Do We Have To Tolerate Being Cussed Out?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about owner who cursed angrily:

Four of us employees were cussed out up one side and down the other the other day. The cusser was the owner of the company. We were cussed out over something we did not even do but what a supervisor in our department approved. He used the “F” word over and over and we were all females. I found this sickening and the way I have felt the past few days reminds me of the feelings I had when I got raped at a younger age. Do we have any legal recourse being treated this way or are people simply doomed to stand quietly and endure? Oh and btw he also slammed down a tray with plates on it that actually bounced up in the air from the force making us all jump. What say you?

Signed, Don’t Want To Tolerate It

Dear┬áDon’t Want To Tolerate It:

You may find it helpful to contact a local attorney who specializes in labor law or harassment issues, and ask for a free consultation about the situation.Whether EEO laws were violated would depend upon the size and nature of your company and the frequency of such outbursts from your boss. How often this kind of behavior happens also would have an impact on any other response by you and the three other employees. So, here are some things to consider: 1.

First, as to whether or not you have to stand quietly and endure, that depends upon the totality of the situation. Some environments make it easier to speak up than others. I have been in some work settings where I said, “Come on now. You can yell at me, but don’t use that language.”I have been in other situations where I felt it best to mentally wrap myself in Teflon and let the words and angry facial expressions stay outside my mind. I was very successful with that! I just viewed that the person was a rude, obnoxious jerk (although he was a high-powered, well respected and intelligent man in many ways).I lost all respect for him and never went out of my way to help him again, but I did learn to deal with his outbursts over which I had no control. I was not willing to quit my job in protest, and a big part of my job WAS to deal with him and his tirades, so I was considered quite the hero for not acting beat down around him!You may find, if you feel you must keep working there, that you will need to have that same mental distancing method. I hope that is not the case, but it is something for you to consider based on the whole situation.

2. If this behavior is unusual for your boss, that would be different (though still not acceptable) than if he did it often. The issue isn’t so much that he used the “f” word (even though that is offensive to many people) but rather that he used it in an angry rant. It sounds as though he was on a raging tirade with both his words and actions!If you have been employed there more than a few months you ought to know if this is like him or not. If you are only recently employed this probably gives you a clue about what he will be like many times!

3. What the issue was over is also important, even though it doesn’t justify offensive and inappropriate language. For example, if the thing he was mad about was going to cost him a great deal of money, he may have lashed out in frustration and fear about what was going to be the result. If he simply did not like something that had happened and was angry on general principles, the temper tantrum is much less understandable. No one works better in that kind of environment!

4. The overall culture of the workplace also makes a difference. If people routinely use various cuss words there, he may not have thought it was so unusual. If they do not it makes his actions especially obnoxious.

5. What he did afterwards is also important. You say your supervisor had approved something that the four of you did. If your supervisor came forward to admit that, your boss should have apologized for accusing everyone of doing the wrong thing. If all of you should have known to question even what the supervisor said, since the action seemed to be wrong, then your boss may still be angry about the actions and the outcome. If, now that things have calmed down, your boss is making an effort to make up for what happened, that is one thing to consider as well. If he is unpleasant and treats this as though you should just accept it, that shows he will probably do it again.6. I don’t know what the response of everyone was at the time, but I hope someone at least spoke up to explain what had happened. If not, I hope the four of you will discuss whether this behavior by your boss is something you can tolerate more than this one bad time.You will probably all have to decide what you will do if this happens again. Someone might say, “Tom, come on, you can yell at us, but don’t use that language!” Unless he truly does not care about any of you, I don’t think he would be willing to fire a good employee over what he knows is wrong on his part. That is something for all of you to talk about.

7. Now that it is over, perhaps you can talk to your boss in a calm way about this. You could say, “Tom, now that we know how upsetting it was when that happened, can I talk to you about how I felt when you were so angry?” If he says no, that tells you he can never be depended upon to communicate the right way. If he says yes, you have your chance to express your feelings.You could say, “You may be used to talking like that and don’t realize how some people react to it. But while you were talking I was actually shaking inside! It brought up terrible memories from my past and I’ve really had a hard time even sleeping well since then. I’m asking you to please, please not use that kind of language again.” (Or something similar.)That doesn’t address the angry tone and overall out-of-control rage, but generally if you can get someone to not use the bad words the rest of it goes away too.

The bottom line is that you have five basic options:

–Wait to see if it ever happens again and if it does, tell him it is not acceptable.

–Wait to see if it happens again and if it does, learn to deal with it mentally, even thought you will not feel good about him ever again. (Then, keep an eye open for a better workplace!)

–Say something about it now, to try to avoid having it happen again.

—Give him a break this one time if he clearly is trying to make up for his outburst.

–Do as Dr. Gorden discusses and “vote with your feet” after telling him why you are quitting so you can find a better boss to work for.If you discuss this with an attorney he or she may suggest other options, based on the precise situation. I hope these thoughts were helpful for you. Best wishes as you deal with this situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.