Student Doctor Verbally Abused Me


I’m a nurse who was verbally abused by a student doctor while we were on duty. What should I do?


Seeking Assistance


Dear Seeking Assistance:

What you do will depend upon the totality of the situation and what you mean by verbally abusive. Your main options are to go to your supervisor about it, talk to the doctor directly about it, avoid working around him, or find a way to reduce contact with him and be certain not to give him an excuse for his mean behavior. If he does it again, you certainly should go to your supervisor or manager.

I tend to think he should be made aware by someone, if not you, that his behavior was demoralizing, demeaning and harmful for the situation since medical work requires cooperation not conflict.

One thing that will help you will be to write down exactly what he said and how he said it as well as the total situation and any witnesses. That way, if you do talk to your supervisor or director/manager, you’ll have specifics for them to consider.

At the same time, be certain that his reactions were genuinely abusive (foul language, a threatening tone, yelling, repeated verbal attacks, etc.) and not just angry or critical of something you did. That is especially true if he was angry about a serious mistake.

We receive many letters about the rude treatment of nurses and medical staff by doctors, including doctors in training. It would seem that a medical training facility would be on the alert for such out-of-control behavior, but apparently that is a low priority in many cases.

On the other hand, we receive many letters from nurses and medical staff who complain about coworkers who are rude and unprofessional. So, unfortunately unpleasantness happens at all levels.

There may not be much that can be done to permanently stop the doctor’s offensive behavior. But, you can at least find ways to protect yourself emotionally by focusing on the best part of work and the people who deserve your support. The doctor in training won’t be there forever and you can only hope that as he matures he gains character and compassion. But, for that to happen, he needs to be made aware that what he said to you (if he said things that were demeaning and hurtful) showed neither character nor compassion, even if he felt justified in it.

Best wishes to you with this situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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Is It Verbal Abuse To Call A Coworker Bi-Polar?


Can one coworker call another coworker “bi-polar”?


Wondering About A Term


Dear Wondering About A Term:

The totality of the circumstances would dictate whether telling someone they are acting as though they have bipolar disorder was done to show disrespect or ridicule or if it was said for other reasons. If it has been said repeatedly and used as a weapon against someone, then yes, I think it is verbal abuse. If it is said even once, without the intent to solve a problem, just to be mean, then certainly it’s rude and inappropriate.

If you work for a company that is large enough to have rules and policies about treating each other with respect, such a remark might come under one of those rules. If you work in a very small business, it would be up to the boss whether that remark is something he or she wants to reprimand an employee about. Hopefully if it has happened many times, he or she will see how wrong it has been. Usually when something like that is said, there are many more problems than just that one remark and those problems are what should be addressed. If someone accuses a coworker of being bipolar, they’re not talking about being late or being slow with work. They’re almost always talking about behavior that they think is disruptive, unpleasant, bizarre or worrisome. If you’re the one being told that, consider what led up to it as you consider what to do about it.

If it was just a one time thing, completely out of context, it probably was just something to say to bother you and won’t be said again. You need to be concerned about the problems that caused it, but at least you know the word meant nothing to either of you. But, if it was said in seriousness it is something to seriously consider.

One of the most common complaints we get about coworkers is that they are nice enough sometimes but terrible to work with the rest of the time. We hear terms like “moody”, “out of control”, temperamental”, “hot and control”, “impossible to get along with”, “completely out of touch with reality”, and tacked on to those is often the label, “bipolar”.

That doesn’t mean the diagnosis is accurate; it’s just an employee saying something that fits what they’ve read about bipolar disorder. But it often points to problematic behavior that has gone unchallenged for a long time. Or, it can be used to express concern that someone is getting worse in their depression or manic actions.

Talk to your manager about it and tell him what was said. Let him or her know that the term was offensive because the employee had no business making a judgment about your mental or emotional condition. At the same time, ask your manager to give you honest feedback about your behavior and performance. If there are no problems, then figure you have a coworker who doesn’t like you and just said something to be nasty and the employee should be told to not say it again. If your manager talks to you about concerns, figure your coworker might have said something others are thinking.

I’m not implying that you have bipolar disorder or even that you’re in the wrong in any way. But you can bet there is some long-standing conflict if it was said at all. You may be able to get the coworker reprimanded and rightfully so. But, that won’t fix what started it all to begin with.

Do yourself a favor and see if you can find a way to correct the conflict or at least to deal with it in a way that it doesn’t result in angry accusations. The other person was wrong to use a term that could cause hurt or that is untrue but sounds offensive. Push back to ensure that doesn’t happen again because labeling people is never a good thing. But also see if you can do something about what caused the labeling in the first place.

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

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Bully Coworker


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?




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


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


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




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 Notice that it is question 985. Then read the question: Bullying, Gossiping And Verbal Abuse

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 · Workplace Bullying Affecting Me At Home 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 Another source is: Bullying in the workplace, a timely reminder 10 November 2010 by Jane Klauber 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


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


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


Hush Yo Mouth


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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