In my opinion, yelling and disrespecting should not be the case between supervisor(s) and their grad students regardless of how well or poor the student is doing. Supervisors are usually holding the highest academic degrees and they should be ideal principals for their students. My question is, what to do if a supervisor repeatedly yells (whether personally or sounding as such in the emails). Do we have to accept it and do nothing to keep a nice attitude?
It is not acceptable. If this is a one-time occurrence the supervisor (or anybody else doing the yelling) should apologize.
When this happens regularly, the supervisor has an anger management problem. You should report it to the graduate chair.
There is usually some way of resolving this “internally”. In the cases I heard, the unit apologized, the supervisors were given official warning and some were eventually reprimanded (could not take students for some period) after repeated offenses. The students were given support to find alternate supervisors if they so wanted.
An example of an exigent circumstance would be a chemistry professor yelling at grad students who are in imminent danger of harm b/c of improper lab procedure.
If these exigent events happen regularly then the supervisor graduate student relationship is not working and you need to leave.
There are a few definitions of yelling in colloquial American English.
Definition 1: Screaming with anger. This is never ok in a professional relationship; and if it happens regularly, it is a sign of a toxic work environment. This is not a good advisor.
Definition 2: Criticism. For example, if you do a presentation and the advisor has a lot of professional criticism, this is a good thing. The point of graduate school is to learn, and to have an advisor who wants you to improve is important. This sort of constructive "yelling" is a sign of a good advisor, uncomfortable as it is to have your flaws pointed out.
We all must use wisdom to distinguish between these two situations.
No, it shouldn't be accepted, unless the student has done some serious damage. But that would probably be a rare event.
Solution 1. Find a better advisor (advised)
Solution 2. Yell back (not advised)
Solution 3. Complain to a higher authority (conditionally advised)
Solution 4. If the benefits of working with this
idiot advisor outweigh the pain, force yourself to ignore it. (conditionally advised)
Long term. Don't do that when you have an independent career. They are not a good role model.
In addition to other good answers...
Let's think calmly about this: in what possible circumstances should any person tolerate abusive behavior?
Ok, well, hopefully, as few as possible.
(Yes, yelling is obviously abusive, if there were any doubt. Duh.)
But, yeah, sometimes a person is stuck in a situation, and for various reasons puts up with abuse.
The point is not whether or not it's abusive to yell (in any sense), because it is. The only remaining operational issue is whether an abused person has sufficient reason to tolerate it for a while, to some better end.
It should not be acceptable, but unless it is really extreme and continuous, I think it's wise to live with it. Some people have anger management problems or a tendency to yell when they are not actually that upset. That's who they are. I see no advantage to being the person who can't handle that.
You don't have to spend that much time with your advisor and you don't have to interact with them forever. If it's that much of a problem, seeking a different advisor is an alternative. If you confront your advisor or complain to HR or whatever, you may stop the yelling, but you will also close certain doors needlessly.
My first boss swore and yelled all the time. At first it was stressful but I decided to just live with it and respond to his requests as if they were given politely. After a year, all the yelling and swearing stopped. It turned out he had been going through a contentious divorce at the time and had been continuously at the end of his rope. We have now worked together very productively for years and I consider him one of my best friends and certainly my closest colleague. Frankly, I think he feels bad about how he was and respects me for having done good work and always been professional despite his faults. If I had gone to HR or confronted him, things would likely not have worked out as well.
Rude or loud people are a fact of life. Being the person who spends a lot of energy trying to change them is frequently not the best use of your time and social capital. This is especially true if you would like to preserve a relationship with the person in question.