Documenting a Rude and Abusive Coworker or Supervisor
Unfortunately, there are some people in the workplace, who are venomous and nasty all of the time. They like to be sharp-tongued, sarcastic and offensive just for the hell of abusing their coworkers or subordinates. If they are racist, then they are likely going out of their way to abuse members of other races.
Regardless of whether or not you are dealing with part-time or full-time abuse at work, you have to make sure to document everything that’s going on. Even if you want to try to be the so-called bigger person in the situation or you are fearful of making a complaint for fear of looking like a whiner or out of fear of retaliation, you may change your mind at some point and want to make an official complaint to a supervisor or to Human Resources.
Once you know you are dealing with someone who intentionally or unintentionally shows they have no self-control, self-censorship, compassion, empathy or professionalism, you should immediately begin documenting this individual—even if it is a supervisor or someone else in authority. Remember, as you are documenting the individual, you should also be making them aware that you find their behavior to be rude and hostile and you should inform them that their method of communication does not work well with you. Ask if you can meet face-to-face to talk about how you can work better together and to come to some understanding. But, again, you should be documenting the person despite any efforts to correct the problem without managerial intervention.
You can do this by creating a log/tracking sheet to document any incidents of abusive, hostile, harassing or retaliatory behavior from the person. This might include threats to your job or threats of physical violence, having papers or other items thrown at you, being subjecting to name-calling or racial epithets, being screamed at privately or in front of coworkers, being given menial assignments, etc. All of this negative and potentially illegal behavior should be tracked.
On top of logging incidents with this person, you should also keep a list of witnesses. These witnesses can confirm your version of events to management or Human Resources. This will provide you with credibility about your complaints and will demonstrate to management that there is an issue that needs to be addressed. When compiling a list of witnesses, also keep track of the specific incidences that each person witnessed. By tracking witnesses with incidences, you will diminish any confusion at a later time and you will make it easier for an internal or external investigator to proceed with their questioning and to come to an understanding of what’s been transpiring at work.
You must also keep electronic and hard copies of rude, offensive, and hostile emails or other written correspondence with this person. Save the electronic files and forward them to your personal email accounts online (e.g., an AOL or Yahoo! or Google email account). You can also forward rude and offensive emails to the individual’s supervisor or manager raising the issue about the lack of professionalism being displayed and pointing out the hostile/harassing tone of the communication. Ask for the supervisor to address the issue with their subordinate. Make sure they understand that you will make a complaint to Human Resources, if nothing is done.
Another thing you can do is to save rude, offensive, and hostile voice mail messages. Never delete these messages. Better yet, use a tape recorder to record the message, in case someone else inadvertently deletes the message for you. You would not believe how corporate spies will rummage through your office on company orders. I’ve had it done to me and have seen this done to a coworker. Files in my office were moved, items on my desk were examined, contents of my drawers weren’t as I left them, etc. Always assume that someone might destroy your evidence and consider ways to preserve any key evidence you might need at a later time.
If the person is refusing to correct their behavior, despite your requests, seek out their supervisor and have a discussion—if you haven’t already done so. Present your evidence and state unequivocally that you won’t tolerate the abuse any longer. Ask the person what they plan to put an end to the abuse. If after a short time, nothing changes, contact Human Resources—or you can do this jointly with speaking to the supervisor. If your supervisor or manager is the perpetrator of the abuse, contact Human Resources or your supervisor’s supervisor/manager. If your supervisor is your abuser, you don’t have to notify your supervisor about your official complaint because the law recognizes the conflict with that scenario and does not force employees to report abuse and harassment to the abuser and harasser.
The nuclear option is reporting potentially illegal abuse to the EEOC, the Office of Human Rights or some other fair practice employment agency.
Remember, you do not have to subject yourself to abuse and harassment at work. Regardless of how well you are being paid, a hostile work environment is NEVER part of the deal!