Identifying And Dealing With Verbal Abuse In The Workplace

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Written By Editorial Team

Verbal abuse is a sort of emotional abuse. It occurs when someone uses words to abuse, dominate, belittle, manipulate, and degrade another person’s psychological well-being. Verbal abuse is intended to exert and retain authority over another individual.

Most individuals believe that if they were verbally abused, they would be aware of it. Considering that verbal abuse frequently takes the form of yelling, insults, name-calling, and disparaging behaviour. However, there is more to verbal abuse than most people think. Some people are verbally assaulted regularly without even realizing it.

Anyone, including children, families, parents, and coworkers, can be subjected to verbal abuse at any time in their lives. Although verbal abuse might occasionally precede physical assault, this is not always the case. There can be verbal abuse without physical assault. The consequences of verbal abuse can be just as severe as physical assault.

Categories Of Verbal Abuse

Inflicting verbal abuse on a victim can take many forms, from overt acts like name-calling and threatening behaviour to subtler ones like gaslighting or persistently correcting, interrupting, putting down, and humiliating them.

Verbal abuse might even take the form of lengthy silence. When this occurs, the offender tries to punish and control the victim by cutting off communication. For some people, especially those who have endured verbal abuse as children or in the household, it can be hard to recognize them since they seem like a natural part of communication. They can, however, have long-lasting effects and are anything but typical.

Verbal abuse can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including:

  • Blaming: This type entails convincing the victim that they are to blame for the abusive behaviour or that they invited the verbal abuse upon themselves.
  • Condescension: Although sarcastic remarks meant to denigrate and demean the other person are frequently camouflaged as humour, they can be considered a kind of verbal abuse.
  • Criticism: It refers to direct, unforgiving criticism that intends to make the target feel awful about themselves. It is not supportive and is instead malicious and harmful. Public or private criticism can hurt, especially if the critic is spiteful and has no intention of contributing anything.
  • Gaslighting: This is a gradual, often hidden, emotional abuse in which the abuser causes the victim to doubt their judgments and reality.
  • Humiliation: It can be hard to be insulted in public by a peer, a friend, a family member, or a romantic partner.
  • Judging: This sort of verbal abuse entails looking down on the victim, refusing to accept them for who they are, or harbouring unrealistic expectations of them.
  • Manipulation: This is a sort of verbal abuse that involves using words to manipulate and control another person. Making claims such as, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t talk to other people about our relationship,” or using guilt trips to convince you to do particular things are examples.

The Impact Of Verbal Abuse On Workers

A person’s self-esteem is damaged and they feel helpless when they are the victim of verbal abuse, which is a form of verbal violence. It is a corrective action that also involves using harsh language. With this in mind not so many people dare to report abuse, as indicated by the Workplace Buying Institute only thirty per cent of people surveyed had done so.

Unprovoked abuse can take many forms, such as using toxic language, abusing someone’s trust, humiliating them in front of others, and verbally threatening them. The act of forcefully criticizing, insulting, or denigrating another person is verbal abuse.

It is a form of communication that damages the other person’s self-concept and inflicts negative emotions. It is characterized by underlying hatred and rage. Anyone can occasionally use verbal abuse as a maladaptive tactic, for example, when they are anxious or in pain. It is a series of actions used by some people to manipulate or control others or to inflict retribution.

People who experience verbal abuse at work may experience anxiety, despair, and restlessness. Additionally, it may make victims question their understanding of reality, further isolating them from the outside world. Additionally, the long-term consequences of verbal abuse at work may increase turnover and absenteeism while lowering productivity and causing burnout.

It’s crucial to successfully deal with verbal abuse incidents to foster a healthy and productive work environment. Therefore, get assistance if you believe you or someone you know is experiencing verbal harassment at work.

Other Consequences Of Verbal Abuse At Work:

  • Even on days off, employees may have panic or anxiety attacks at the mention of work or the prospect of returning to work.
  • Embarrassed by being pushed around
  • Finding previously pleasurable tasks no longer interesting.
  • Feel guilty for causing unpleasant feelings at work.

Why Do People Abuse Others at Work?

If there is such a thing as an average abuser, most of them will be people who hold authority over the victim. Most research in recent years has indicated that women are more at risk of being verbally abused than men.

An abuser frequently has a network of pals] who could encourage the abuser or act as eyewitnesses. These folks chuckle and attempt to convince the victim that the verbal abuse was all in good fun and that they shouldn’t be so sensitive. To avoid leaving any evidence of the assault, abusers occasionally wait until they are alone with their victim.

Whatever the case, verbal abuse is frequently driven by the abuser’s urge to feel more powerful and in control, just like a lot of bullying that takes place outside of the workplace. When under stress or in other circumstances where they feel the need to exert control over someone, they will abuse someone they perceive to be weak in some way and exploit that person to help them feel better.

Why Is It Vital To Understand Abuse In The Workplace?

Understanding workplace abuse, how it occurs and its impacts are key to eliminating this unacceptable practice. With the advancement in work relations, abuse should not be an issue that still exists in modern-day work environments. You are not required to suffer quietly, though, as a result.

Verbal abuse is a form of harassment and could inflict psychological damage on its victims thus it should be reported officially to the relevant authorities such as managers or supervisors. It happens frequently.

How Abused Employees Can Address The Problem

In some instances, the victim may shy away from reporting verbal abuse due to fear of being alienated and guilt of being blamed for the outcome of their actions but such should not be the case.

Also, acknowledge that what is happening to you is abuse and is not normal. Avoid using the excuses “well, they are simply having a bad day” or “he has a bad temper.”

Try to have a conversation with the abusive individual about their actions. Inform them that you find their behaviour intolerable and don’t enjoy it when they speak that way. Either they will dismiss it or they will take you seriously.

Sometimes dealing with the problem makes workers feel as terrible as the abuse. However, they are not to blame for the abuse. As a result, facing the problem is essential to preventing it from happening again. Here are some methods for dealing with and expelling verbally abusive people.

1. Keep A Record

Start keeping a log of all instances of abuse, including the date, time, context, people present, and any comments made. Maintaining such a record may come in handy when providing an account or recollection of the type and nature of abuse you were subjected to before a hearing.

2. Deal With The Situation

If workers feel secure enough, they should talk to the abuser about the problem and express their displeasure with the way they were handled. The worried employee must get in touch with the team and ask them to be mindful of the tone and language they use, like in the case of an employee whose work was harshly critiqued and rejected during a meeting.

If the request is denied, downplayed, or laughed off, employees have the option of recording the dialogue or reporting it to management or human resources.

4. Involvement Of HR

If an employee is reluctant to face the abuser directly, they should contact their HR manager and express their concerns. The HR should, preferably, schedule a meeting so the parties can speak about the matter on a neutral platform.

Even if an employee isn’t the target of the verbally abusive behaviour, they could observe it. In these situations, staff members should start by helping the victim of abuse. They might need help bringing the problem to the attention of the management, or they might need someone to speak with.

Companies must implement an anti-abuse policy in the workplace in addition to addressing the abuse through the appropriate methods. It maintains a positive, productive, and collaborative work environment.

So What Steps Can Be Taken To Prevent Verbal Abuse At The Workplace?

Some measures may be taken by both people and organizations to stop verbal abuse in the workplace. For instance, firms should create clear standards prohibiting this behaviour and distribute them to all employees. The indications of verbally abusive behaviour in the workplace should be taught to supervisors so they can react if it does.

The following can further be done to address this problem:

1. Employee-Friendly Policies

Establish a workplace anti-abuse policy for workers to know that the company has a zero-tolerance policy for such behaviour. The policy states that employees and customers should be shown respect and dignity. Give concrete examples of verbal abuse, such as shouting, making disparaging remarks, or sending insulting emails.

2. Reporting Approach

To encourage employees to report instances of abuse, make sure there is a separate channel for doing so, such as an email address or an after-hours phone number for the business. If a customer verbally abuses staff, tell them to keep it together and work to find a solution. The dissatisfied client should be given to a supervisor if this fails. The penalties for violating the anti-abuse policy should be listed; they might range from a written warning to termination.

3. Keep Spreading The Word

Set up a business meeting and distribute copies of the anti-abuse policy to each employee. Review the policy, highlight key clauses, and address any questions if unable to understand them. Keep a signed record in each employee’s personnel file attesting to the fact that they have received, reviewed, and agreed to abide by the policy.

Resources For Those Who Have Been Verbally Abused At Work

All employees should become familiar with the rules that most firms have in place to address workplace harassment. Additionally, there is numerous support organizations and hotlines available to assist those who have been the target of verbal abuse. Victims are capable of healing and moving on with their life with enough time and resources.


The occurrence of verbal abuse at work is not a secret. How to react when it occurs to you is the question that demands a solution, though. It might be challenging to define and fight verbal abuse. However, with the right set of mind and healthy workplace approaches, it is possible to overcome this phenomenon.

Workplace verbal abuse is not conducive to a collaborative and healthy working environment. Employee dissatisfaction, depression, and a greater attrition rate are just a few effects of ongoing maltreatment in the workplace. Because of this, businesses need to have a clear anti-abuse policy and regularly hold training sessions on practices that promote inclusiveness, anti-harassment, and diversity.

The use of abusive language at work is a severe problem that could have long-term effects on both employees and employers. It might be hard to determine when jokes or banter cross the line, but you should learn to spot the indications of verbal abuse so you can intervene before things get worse.

Please get assistance if you are receiving or observing verbal threats at work. Keep in mind that nobody deserves to be mistreated at work.