Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Documenting a Rude and Abusive Coworker or Supervisor

There are some people in the workplace, who become absolute nightmares whenever they are stressed out by deadlines or other work or professional issues. When they’re not stressed out and frustrated, they may be great to work with. But, when they are feeling any kind of pressure, they may become demanding, demeaning, bullying, etc. in how they interact with everyone around them. These people make it seem as though you are working with a Jekyll and Hyde type character. While these people are difficult to work with, at least they are only problematic on a part-time basis.

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!

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Danelle said...

I just want to thank you for this very informative and useful post. I am a woman currently dealing with a part time abusive co-worker in a male oriented business (construction) and I was at my wits end with anger at him. But now I know how to handle it and how to document incidents. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! You have really eased my mind...

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the valuable information. I am also dealing with a part-time abusive co-worker. Very often she will scream at me in front of other co-workers, all she says have to be considered right and she diminishes subordinates in front of others - including children.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

This was a really good post. I wasn't sure there was any information out there that would help me with my situation. But this is very clear and understandable. I plan to use your tips starting Monday.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great advice and helped me alot. Having a problem with supervisor. Verbally abusive & sarcastic just keeping track of all incidents with the people involved helps. Thanks alot. Was at wits end.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about this. Our coworker is a Black Lady from Sudan/Kenya. She's very abusive to us coworkers and also abusing the elderly. But the bad thing she know how to tell a lie. we are suffering from her for 2long years. Since we started working in this company. That's why most of the people work with her they Quit! Now we knew her strategies. She befriend you,trying to be nice and honest and in the end if she knew a lot from you because you trusted her she make some bad stories and telling the administrator that we're not doing our job well. which is not true. She's twisting the stories. She's the one whose been lazy working. Always watching tv, talking to someone to her cellphone, texting. when our residents asked for help she ignored them. and she comes to work 30 to 45 minutes late. She is a big Liar. We work as an honest people and we try our best to adjust to her but then she's being too much abusive from our goodness and the goodness of the old ladies living in here. I feel really bad of what she's doing to all of us. She even forge or copied the signature of our Boss/Owner of the company and she's so proud announcing it to us. But then we tell the problem to our boss but they just ignore it. hope there is a legal way to report this person/coworker. Our Elderly residents are suffering a lot from the standard of care (stardard of not caring them).Please Help me to stop her from doing her bad attitude and bad doings.We are victims of her abusive behavior. Please Help Us!

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a latin woman; and just reading what you have here is like wow, someone else actually went through what I have been going through for the past 3 + years! and I have not done anything about it! because I thought, that may be I would sound like a complainer and I do not know how to do that to begin with.
thank you

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may work in the civilian world, but when you live next to and are suppossed to hang out with these damaged individuals, you will find that your length of enlistment will determine when the abuse will end.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is wonderful advice. However I just wonder how long until I turn In my documents to my boss. Mine is a Jeckll and Hyde girl. Would I be okay to turn them in after I quit I want her to go down with me. Or now the thing is She has been there for 4 years me 4 weeks.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just find it ironic that black co workers seem to be the worst to work with.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for caring. I am dealing with a part-time abusive co-worker. I do not report to her but she talks to me like she is my boss. She does it to her subordinates and co-managers alike. She is aware of it, but she can't seem to control herself. She's even done it to our HR manager. It is sad that no one seem to be able to reprimand her. We are an asian fast food chain. Her position requires the US company to bring in her kind of talent from home country. Going through immigration is both difficult and expensive for the company. I've tendered my resignation yesterday feeling the situation is helpless. I might as well just spare myself from experiencing her regularly.

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the advice

12:52 AM  

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