Verbal Abuse in the workplace

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about verbal abuse: when my boss asked where I was at and she replied still at the Dr., he started throwing things and yelling profanities in front of the students and customers.

I am wondering what my rights are regarding the verbal assaults that I endure with my boss. I love what I do but no matter what my teaching partner or I do it is never good enough and he is always going off about something. The last straw was today at work 9/02/08. For the past few months my blood pressure has be a stroke level and I have been having chest pains. I have waited for a consult with a cardiologist for 2 months and my boss was aware of if for several weeks. The office visit took the almost 4 hours and after the appointment I had to return to school/office to gather some personal items. He screamed at me about being gone so long. Earlier in the afternoon, I talked to my co-worker, who was covering for me, I kept her updated on what was going on at the Dr. when my boss asked where I was at and she replied still at the Dr. he started throwing things and yelling profanities in front of the students and customers. I love teaching cosmetology and my students but part of my health problems may be coming from my boss. More went on and I have witnesses as to the many times he goes off on these tirades against my co-worker and myself.I did talk to him by phone after work and told him that I did not appreciate being yelled at today and he informed me that he was not yelling and didn’t do anything wrong. Please advise!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do I have legal rights and where or how do I begin?

Signed, Yelled At

Dear Yelled At:

To the best of my knowledge you have no legal rights, but to learn if your particular situation might touch on an aspect that is legal, you can consult with a local attorney, usually a first consultation is without a fee. Legal matters in the workplace most often pertain to discrimination of one sort or other. Your case appears to be a boss who is a bully with a short fuse. Throwing things borders on a threat and/or injury so you might have a case, but I doubt it unless your boss threatens physical harm or actually hits you. Your health problems certainly are not helped by the kind of abuse you describe. Can you change a boss who has a habit of yelling and sometimes explodes throwing things? That too is doubtful. Is it worth a try? Since you like your job and all of us need work, trying is better than voting with your feet; something that you might have to do. So if you want to try, confrontation likely is the approach you must take and you will need to put the hope out of your head that you can have an attorney speak for you.1. Recall several times over the past weeks your boss has criticized you and your coworker abusively. Note what, when, and the specific language used to the best of your memory. 2. Review your policy book, if you have one, for any statements about bring a grievance. Also investigate who owns your place cosmetology school. You don’t say if your boss is owner, but even if he is, there might be other investors.

You might want to tell your boss that you think his boss needs to know that he is out of control. 3. Prepare a list of communication dos and don’ts you want in your workplace; particularly with respect to getting assignments and receiving criticism. For example a Dos might be: Greet each other by name. Keep each other informed about what is going on with respect to students’ progress. Speak slowly when giving instructions. Check in and out with the boss. To be thanked and applauded for good work. Weekly meetings to talk about how things are going. Don’ts might be: If some thing wrong has occurred and needs correcting, speak to that individual in private. Before giving criticism, ask about what happened. Don’t yell. Don’t throw things. Make several copies of this list. 4. Schedule a meeting with your boss. Find a time that allows for a one-on-one conversation. Enlist your coworker in this meeting if she is disturbed as you are and wants to join you.Up front, state that you have requested this meeting because you are unhappy about your boss-bossed relationship. Also say that you are committed to making your school success and that it is apparent that your boss is not happy with the way things have been going. Ask what specifically he is displeased about. Follow that with proposing that you want to boss-bossed communication that is mutually effective; polite, positive, and clear. Use your judgment about what to do next. You might want to present the list of dos and don’ts and talk with him about those that sound reasonable to him.

Get a commitment to civil communication. Schedule a follow up session in two or three weeks to monitor how well the dos and don’ts have been followed. Work is hard enough without verbal abuse. You are upset enough to write us, and now you have some suggestions. Do they make sense? Don’t gossip and obsess about how you are treated. That will only make you feel worse. Either speak up assertively, bite your tongue, or seek work where you don’t have a bully boss. There are good places to work and most places will be better if we work with the attitude that working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden