Bully Coworker

Question:

I have a coworker, who I suspect is drinking, and is verbally abusive towards me. I’m last one hired. The manager is friends with her and ignores it ‘cuz she doesn’t like confrontation. How do I handle this and without crying?

Signed,

Bullied

Answer:

Dear Bullied:

As you know, work is hard enough without a coworker verbally abusing you. Exactly what has she said and/or done that you feel is abusive? A first step in confront this abuse is to document · What was said in as close to the words used, · Who said them where and when they were said, · Who was present and might have heard them, · What expression was on her face and in her gestures, · How you responded and · What probably provoked the abuse. Date and document each incident you can recall. Make copies of the log and place one in a safe place.

Second, review what you’ve written. Ask how the abuse might have been prevented. Analyze what you might have done to provoke each one and also note how you responded. Such an analysis should inform you of what pushes you coworker to abusive language. Perhaps more importantly is how do you describe your response. Your response is tells your coworker if her abuse worked. For example, if you saw that kicking a vending machine resulted in a can of soda popping out, you would kick it again. If you hurried to bring something when your coworker yelled, “Stupid, bring that here”, she would know that you obeyed when yelled at and called stupid.

Third, decide how you do and don’t want your coworker to talk to you and also prepare answers for when she speaks nicely and when she is abusive. For example, when she says to you, “Janet, would you please bring the vouchers here”, you could say, “Gladly, here they are” or “You can see that a “please” gets a good response,” Should you hear Janet shout, “Dummy, get your big ass moving”, you could hold up your hand in a stop sign and say, “Stop calling me names. You know my name is Susan. If you want something, ask politely and I’ll do what I can.”

Four, realize that you were hired to work; not to be treated disrespectfully. Your coworker also was hired to work; not to verbally abuse you or anyone. Therefore, once your list is complete and especially if it is growing day by day, you have three options: 1. To bite your tongue and realize that Janet simply talks abusively and live with it. 2. Handle it one on one; don’t gossip or mumble under your breath about it. Rather realize that bullying is wrong and that you can stand up against it. 3. Request a meeting with your superior; present your list both orally and in writing. Ask that you superior do what she is hired to do; to stop abuse and demand civility. You can invite Janet to attend this meeting. Be prepared to have her argue and even lie to defend herself. But you know how you feel and what she has said. You have logged it. Firmly say that you work hard but that abuse has no place in your workplace. Will you cry? I don’t know, but you probably will feel emotional and stressed. It will take courage, but you have a voice and you don’t like to be put down. Don’t expect a quick fix. Janet probably has learned to be abusive and it will take some training to help her know what she does that is abuse. Both you and your superior can help her. Your meeting should conclude with a plan to again meet within a week or two, to review if the abuse has stopped.

Do what you choose to do with the thought in mind that Janet and all of you coworkers are employed to make your workplace successful. Cooperation doesn’t happen on the ball field or in the workplace when one individual badmouths another. Focus not on the abuse, but on the kind of atmosphere that is conducive to working as a winning team. Talk about talk can help; how each of you do and don’t want to be talked to. Talk about talk is the job of your boss; talk that helps make each and all coworker’s jobs more effective and easier, not harder.

Working together is not easy and the way coworkers interact can make you hate to go to work. But working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that’s for what you were hired and that’s the purpose of a workplace.

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Yelled At By Co-Worker

Question:

I could use some advice. I admit I handled the situation incorrectly. But I was just doing what I thought was best. I asked a co-worker to leave items for invoicing in one location on my desk. Twice now, they have responded with yelling at me saying, “If you want something done, you can do it yourself. If you aren’t going to do it then I’m going to the manager to complain.” When I asked what their problem is, they continued yelling, “Shut up! Be quiet!” I mind my own business at work. I go in, do my work at my desk, and then leave. I have the work of about two people to do, so I’m swamped. I filed a complaint with the manager. I was then told about how I need to have better emotional control. I don’t get it. I calmly asked for one simple thing. Then a co-worker yells at me, and I’m told I need emotional control? Can you offer some advice on how to proceed from here?

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Staff Member Bullies A Manager

Question:

A staff member bullies a manager and swears at her. How do you deal with the situation?

Signed,

How?

Answer:

Dear How?:

Your brief question signals there is trouble within your work group. To advise intelligently, we would need to see and hear what is going on. Short of that, I recommend that you will find far more advice than you might want that we have provided for a wide variety of troublesome situations.

Our Archive includes dozens of Q&As about how to deal with bullying. Rather than repeat these that could total a book, I will refer to some of them and also suggest that you type in the word “bully” or “bullying” in the search window in our Archives. For example read the question and answer titled: Bully In The Workplace http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=985 Notice that it is question 985. Then read the question: Bullying, Gossiping And Verbal Abuse http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3819

This question is more than 2,000 questions later.

Get my point? There is much advice within our site and other advice outside in the Internet. I’ll now quote some what is in the answer given to this Bullying, Gossiping and Verbal Abuse question.

Ideally, your supervisor will engage the three of you women and this one man in conversation about assignments, cutting wasted supplies, time, energy, and pleasing your internal and external customers, in a similar way a coach engages his players in skull sessions. That includes how you communicate with one another. Gossip, demeaning, and bossing one another are not tolerated by a coach and neither should they be by a supervisor. I’ve often advised work groups to hammer out Do and Don’t Communication Rules, such as: Do ask. Don’t tell. Do talk about the job. Don’t talk about one another’s faults. Do talk about ways that you might make each other’s jobs more effective and easier. Don’t criticize a coworker in front on others. Do huddle when needed over assignments. Don’t withdraw and play silent.

Get my point? Talk about talk should not be left to times when things go wrong. Talk about talk can prevent misunderstandings, and the fact is that misunderstandings are inevitable when there is not an agreement on how to talk to one another. So I advise you both to assert your self and enlist your supervisor in stopping rudeness and encouraging purposeful communication. Scan our Archives. There are dozens of Q&As about dealing with troublesome coworkers. For example: · Changing the Bullying Policy http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3668 · Workplace Bullying Affecting Me At Home http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=1694 I’ve written on this topic and you will find other suggestions in The Bully Bulletin: A Newsletter Promoting Change in the Workplace. For example see: Unintentional Bible Bullies By Bill Gorden http://www.mytoxicboss.com/bulletin_april_may_1.htm Another source is: Bullying in the workplace, a timely reminder 10 November 2010 by Jane Klauber http://www.apbusinesscontacts.com/the_people_bulletin-pb_2/bully.aspx Please don’t be a victim. You have a voice and you deserve respect. These should provide enough information for you to think through a course of action. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. And that is what you want for your self, coworkers, and that includes the bully. I predict that you will be able to answer your How-Question if you study some of these sources. If not, send the details of your particular situation, and I’ll think through other possibilities. Your manager need not tolerate being bullied and being sworn at. I’m sure your work organization has policies and procedures on how to deal with that. Please do update us on what you and your work group do.

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Hostile Work Environment

Question:

For about a year or so a technician at work has been having angry outbursts, directed at me. He yells and cusses when things don’t go his way. Usually he does this over the phone and I just hang up, but lately he’s in the next office ranting if I give him work (which is my job).

I have complained to the owner, my boss, but he just blows it off and says that the tech calls him when I hang up and fusses at him too. The owner freely admits the tech fusses at him, the owners wife (the accounting person) and kind of jokes that the person before me used to say she should get combat pay for having to deal with this guy.

I have found that by ignoring him I don’t have to worry about his verbal harassments and have not been speaking to him for anything other than business for about a month. last Wednesday I received a repair request and told the tech about it twice – he did not respond. So, as usual I put the printed work order in his box.

Around 2 p.m. he was on his way out for the day. (He works 9 or 10 a.m. until around 2 p.m., even though he’s paid for 8 hours.) He picked up the order and started yelling and cussing at me saying he didn’t “f’ing have time for this sh**” among other things. Finally I had had it and told him that I really didn’t care. He then threw the repair request and about thirty pages of a manual at me and slammed out the office.

I had a huge panic attack and called my spouse. He called my boss and the police. The boss came back and said he was sorry for what happened and wanted the tech to come back the next day to apologize. I said no, because he scares me.

My boss then told me if I press charges he will be forced to fire the tech because he would lose his government base access, so I didn’t file charges. The tech returns in 4 days from travel and the boss is forcing me to meet with him. I am scared of him but the boss brushed me off and said he was going to make the tech go to anger management classes.

What are my rights and where do I stand without getting fired for refusing to be near this tech?

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Bully Behaviour In Our Office

Question:

I’m being harassed and bullied by my co-worker. It’s been going on for a long time. The reason for this is unknown to me, but I think it is because I’m given more authority and responsibilities. What I do is important to my Managers. All the work flows through me. There are about 8 of us. Some other co-workers support him. The nature of his behaviour is that he ignores me while he greets others. He teases, insults, criticizes, tries to find fault with everything I do and bitches behind my back. I reported him once to management. They told me to answer back. This did help to some extent. I need help in handling him and others who are supporting him.

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Abusive Brother

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about family conflict over business:

I am a 61 year old woman with an older brother who began by verbally abusing me a couple years ago and has now developed into me being physically afraid of him. We were in business together. I thought I was helping him by putting everything in my name, but it turns out he abused that by mishandling and mismanaging the business resulting in huge lawsuits.

I have lost my home, my business, my money and am living in a room in a friend’s home where this brother also is staying. I cannot leave and must interface with him due to the lawsuits. How do I get this man to either treat me with some respect or leave me alone?

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Accused of Calling A Coworker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about calling an employee names:

An employee accused me of calling him a pussy. I have denied it, as I did not say it. The employee has a witness who has written a testimony. Do I have a right to at least see the testimony? I am told that it would create a hostile work environment but I say that I am entitled to see all evidence being used against me. I am not being fired but have been written up and think this will be used in the future to fire me. I think I should be allowed to see the statement in order to refute any falsehoods. I am not interested in the name of the witness just the testimony.

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Shushing

Question:

Is it abuse in a nursing home type setting to shush an elderly person?

Signed,

Hush Yo Mouth

Answer:

Dear Hush Yo Mouth:

Shush? Shush to an elder in a nursing home setting? The answer to your question, that is one of the most briefly stated we’ve gotten from the thousands we have answered, most likely depends on the tone of shush and the other efforts made to quiet an elderly individual. “Shush, honey, the other patients can’t sleep with you talking ” might be a reasonable and sensitive effort to deal with an elderly one who didn’t realize or resisted other means to stop loud talk. It’s impossible to say shush is or isn’t abuse from the little information provided as to the context and motivation for shushing. Is not the criteria for determining if shush is abuse whether its use lacks respect for the elderly to whom it is directed and consideration for those who are bothered by the individual who is not quiet? I don’t know what prompts your question, but I guess that either you shushed a patient and were told it was abuse to do that or that you witnessed a coworker or someone where you are employed shush a patient and that you feel it was abuse in the way it was done.

What will you do were the Workplace Doctor to say it is not abuse? Argue with whomever criticized you for shushing and say the Workplace Doctor proves you are in the right? Or if the Workplace Doctor said it is abuse would you have evidence to tell the individual who did the shushing the Doctor said it is abuse, so, “Stop it”? My point is this: you are to be congratulated if you raise this question because you want caretakers to be kind and considerate of the elderly, even when an effort is made to quiet a loud or overly talkative elderly individual within the hearing of other elderly who might be bothered. But don’t become obsessed with whether a particular word is abusive; rather commit your self to delivering quality care and with communication that entails a gentle or firm tone and nonverbal gesture, whatever is appropriate.

I’m sure that your question doesn’t spring from an isolated incident. The shushing in your question, you say, is within a nursing home setting; therefore, honor the guidelines of that institution. Surely there are guidelines that specify that respect is the rule for communication when caring for the elderly. Don’t argue over words, but talk about how to satisfy the needs of your elderly and make their remaining years and days the very best possible. Possibly you might see that in the meaning of my signature advice: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. The spirit of a shush for an elderly person might be a purposeful as for a baby: “Hush, little baby don’t you cry, mama’s gonna’ sing you a lullaby.”

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Changing the Bullying Policy

Question:

The CFO wants to modify our workplace “no bullying” policy to say that it is OK to raise your voice and shout if there is poor performance-like the “old days”.

The CEO has a tendency to lose his temper when he wants get get his point across. It is not often and he feels it is justified. Changing the policy would be condoning the behavior that we are trying to avoid. Any advice?

Signed,

Worried

Answer:

Dear Worried:

It seems almost unfathomable that someone in an executive position would want to memorialize in writing approval for people to yell at each other, if it’s about work quality or quantity.

Someone who would even consider that is not likely to be persuaded by reason or logic. However, you may want to point out the obvious, that employees who bully or harass others, or who are rude to coworkers, often say their anger has to do, with work performance. (“You don’t do good work.” “You keep me from doing good work.” “You don’t think I do good work and I feel disrespected.” “If she did her work right I wouldn’t have made that comment.”

By making it OK to talk angrily or shout at an employee, you essentially won’t have a bullying policy at all. You certainly will negate any policy or rule about courtesy and professionalism.

Think of the liability if someone is harassed or if the person being harassed is from a protected group and can show that the negative actions toward them were sanctioned by the company!

Another aspect of this is that raising one’s voice or shouting nearly always leads to intemperate speech. It’s almost inevitable that someone will say a bad word or use an insulting phrase, if they are shouting. It is also inevitable that if one person shouts at another, the other person will shout back. I’m sure your CEO and CFO don’t want to create that kind of workplace.

You say the CFO suggested the change and you think it’s because the CEO loses his temper. Could it be the CEO wouldn’t want the change of policy? Could it be the CFO was just thinking out loud but didn’t mean it to be something that had to be acted on right away? This sounds so bizarre that I would like to think even the proposer realizes it now.

The one thing that is certain is that if the CEO and the CFO can convince the other CO levels that this would be a good thing, you won’t have much choice about it. But, if they value your input and you have any influence with them, perhaps you can present the reasons mentioned above as well as your own, to convince them that there are effective ways to talk to people about problems, other than raising your voice to exert power–and that opening the door to that kind of behavior could create some major problems.

Best wishes with this. If you wish to and have the time, let us know what develops.

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Verbal Abuse

Question:

How do you handle verbal abuse from an employee?

Signed,

How ???

Answer:

Dear How ???:

It depends on who you are; whether you are a victim, an observer, a supervisor, or in Human Resources? Also it depends on what is the power relationship and on the nature of the verbal abuse. Is the verbal abuse to which you refer a one-time remark or a pattern? Was it name-calling, threats, yelling, screaming, slander, or jokes of a sexual or discriminatory nature? Was it by a boss who is picky-picky about minor things or who might praise sarcastically minor accomplishments and belittle major effort? Did the abuse come because the victim provoked it by irresponsible acts? Let’s say you are a supervisor. Handling verbal abuse you observe by one within your charge might begin with an informal private talk; asking what were you trying to say and is that a good way to get what you want or to say what you dislike? And firmly stating what is and is not appropriate. If an individual you supervise/manage brings a complaint that someone is speaking abusively, one must investigate to get past the he-said, I said accusations. That entails learning the nature of the verbal abuse and prescribing verbal warning and graduated more severe discipline if it continues. Most workplaces have policy of what is and is not acceptable. “Handling verbal abuse” entails careful investigation if one is a supervisor and assertiveness if one if a victim. Victims can rarely persuade a bully to stop, but they should know that stopping verbal abuse won’t stop is they bite their tongue and take it. Each of us has a voice. Unless we are willing to speak to power (a boss) or to a coworker to assumes she/he is more important than others, we will be subject to those who use verbal abuse to control us. Stopping verbal abuse of a coworker can begin with mustering one’s courage to say, “Sam, I am more cooperative when you ask rather than order or shout at me.” Or “Stop belittling what I do. I’m willing to listen to suggestions when you talk calmly.” Or, “We need to take time-out, Jane, to define who does what and to make the rules about how we communicate. I won’t yell and order you and I don’t want you to order me.” Stopping verbal abuse of a boss is not risk-free, but it will continue unless a subordinate secures a clear understanding of what is she/e considers disrespectful and how she/he wants to be given assignments and complaints. Verbal abuse can be more than incivility. Amie Comeau in “Employee Rights Against Verbal Abuse” (May 20, 2010 http://www.ehow.com/about_6533063_employee-rights-against-verbal-abuse.html) puts it succinctly:: “Verbal abuse is considered harassment. Employees have a basic human right to work without discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Hostile work environments include those where an employee is the subject of jokes, belittling comments or threatening reprimands. Federal law requires employers to act in a manner consistent with protecting against liability for prosecution.” Ours site does not give legal advice, but we are clear that employers are responsible to make a reasonable effort to prevent and/or correct communication that discriminates for any of protected groups. Do these few remarks provide guidelines and a course of action to address the problem of verbal abuse that prompted you send your question? Finally, consider that instances of verbal abuse might surface from coworker and boss-bossed unhappy and unproductive work relationships. Building and nurturing a team-minded communication can prevent and cope with verbal abuse. Our Archive has hundreds of Q&As about team building. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is more than my signature sentence. Its underlying suggestion is that handling such issues, as verbal abuse requires the courage to act in the face of disrespect and to encourage interdependent-mindedness.

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