Verbal Abuse in the Workplace: What It Is and What To Do
Many employees experience verbal abuse in the office regularly. It’s already disturbing enough when you get verbally attacked by strangers, but it becomes even more demeaning when you hear it from someone you have to see everyday at work.
In this article, we will help you differentiate verbal abuse from simple teasing. We’ll also provide guidelines on how to report verbal abuse in the workplace and how you can protect yourself with anonymous reporting using DoNotPay.
Different Types of Workplace Harassment
Workplace harassment can present itself in many forms, and it exists in organizations of all sizes. Whether it’s bullying or racial discrimination, it’s important to recognize harassment and know what to do when you see it happening. All types of harassment are illegal, based on the provisions of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and can affect an employee’s performance and place an employer in legal trouble. Let’s go through each type in detail:
|Types of harassment||Description|
|Verbal harassment||A nonphysical form of abuse that involves demeaning remarks, offensive gestures, racial slurs, insults, offensive jokes, and baseless criticism.|
|Psychological harassment||A covert type of harassment that includes withholding information from a co-worker or other tactics that mentally degrades and decreases the victim’s self-esteem.|
|Sexual harassment||A prevalent form of harassment that involves unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate touching, sexually charged jokes, or the distribution of pornographic images.|
|Physical harassment||This type of harassment varies in severity and includes shoving or downright physical assault. If it is intentional and results in physical harm or violence, it is considered physical harassment.|
|Cyberbullying||Includes posting inappropriate comments related to work on social media, impersonating a coworker online, or making false allegations on online forums and other channels about work or a coworker.|
What Defines Verbal Abuse in the Workplace
Verbal abuse is not limited to cursing, yelling, mocking, or insulting the victim. It may be challenging to identify verbal abuse at work because people have different personalities and tolerate teasing or gossiping at different levels. However, there are clear signs that could indicate that you are being verbally abused such as:
- Demeaning comments that prevent you from being productive at work
- Long-standing occurrences that affect your mental well-being and performance
- Dreading going to work or obsessing about what might happen during break time
- Increase in blood pressure or heart rate, having sweaty palms, and other signs of anxiety when the abuser is nearby
- Feelings of shame or guilt at work
- Not enjoying the activities you once enjoyed doing
Employer: Your Responsibilities for Alleviating Workplace Violence
If employees have the obligation to report verbal abuse, employers also have the responsibility of providing a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers verbal abuse as a serious problem and protects victims who report it. As the boss, you are required to have policies that have a strong and proactive stance against any form of workplace harassment. If you are made aware of a complaint about verbal abuse, you have to take it seriously and address it immediately. Here are more of your responsibilities:
- Consider workplace violence as a federal issue. According to the FBI, employers must establish “reasonably explicit standards” for supervisors that make it clear to employees that “no one has a right to make anyone else feel threatened.”
- Clearly communicate that workplace violence, including bullying and verbal abuse, will not be tolerated. Develop a policy against it, emphasize it in the company handbook, and post bulletin notices in common areas of the office.
- Don’t retaliate when an employee reports you. Employees may notify OSHA and you can challenge the inspector’s citation, fine, or complaint. However, you cannot retaliate against the employee for reporting to OSHA. If you have a complaint against the employee, it needs to be valid and well-documented.
How to Report Verbal Abuse in the Workplace
While most organizations have clear-cut policies on reporting verbal abuse and other forms of harassment, others may not. Nonetheless, you should not keep quiet about the abuse as it will not help you in any way. Incidents of abuse should be reported to HR and investigated. Here are some steps that you could take:
- In the case of verbal abuse which is not physical, you may try resolving the issue with the harasser. Confront them privately and ask them to stop berating you.
- If your attempts to resolve it with the harasser are unsuccessful, report the issue to your supervisor or HR. Provide proof such as messages, screenshots, and witness testimonies.
- If HR fails to address your issues, you can notify OSHA. You can file a complaint in person, call them at 800-321-6742 (OSHA), email, or fill out a form at the OSHA website. Employees may also request for an OSHA inspection which allows them to speak with the inspector privately.
Sometimes, filing a complaint can be complex and tiresome, especially if HR or your manager is not on your side. Most employees prefer to report anonymously to protect themselves from retaliation and awkward situations in the office. That is where DoNotPay can help!
How To File an Anonymous HR Complaint With DoNotPay
DoNotPay’s Anonymous HR Complaints product lets you report verbal abuse without having to reveal your identity. It’s a safer and easier way to file complaints for any form of workplace harassment. All you have to do is:
1. Go to DoNotPay and choose the Anonymous HR Complaints product.
2. Enter your employer’s name and HR department’s mailing address
3. Explain the issues you’re experiencing and how you want them to be resolved.
4. DoNotPay will automatically mail the report anonymously on your behalf.
How easy was that? In just 4 steps, DoNotPay will mail your complaint to your company’s HR department without revealing your personal information.
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