Verbal Abuse in the Workplace
handling verbal abuse at work

Four Steps to Help Employees Advocate for Themselves

Quite often, supervisors, managers and senior managers don’t realize the impact that shouting, swearing and name-calling have on employees. Bullying is not always loud and aggressive; it takes many forms. Any time a person uses strength or power to intimidate another, it is bullying. Belittling and intimidating employees does nothing positive for the organization, and when this behavior is seen by customers or clients, it harms the organization’s reputation. Because of this damage and the costs of employee turnover and low morale, HR managers must take workplace bullying seriously.

Legal penalties for workplace bullying are likely to grow. Bullying in the workplace is now seen through the same lens as sexual harassment. The Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB), first introduced by David Yamada, Professor of Law at Suffolk University, gives severely-bullied employees a legal claim for their damages. The bill creates legal incentives for employers to take swift measures against bullying and prevent it from happening.

HR departments should have procedures in place that employees can follow when they feel bullied. Employees should feel empowered, not helpless, in these situations. As part of their onboarding orientation, employees should be instructed to take the following steps if they experience bullying in the workplace.

1. Address the Situation

Whether the bully is a fellow coworker or a manager, teach employees to discuss the problem in a professional way. This does not mean launching a war of words or escalating the confrontation. Employees should explain that the situation is having a negative effect and they will notify a supervisor if it continues. Encourage employees to have these conversations with the coworker or manager in private.

2. Document the situation

When people are distressed, it can be easy to inflate a situation or just forget what exactly was said. Employees should document what has occurred and who witnessed it. By keeping notes on these instances, resolutions can be reached more quickly.

3. Reference the employee handbook

If the company handbook includes an internal grievance system, harassment policy, anti-violence policy, code of conduct, or ethics hotline, direct employees to those sections. Employees should follow the procedures outlined in these policies.

4. Talk with Human Resources

Finally, encourage employees to bring the problem to HR if the attempt to talk over the situation with the bully doesn’t help. When a situation has reached this stage, the HR professional becomes the attentive ear and judge of the problem at hand.

The Responsibility of HR Professionals

When employees’ attempts to improve the situation don’t solve the problem, the responsibility falls on the organization’s leaders to take decisive action. HSD Metrics can help companies identify and remove cases of bullying with our ExitRight interview. Our ExitRight interviews include questions about ethics, harassment, safety, and other compliance matters that are important to your organization. gathers and presents the data you need to understand why employees are leaving, so you can address problems before they further damage productivity, morale, and employee retention. Employee turnover is costly, and measures can be taken to keep your best talent and help your employees feel comfortable and safe at work.

When any of our comprehensive red flag words come up in a respondent comment, our newly redesigned reporting portal sends an instant notification alert, and allows users to quickly view highlighted and categorized red flag words across all responses.

We are also proud to offer stay interview services to help your employees answer questions honestly and comprehensively. It can be intimidating to blow the whistle on someone who is acting inappropriately, but outsourced stay interviews give employees the anonymity and security to truly speak their mind. Would you like to know more about our exit interviews, stay interviews, and surveys? Contact us online today or call 877-439-9315.