What Is Workplace Verbal Abuse?

What is workplace verbal abuse and is it harmful to you?Workplace Verbal Abuse

The Apr 2007 issue of the “Harvard Mental Health Letter,” has found that folks being exposed to unrelenting verbal abuse at work risk developing post-traumatic-stress-disorder, (PTSD), dis-association problems and end up with very depressing lives.

Once this workplace verbal abuse starts to happen, it will create a terribly unpleasant experience where you work. Some abuse, like screaming, yelling and name-calling, is easy to recognize, but other methods of abuse can be very refined and very troublesome.

Regardless of the kind of verbal abuse you are getting in your workplace, the negative effects on the victim are lasting and powerful.

It’s fairly simple to see what verbal abuse at work looks like once somebody starts to systematically complain about you or belittles you or your work.

Putting down and complaining about your work is completely different from constructive criticism, within which a co-worker would possibly tell you what is wrong with a project and give you ideas in which you’ll be able to fix it.

Once a coworker starts verbally abusing you though, you will notice that he has nothing that makes good sense to mention about you and is not anxious about helping you either.

For instance, your colleague might possibly complain that your ideas are “stupid” and your work is “ridiculous.” Mean remarks, like name-calling and negative vocalization of ideas may be terribly painful for the victim.

Some abusers use mean remarks concerning their victims in the presence of other coworkers, however, others are just the opposite and will wait till they are alone with the victim before verbally offending them.

Verbal abusers in the workplace tend to disrespect others. for example, a person using verbal abuse at work would possibly try and sit down to talk with you while you are discussing business on the phone with a vital consumer.

The effects of workplace verbal abuse may be traumatic and long-lived. Continual abuse might cause depression, sleep disruption, headaches and different physical issues.

Abused employees might withdraw or appear scared to communicate with others. They have a tendency to skip work a lot and therefore the quality of their work suffers, plus it creates more complications for the victim’s boss and company.

People that verbally abuse others in the workplace humiliate their victims making it almost impossible to talk and comfort them.

One answer is to tape-record the person doing the verbal abuse at work as he berates you. Sometimes, showing a recorder to the bully and asking him if he minds if you tape the conversation can be enough to prevent the verbal abuse.

Or, you can record the abuser without his knowledge which permits you to gather proof just in case you wish to report him to your boss. Note specific things the verbal abuser says to you and let him know how much his words are hurting you.

If he does not appear to worry about it, tell him that you just might have to talk to your superior concerning the matter if the abuse does not stop.

If you speak with your boss about this verbal abuse, he might transfer the verbally abusive person to a different department or reprimand him for his behavior.

In any case you must, for your own sake, seek help from the company or from a professional that deals with bullying in the workplace and specifically, workplace verbal abuse.

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27 Responses to What Is Workplace Verbal Abuse?

  1. Judith says:

    It is probably better for your work history to give a notice unless staying another 2 weeks will cause further harm to you. Besides, they might just ask you to leave right away anyway when you give notice.

  2. caroline says:

    I am being systematically psychologically abused by the physician i have been working for about a year now. I will not work there. I’m not sure if I should give a 2 week notice and leave or just not go back to work at all.

  3. Jane Doe says:

    I am an LVN. I have been in nursing for over thirty years. I am married with two adult children. I was constantly harassed by a man who was working with housekeeping. I would ignore his advances. He started calling me lesbian whenever I passed by. He would say it under his breath but I could hear it clearly. I never reported to my supervisor because he had befriended people there. I felt like I would be backed against the wall with no support. I eventually quit my job. I still have anxiety about this.

  4. Gina says:

    Iwork for 2 years in a store my cocworker is so abusive she curses at everyone andcinsults me all the time and litteraly has caused me not to go to work from severe depression i told my boss and he laughs like its a game and does nothing about it what can i do

  5. Anonymous says:

    I got this amazing job been working there for almost 4 months. I got along with everyone i worked with. Everything was fine in the beginning. Like 2 months in i started to get text messages on my personal phone for a male co worker. Tell me that i need to step it up and do a little more or i was gonna get fired cuz our boss was getting mad at me .i started going to work and pushin as hard as i could and no matter how much i did he would still text me tell me i need to do more or i need to quit before i get fired. It went on for like a month i would get so depressed knowing i had to work with him. And i got tired of it and said something to my manager. And it stop. But then he started complaining on me about stuff that i wasn’t doing and my boss took me off the schedule for a week and now I got to go in and talk to him to see if I have the job or not? What should i do. Any advice would be great.

  6. Amanda says:

    I don’t even know where to begin but here it goes. I have worked at my job for 12 years now and I honestly don’t know how I have tolerated it. I am as well as every employee that works here is being verbally abused on a daily basis by the owner of the company. The abuse is horrible. She makes you feel like you are the stupidest person on earth and there is nothing you can say to her to make her stop. She will ask you a question and no matter what answer you give her it is the wrong answer even if it is written in her employee manual. She enjoys making you fell inferior to her. She has also let it be known that she hates men. One minute she is your best friend and the next she is in your face screaming the F word at you and telling you that she just can’t deal with you. If you do not respond to her that just makes her even more pissed. The only reason I still am working here is because she is at the corporate office in a different state than my office but I still have to deal with her on the phone sometimes several times a day just so she can yell at me and let me know how stupid I am. The reason I am asking what I can do is because I have become so depressed and I don’t sleep at night and I really dread answering my phone when it is her I hate her and my job and I am bringing all of this home. I know I should just quit but I can not afford to. Is there anything I can do?

  7. Lucinda M Erdman Dunbar says:

    I work in a grocery store as a department manager. I am in fear of going to work when I know the store manager is there. I have ever severe depression. And he screams and yells at me. Gets right into my face, and even has his wife screaming at me. Last week he grabbed me. I’m scared!!!!

  8. chris says:

    Hi my boss keeps on telling. Me how stupid i am ,screaming on me because of auther worker mistakes and telling me i am shut mannager. Have to fix every thin that breaks even if its not part of my job decripton

  9. Carl says:

    I founded an emergency shelter in my area I worked hard and it was an success. 6 years later and lots of hours the church that donated the area to hold the shelter went through in turn al change and decided that the shelter was theirs and did a hostile tack over as such, at the same time I had a stroke but was glad that it was still open but they just threw me to the curb, I had over the years became the go to person the medi a turned to and these same people trophy the success as theirs and I keep ed positive but was hurt the way the took to take it. Three years later I still come in to volunteer to keep in the run the media and city still see what it took to create by my self the shelter, they contact me for my knowlege and history on the homeless, they know that I have taken the back seat, but last night they asked about it because of the weather I told them I would be there but they should talk to the heads and they will be there. I also talked to an friend who is a policeman that the shelter will be open next two days because I was asked to volunteer these days. When I arived at shelter I relayed the info about media coming and that I informed them that the word was out that shelter is open, then the head started telling me that it’s not yours anymore it’s theirs and that I can not do anything as in tell anyone shelters open or talk to these friends who have been there from the start accused me of doing all sorts of things yelling screaming at me in front of people and these people were the ones who were earlier that day askede what should we do sheltwr stated they were not opening no matter what so what can we do I told them that if shelter is closed its not up to me they could find a place to shelter the storm and let these agency’s call around. Hour later the shelter changed there mind and asked me to assist so I let these people know the called me names told me to stop talking to anyone about anything when I don’t speak for them and have caused me to relapse in my stroke they push me out of this what I have given so much and I have passion for but they look at it as a jewel in crown in I tried hard for years to be open to their help in my cause but I’m positive those who have helped me along this project would be shocked to this the media police friends knowing I have been ordered not to let anyone about open or closed when how can we shelter if no one knows I don’t want to make this ugly but I’m gettig abused and it’s hurting my health and possitive n

  10. loucks85@gmail.com says:

    I have an employee that waits till no one is there and yells at me over no major issue when she is stressed about things at home then says i yelled at her even when i refuse to talk to her .its already got me documented ,

  11. Sandra says:

    I work for a mid-sized company and there are a couple people on my team that have are making it difficult for me to feel good about working here. I am in my late 50’s and have a lot of experience in the field I am in, but most of the co-workers are younger. 1 constantly makes comments about my age ‘I do things old-fashioned, or you wouldn’t understand it it a ‘millennial’ thing’; then every email I send gets forwarded to my manager, and includes the technical director and I am constantly being ‘shamed’ for not knowing things. When I started, there was no formal training and the one who is harrassing me is the one who told me ‘I don’t get enough money to train’ so I was set to sink or swim. I asked for training multiple times and was told they were just too busy. Finally after 8 months they put together a training, and 2 weeks after it was done, I got a note from my manager that I was being put on notice and could be fired at any time for not being up to speed.

    Another co-worker is constantly yelling at me when I ask questions, she says its my job to know and won’t answer me, yet I am supposed to work with her on projects and I see her working with other people and being very cooperative. She is friends with the other two and I just feel like I am singled out for negative treatment. Today another co-worker noticed as well and said, that it was not very professional of that person to talk to me like that. So others are noticing.

    I’ve talked to my manager, and she said they have gotten the same complaints about these people before, yet nothing is done. I sometimes struggle just to go in to the office, but at my age it is getting harder to find a good paying job. I was hoping to take this one to retirement, but now I feel like they can fire me at any time and I am on pins an needles every day. Should I start looking for another job?

  12. Judith says:

    Hi, You are in a unique situation here since you’re the only employee. Hve you talked to her about how she treats you? If that doesn’t work you may have to find a new job. You did the right thing by going to your boss and telling him what’s taking place. However, since he’s married to the abuser, he’s going to side with her for whatever reason. Taking legal action in this case proabley won’t do you much good either since bullying nd verbally abusing someone is not against the law. Make sure you document everything for your own protection in cse the tables get turned on you. Otherwise, start looking for better employment with a company that treats their employees with respect.


  13. Lauren says:

    I have a unique situation where i am the only employee of a practice. Due to this situation my boss/owner of the practice has asked his wife to come and help out on days where we see patients. She has “gone off” on me 4 times now. Verbal abuse had definately has take place on all 4 occasions. I have spoken to the boss about it and asked her to please leave his wife at home, even told him that if she is there the next day that i would not be. I would appreciate any guidance or reccomendations you may have to rectify this situation. I am thinking of filling a grievance and taking legal action since he has done nothing to improve the situation and every time i try to talk to him about it, he shuts me down.


  14. Dee says:

    My coworker is constantly being berated by his supervisor in front of others. It’s getting worse and I told him he needs to speak to our boss, but he said that * would still be his supervisor. What are his rights? I told him he is protected by law and has rights.

  15. Robert Brewer says:

    I was terminated from Kxxx Sxxxx Properties in Washington, DC because I told my supervisor that she was rude and unprofessional in addressing a particular class of individuals, stemming from her verbal abuse.

  16. Milleth says:

    Hi, IM Milleth, IM working in a Laundry Facilities here in Las Vegas as a supervisor who owned and operate By my husbands relatives. Last july 20, 2016, my boss yelled at me just because I told her what the Manager(owner) told us that one certain person should not move in any spot, she screemed and told me thats the way she wanted. I answered her back that ah ok, I just told you what our boss told us. She yelled more stronger and told me that not every instructions of the manager she gonna follows. I felt that time that she humiliate me, Im shaking ang my tears fall off, I told My Co supervisor that i cant handle it since IM not feeling well and i want to Go Home. IT was so happen that the owner and manager are sisters. I talked to the manager and she told me that any rules may be brake By her sister. IT was so sad that the owner create a rules and discuss to the supervisors but cannot implemented correctly.

  17. Pingback: 5 Ways To Respond To Abusive Talk - WomenWorking

  18. Judith says:

    Hi Margaret, I’m sorry to hear that you got fired from this job. It sounds to me like your boss used techniques based on terrorizing people. You didn’t mention ow long you have worked for that company but if it’s been a while, I suggest you seek an attorney who deals with employment issues. If you haven’t worked there long, this being fired may be a blessing in disguise.
    You might want to get my ebook entitled Recognizing the Traits of a Workplace Bully so you’ll be able to spot them ahead of time. Best of luck to you.

  19. Margaret says:

    Hi my name is Margaret I was just fired yesturday for telling my boss that her two hour long training bordered on harassment. I was pinned to a wall while she blocked my avenue to either scoot away from the wall or move away a bit while she drilled there method of business on me, she said” I didn’t chase you away did I?” Afterward. To me she was aware of her actions and acknowledged them. what should I do? It has haunted me for days know.

  20. Collene Zemke says:

    I work for a small florist in West Allis, WI. The business is owned by 4 men who are not physically present most of the time; and the office manager (who is not an owner) is also a man. I have spoken with the owners on multiple occasions regarding the rude and inappropriate verbal abuse that I receive from the office manager. Because these 5 men often spend time together socially outside of the workplace, any attempts to improve this situation have been basically dismissed and ignored.
    Today, I was able to document three separate incidents of verbal harassment/abuse in writing.

    How do I go about reporting these incidents to a higher authority since it is clear the owners are not doing anything to rectify the matter?

  21. Ava Ynclan says:

    Hi Im seeking advice. I work at a restaurant for about 2 months now and my managers are not from this country so their accent is very strong sometimes its hard to understand them. When I ask what they said they scream at me. Im still kinda new and when I asked where something is they yell “how long have you been working here You should know”. In front of everyone even customers. They all gossip about everyone and their personal lives. Dating in the workplace and gossiping about it. Theres a specific coworker that has night shift with me and she constantly gives me attitude and makes faces at me. Another coworker that likes to tap me on my back with a little force. I feel disrespected. I have depression already since before working there and have taken anger management classes due to my anger which i feel their trying to push me to act ouT on. Ive been recording for two days now cause I feel like Im going to explode and lash out but I have a daughter and I have a family to support. I really need advice someone help. Is there any way for legal action or what should I do???

  22. Barbara says:

    I am getting this at my workplace day in and day out. I tried to get it to stop, but after I did that, things got worst, I am not dealing with reprisal. The person in the chain of command never tried to help me only my supervisor. I get put down about small things, my age has been thrown in my face, she even told me that I make her act like that. I sent two emails regarding her accusing me of something I did not do and calling my house and harassing me while I was out sick, things have gotten worst. And better still, I feel like I am being double-teamed by her and her supervisor. She asked me after I had sent the last email, “Can’t you understand why I am so frustrated?”

  23. Lecky weikel says:

    I have been a target of this…I had a supervisor once that did this to me knowing I already suffered from depression documented everything. I went to the EEOC…I won my case.

  24. Cristen says:

    This article describes my situation perfectly. I am also getting calls and text messages relating to my job performance, or lack of, at home and in the middle of the night. She has also approached my daughter at school (our kids are at same school also) asking her about thing I may say at home about her. I work for a VERY small company (4 employees) and even though I reported it, I am terrified nothing will change. I am scared to go back to work. I am scared she will retaliate. From what I understand, there is nothing illegal about bullying in workplace unless I am in a “protected class”. There is also nothing in the handbook. I don’t want her to get away with this. I am very much scared that my child is now involved. I can’t not believe this happen. Surreal….

  25. Stacy Rakestraw says:

    I work for ??? Bakery, and the Director of Manufacturing is a bully. All he ever does is threaten everyone, curse at people. The sad thing is H.R. knows about it, but does nothing. The way he speaks to people is very unprofessional, but everyone takes it because we all need our job, and no one knows who they can turn to for help.

  26. Judith says:

    Hi Anna, sorry for the slow response
    First you should see if there are provisions in your company’s policies and procedures that deal with bad treatment by other workers. If you find that there are specific policies against it then go to the person that is in charge of the bully to report it. It’s generally NOT a good idea to go to HR as they are part of the company and usually do not give good results.

  27. Anna says:

    Can you please guide me in the right direction to report intimidation and verbal abuse in the workplace. Thank you Anna

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