager had gone! No one found out why – but was obvious that this was his usual way of dealing with anyone who challenged him. I wasn’t the first apparently!

    It’s important to have your voice heard and with the right support stand up to a bully!

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