Verbal harassment in the workplace

Experiencing verbal abuse in your workplace is a very unpleasant situation. If you have such experience, you may feel cornered because on one hand, you would like to do something with this problem and on the other, you are afraid of losing your job and income. Quitting (and thus, showing that the abuser is the winner) can help, but it will not teach the person anything about his reprehensible behavior (which will probably be turned towards another victim as soon as you leave). First of all, you should know what your rights are and how to use them to fight the abuser off.

But whose problem is it actually? If you are a business owner you need to realize that it is your task to protect employees from such nuisances. Unless you want to take the consequences of your negligence.

In 2010 The U.S. Workforce Bullying Institute asked workers whether they had ever been bullied at work. 35 percent of them admitted that they had such unpleasant experiences. One of the most frequent forms of bullying is verbal abuse. It is a very sad statistic which says a lot about our workplace reality which is still far from ideality. All business owners should be aware of it and take a necessary action.

The typical abuser usually has a higher position in a company which makes him feel more untouchable and  powerful. He or she often gathers a group of “admirers” who play this role so as to avoid being a next victim. Having the public, the abuser feels even stronger and more willing to show his power. What is very important, such a person plays nice and friendly in front of you and he acts as a tyrant in your company.

The fact is that although there are no laws which would protect workers from verbal abuse, you as the company owner are responsible for creating a friendly workplace for your employees. Thanks to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, you can be held liable if you fail to do so.

What should you do to avoid such situation? Firstly, show your employees that they have right to tell if one of the workers is abusing them. Then, if there really is such an abuser among your workers, you must definitely take action and warn the person that this kind of behavior will not be accepted again. If it does not help, you must be prepared for more serious actions (including dismissing him).

It may seem trivial sometimes (we can meet bullies in schools, but such childish attitudes among adult people?), but it definitely is not. If your worker does not feel satisfied with your action protecting him from a bully, he or she may go to court. Therefore, business owners should never ignore any signs of or suspicions about bullying in their companies. Reaction must be firm and solve the problem before it becomes much more serious.