How to deal with verbal abuse at the workplace

21 Oct 2022

It’s unfortunate that sometimes, workplaces are tainted with people who show us the ugly side of things. Without their attempt to interact nicely with you, your chances for a better day at work goes out the window. Especially if there is verbal abuse at the workplace. Getting a difficult co-worker to deal with is almost inevitable in one’s life. Difficult co-workers who make no effort in interacting with you in a nice or friendly way can get hard to handle. Even if the abuse is not directed at you, you will need to find ways to handle this toxicity that they have spread around the workplace. Here are a few ways to handle such a scenario. 

Identify it

Firstly, figure out what kind of verbal abuse it is. Whether it’s shouting or swearing, or intimidating bodily gestures.

Verbal abuse at the workplace can include insults, ridicule, and criticism— and words that undermine your performance or a co-worker’s.


Speak to the person who is throwing verbal abuse around. Find a good time. Sit down and speak to them about how their behaviour is making you or another co-worker(or a lot of people) uncomfortable. If they retaliate, you will know that you have to take further steps in handling the situation. However, if they were not aware that their behaviour is making someone uncomfortable, and you talking to them helped change that behaviour, a bigger disaster has been averted. This is always better than taking things forward negatively. 

Do not apologise

Don't say sorry when you are not at fault. If they are hurling insults at you or trying to undermine you, do not apologise even if you committed a mistake in your work. Choose to disengage from the situation when a co-worker is throwing insults or is enraged about something. Disengage and revisit the situation when everyone and everything is calmer. You can tell them, 

“I do not wish to speak to you when you are hurling insults at me. When you calm down, we can discuss the issue.”

Understand the situation

Try and understand why the abusive teammate is behaving in this manner. There always will be a 'why'; try to find it out. The person may be snapping so much at everyone in the workplace because of a lack of control in their private lives. This is not a reason or justification for verbal abuse at the workplace. However, knowing the root cause of such behaviour may help you feel empathetic and control your emotions from flaring when you confront them. 

Stay in control

Always try and stay in control of your emotions. Do not go with the saying 'tit for tat'. And do not put your emotions on display. Avoid exhibiting passive-aggressive conduct, or being sarcastic. If the person is not behaving in an appropriate manner, do not throw yourself in a conversation or try to make them see right from wrong. Chances are, they won’t see it. You can say, 

“You are not speaking to me in an appropriate manner, I cannot talk to you at the moment.”

Don’t ignore

Our first instinct is to ignore things that bother us. Ignorance is bliss, we tell ourselves. But, in reality, it is nothing close. Never ignore verbal abuse at the workplace that they are displaying either to you or any abused teammate in the workplace. Their behaviour, if ignored, gives them tacit approval to what they are doing. Let them know what they are doing is wrong, it is important. How else will you see the change? 

Report it

If verbal abuse at the workplace grows or continues, try and document it before you report it to either the human resources or your manager. Write down the time and date for when it happened. There could be other details you might need to jot down. For example, the exact words by the abuser or some statistical data about any loss at the workplace. Write them down as well. Once you are sure your data has enough credibility, go ahead and report it. 

If the situation does not improve after you have attempted to make a difference, leave. If the higher-ups do not take any appropriate measures, then the workplace is not for you.

Workplace bullying is never excusable, especially verbal abuse. If the situation does not improve after repeated attempts in making it better, then it is something that cannot be changed by you—therefore, leave the place. It is always important to work in an atmosphere that does not challenge your mental health. 

 It is only when your mental health is intact can you work and remain productive. If your mental health is challenged, not only are you facing a problem, but the company that employed you also suffers a loss. Therefore, it is extremely essential that you take care of your needs in order to meet the companies. 

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