Verbal Abuse at Work: How It Impacts You and Your Job
Abuse in the workplace can come in many forms. Most commonly we think of verbal abuse, but it can also manifest in ways such as ignoring, diminishing or rejecting ideas or brushing someone off. No matter what the form, abuse at work is detrimental to your career and confidence. This article shares a personal look into this important topic, making us more aware and educated on how we can combat it.
Recently I coached a senior level manager who hired me specifically to improve her communication and presentation skills.† This woman told me that she was losing confidence in her ability to speak with confidence and authority in both small group settings and on the phone with individuals.† Unnerved and frustrated by this situation, she decided to engage the services of an executive coach.† A multiple decade employee with the company, my client couldnít figure out what was happening.† By the time we started the coaching relationship she felt totally inadequate.†
At first I didnít know what was going on.† I watched her deliver sample presentations standing in front of a conference room, and I critiqued them.† I demonstrated body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, voice variations, and desired word choice. †I showed her ways to connect with an audience. †Finally, I requested that she do a confidence assessment, write a story about her life, and complete a personality systems test.† Together we discussed all of these in some detail.†† One day I was sitting in front of this woman, and the idea popped into my head to have her tell me about her relationship with her bosses. †Thatís when everything changed.† That was the turning point in the coaching experience.
The more I heard about this womanís interactions with the men at the top, the more convinced I became that she was the victim of verbal abuse.† Yes, verbal abuse.† Itís an ugly term.† But it was real for her.† My client recounted several scenarios during which the Senior Vice President referred to her as ďstupid, inept, incapableĒ in front of other employees and potential customers in meetings.† Further, with tears welling up in the corners of her eyes, she told me that both men have disrespected her for yearsótoo many to recall.† The disrespect came in the form of ignoring her, diminishing or rejecting her ideas, brushing her off, interrupting her, requiring her to jump through unnecessary hoops, and name calling.† Chronically.† While she sensed that something was wrong, she didnít understand exactly what.† Worse, she minimized the inappropriate behavior over and over again.† She kept telling herself she must not be as smart or experienced as she thought.
Realizing that she has been verbally abused at work for perhaps two decades was extremely painful and embarrassing for her.† But it was freeing too. †At long last, she understood why she was feeling so uncomfortable and insecure.† The mystery was solved.† It took a coaching engagement to uncover the truth.†
Make no mistake:† verbal abuse is rampant in the workplace as well as in our homes, and it shows up in many different forms.† Itís a sad fact.† If someone is putting you down, discounting your feelings, minimizing your opinions, making a fool of you, screaming at you, pretending you donít exist, deliberately embarrassing you, or causing you to doubt your knowledge, experience, and skill, then you are being abused.† Regardless of whether the person is doing this occasionally or constantly, itís abuse.† While you may not want to face it, thatís exactly whatís happening.† Your boss, coworker, or spouse is treating you this way?† Well, itís wrong.† Donít tolerate verbal abuse!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sylvia Hepler, Owner and President of Launching Lives, LLC, is an executive coach based in South Central PA.† Her ideal clients are persons in management positions:† corporate, nonprofit, and business owners.† Her company mission is to support executives as they solve problems, develop leadership skills, and increase balance in their lives.† Sylvia offers three programs, any of which may overlap depending on client need:† First Class Management Program; Change, Loss, and Grief Program; and Career Development Program.† Her professional background includes:† extensive nonprofit management/leadership, public speaking, business writing, retail sales, and teaching.