What Is Verbal Abuse in the Workplace?

by Charity Tober ; Updated September 26, 2017
Manager angry at his secretary

According to federal laws and regulations, every employee is entitled to a work environment free from harassment and abuse. Some types of abuse, such as verbal abuse, can be subtle -- limited to personal conversations and emails between employees -- and not easily identified by management. Put guidelines in place stating a zero-tolerance workplace abuse policy to catch and prevent this type of behavior in the workplace.

Actions Considered Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse in the workplace includes shouting, demeaning remarks, name calling, belittling, and offensive or vulgar language as well as harassing remarks related to race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. This type of behavior can occur by management, between employees or even toward customers, clients or contractors.

Create a Workplace Anti-Abuse Policy

Create a workplace anti-abuse policy to ensure employees understand the company has zero tolerance for this behavior. State that employees should treat one another and customers with dignity and respect. Give clear examples of what constitutes verbal abuse -- such as screaming, demeaning remarks or offensive emails. Ensure there is a discreet method -- such as email or an after-hours company phone contact -- to report offensive actions, so employees feel comfortable coming forward with instances of abuse. In the case of verbal abuse coming from a customer, instruct employees to remain calm and attempt to remedy the situation. If this cannot be done, the irate customer should be transferred to a supervisor to handle. List the penalties of violating the anti-abuse policy, from receiving a written warning up to termination of employment.

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Distribute the Policy to Employees

Schedule a company meeting and distribute the anti-abuse policy to each employee. Go through the policy, highlighting important sections and answering any questions. Have each employee sign a form stating they received, read and will abide by the policy and file the form in each employee's personnel folder.

Enforce the Policy

Enforce the anti-abuse policy whenever necessary. Investigate and deal with each instance of verbal abuse reported immediately as well as with impartial and consistent discipline. Management should sit down with all parties involved to remedy the situation and prevent it from escalating. Make no exceptions or display any favoritism, showing employees that each and every person at the company is responsible for his actions. Employees do have rights to a non-hostile work environment and can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the Department of Labor to file a complaint against the company if the abusive behavior is not corrected by management.

About the Author

Based in Lake Mary, Fla., Charity Tober writes mainly on finance, career, interior decorating, parenting and weddings. Tober has also self-published two children's picture books. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the University of Florida.

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