Boss Cusses Me In Front of a Female Coworker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being cursed:

How do you deal with a boss who cusses you in front of a female coworker and you are a male employee?

Signed, Humiliated and Angry

Dear Humiliated and Angry:

Anyone would resent being cussed at in front of someone else, so I’m sure this was a bad situation for you! Most men certainly would resent being being cussed at in front of a woman. What you could do at the time and later, will vary according to the circumstances. I realize it isn’t likely you’d put the words used by your boss right in your email, but “cusses you” could mean many things. For example, it would be terrible if the boss would say, “You’re a #$#@!! and a @#@!!!, you dumb @#$#@!!”It isn’t quite so bad if the boss says, “Why the #$#@! did you do that, Bill?”Also, what words were used would make a difference.

The “F” word is more negative sounding than “d**n.”Circumstances also vary. For example, if someone violates a safety rule or destroys expensive equipment through negligence, it would be understandable that a boss might use one or two profane words, if that was the kind of language he used anyway. What could you do about it? For one thing, think about the image you want to project to the boss and other employees, including the female. You don’t want to cower but you also don’t want to lose your temper and do something physical or use bad language yourself. You want to present yourself as someone who is mature enough to handle the situation by being neither angry or afraid. You might have to tolerate it right then, but you won’t stoop to his level.

If you did something very wrong and that is why you were being cussed at, you can accept responsibility for that as you talk to coworkers, even though you might say you still don’t think the language was correct. At the time, if think you have the tenure or status to do so, stop it right then. You might hold your hand up as a stop sign and say, “Mike stop. You can be mad at me but don’t use filthy language while you’re doing it. Just stop!”If you don’t think you have the status to do that and are worried you might even be fired over it, the best you can do is stand still, listen without any facial expression and let your boss go until he runs out of steam. That seems humiliating at the time, but as many people have found, it gets it over quicker than if you argue. Afterwards, you might want to register a complaint about it, or ask someone for advice about how to handle it. If there is someone over your boss you could complain if you think that would get some attention. If there is an HR section you can be certain that kind of behavior would be frowned on by them, so maybe you want to write a message to them about it.The female coworker might also want to make a complaint, if the language was sexual in overtone. Just using profanity doesn’t come under EEO guidelines, but using sexually related words does. However, whether or not it was gender or sexually related, the coworker could complain about profanity in general. It’s demoralizing and never the best behavior by a supervisor. (On the other hand, if employees use foul language all the time, it’s a bit hypocritical to complain when a supervisor does!) Keep this in mind: You can bet your employers expect that your manager will treat people with respect and dignity. They want to keep good employees and they don’t want a bad work place. So, it isn’t like they would approve of your boss’s swearing at you or anyone else.You might also go to your boss, away from others, and tell him that you want to do a good job and are sorry for the thing that upset him (if that’s appropriate), but you don’t want to be cussed at in front of people. He will either apologize or not, but at least you’ll have made a statement.One good thing to do is to watch how you talk about it to the female employee. Better to drop it and don’t talk about it than to verbally worry about it or complain about it. Just treat the outburst by your boss as something you don’t admire or respect, but something you will probably have to tolerate at this time. Put your focus on work and let others know your boss’s profanity is a negative reflection on him not on you. Hold yourself to a higher standard than the boss in this case. Be the one others admire, since they won’t admire the boss!I hope this provides you with some thoughts about the situation. Best wishes to you!

Tina Lewis Rowe