Verbal abuse in the workplace is bullying. And while we won’t hesitate to intervene if we witness a child being bullied, the workplace is a different landscape, isn’t it? An astounding 72 percent of the adult Americans are familiar with workplace bullying. Most of the offenders are men, most of the targets women, and less than 20% of employers will address it. So, here are proven methods to shift that norm, one person at a time, starting with each of us.
Buy an “Intelligence is sexy” t-shirt!
Learn to recognize demeaning, disrespectful language and behavior. Sarcasm, from two Greek words that translate to “tear flesh”, is a common means of snide communication. Insults aimed at your attire or looks, scolding or berating with or without the presence of colleagues, constitutes verbal abuse. These assaults are often echoed in hostile, aggressive hand gestures and body language. Deceit, shame, guilt, or being pitted against another employee may form a backdrop to verbal abuse.
Find Your Voice
If you don’t have your own back, who will? Time to speak up for yourself. If the thought of this makes you cringe, first write a script that feels natural where you say, “I deserve to treated with respect.” Role play with a coworker, or, in your mirror. Rehearse this essential confrontation so when the time occurs, you’re ready to define your boundary. Make “I” statements. Using “You” puts your offender on the defensive. Remember, the game ends when one person quits. However unpopular or uncomfortable it is to stand in your truth, there’s no wrong time for it.
Document, Document, Document
Though most of us carry devices capable of recording, do keep a written timeline of who, what was said, when, and where. Sometimes this practice helps us awaken. More useful, this evidence will illuminate what may be invisible to other management or human resource colleagues.
Trusted and clear Coworker support is sunlight after the storm. Since verbal abuse doesn’t occur in a vacuum, you’re likely not the first or only target. Discover when it happened prior, and how, if at all, it was resolved. Recruit support for any confrontation you intend. Beware the spiral into gossip born of resentment. Though tempting, gossip is divisive, and worse, you might resemble your bully by mimic. Really.
Expand Your View
When you understand that a man with a hammer will always find a nail, you realize we all experience the world from our internal projections. This allows you to enjoy a buffer of space and curiosity around encounters, especially hostile ones. And curiosity opens the door to compassion and understanding, the knowledge that things happen for us, not to us. Practice curiosity as you grow brave and stand your ground. Resist the urge to judge, especially yourself.