Shouting, demeaning remarks, name-calling, insulting, and offensive or vulgar language, as well as harassing remarks due to political preferences, gender, religious faith, or sexual orientation, is defined as verbal abuse in a professional environment. This type of behavior can be displayed by supervisors, among employees, or even toward the customer base, clients, or contractors.
What Can Verbal Abuse Look Like In The Workplace?
Shouting, disparaging remarks, name-calling, belittling, and offensive or obscene language, as well as harassing remarks pertaining to race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation, are examples of workplace verbal abuse. This style of behavior might be displayed by management, staff, or even customers, consumers, or contractors.
A majority of people believe that if they were verbally abused, they would be aware of it. After all, ranting, put-downs, name-calling, and demeaning actions are all common forms of verbal abuse. But there’s a lot more to verbal abuse than most people think. In reality, some people are subjected to verbal abuse on a regular basis without even realizing it.
Types of Verbal Abuse
When verbally abusing someone, the perpetrator may employ overt methods such as name-calling and threats, as well as more subtle techniques such as gaslighting or repeatedly correcting, interrupting, putting down, and humiliating them. Even long periods of silence are a sort of verbal abuse. By refusing to speak to the other person, the person is seeking to control and punish the victim.
Verbal abuse in the workplace can come in a variety of forms, including:
- Blaming: Making the victim believe they are to blame for the abusive behavior or that they have brought the verbal abuse upon themselves is known as blaming.
- Criticism: When criticism is not constructive but rather intentional and harmful, it is verbal abuse. In such situations, harsh and persistent words are used to make a person feel awful about themselves.
- Gaslighting: An insidious and sometimes subtle kind of emotional abuse in which the abuser causes the victim to doubt their own judgments and reality.
- Judging: Looking down on the victim, refusing to accept them for who they are, or holding them to unattainable standards are all examples of judging.
- Name-calling: Abuse, insulting language, or insults that erode the target’s self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and self-concept are known as name-calling.
- Threatening: Threats are remarks intended to scare, control, or manipulate the target into complying. “Talking to you”, “looking at you”, or “even being in the same room with you” are all examples of verbal abuse used in a workplace or outside.
When verbal abuse is very severe, it might affect people’s ability to regard themselves as successful in any field. Those who were verbally abused as children may feel worthless as adults and have trouble trusting people or controlling their emotions.
Effects of Verbal Abuse on Employees
In a survey done by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 30% have been verbally abused and have reported it. Verbal abuse is a type of verbal violence that damages a person’s self-esteem and makes them feel powerless. It is defined as a reprimanding act that includes the use of harsh language. Insulting, bullying, and labeling someone in a communication pattern has also been described as examples.
Unprovoked abuse includes things like using harsh words, misusing trust, embarrassing someone in public, and threatening someone with words. Verbal abuse is an act of harshly criticizing, insulting, or denouncing another person.
It is a damaging kind of communication that is characterized by underlying anger and hostility and is designed to undermine the other person’s self-concept and cause bad emotions. Verbal abuse is a maladaptive technique that anyone can express on occasion, such as when they are under a lot of stress or in pain. It is a sequence of behaviors employed by some people to control or manipulate others or to exact revenge.
Other effects of workplace verbal abuse:
- Even on off days, employees may experience physical symptoms of panic or anxiety attacks at the mention of work or thought of going back to work
- Embarrassed by being shoved around
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Feel guilty for producing terrible feelings at work
How Abused Employees Can Confront the Issue
Addressing the issue can sometimes make employees feel as miserable as the abuse itself. However, the abuse is not their fault. As such, confronting the issue is necessary to stop it from happening again in the future. Here are some practices for confronting and removing verbal abusers.
- Keep a record
Begin keeping a record of all instances of abuse: dates, times, context, who was present, and what was said.
- Address the issue
If employees are comfortable enough, they should address the issue with the abuser, stating their discomfort over being treated a certain way. For example, if an employee’s work was harshly criticized and dismissed during a meeting, the concerned employee must reach out to the team and request that they be aware of the tone and language they use.
Employees can also make a note of the conversation as well or report it to human resources or management if the request is ignored, downplayed, or laughed off.
- Involved the HR
If an employee is uncomfortable with a direct confrontation with the abuser, they should reach out to their HR manager and convey their grievances. The HR should, ideally, set up a meeting where the two parties can discuss the issue on a neutral ground.
Even if the verbally abusive behavior is not directed at an employee, he or she may be a witness to it. In such cases, employees should begin by offering assistance to the person who is being abused. They may require assistance in bringing the issue to the attention of leadership, or they may simply require someone to talk to.
Aside from confronting the abuse through proper channels, companies must also have an anti-abuse policy set up in the office. This keeps the work environment healthy, collaborative, and productive.
Tips To Form an Anti-abuse Policy at Workplace
- A policy that is in favor of employees
Create an anti-abuse policy at the workplace to ensure that employees understand the organization has a zero-tolerance stance for such behavior. Employees and customers should be treated with dignity and respect, according to the policy. Give specific examples of what constitutes verbal abuse, such as yelling, making derogatory remarks, or sending offensive emails.
- Reporting strategy
Ensure that there is a separate way for reporting offensive behaviors, such as email or a company phone number that can be reached after hours, so that employees feel safe reporting incidents of abuse. In the event of a customer’s verbal abuse, urge personnel to remain calm and try to resolve the problem. If this isn’t possible, the unhappy customer should be handed over to a supervisor. List the consequences of breaking the anti-abuse policy, ranging from a written warning to termination.
- Keep the word going around
Schedule a business meeting and give each employee a copy of the anti-abuse policy. Go over the policy, underlining essential portions and answering any questions you might have. Have each employee sign a document acknowledging that they have received, read, and will follow the policy, and keep the document in their personnel folder.
Verbal abuse in the workplace is not conducive to a collaborative and healthy working environment. The result of persistent abuse at the workplace can range from dissatisfied and depressed employees to a higher attrition rate. Therefore, companies must have a strict anti-abuse policy and conduct regular training for inclusion, anti-harassment, and diversity practices.