To face to face harassment, has added the way to communicate inappropriately to emails and Whatsappfor example, and also on video calls when making home-office.
Verbal abuse in business and organizational contexts consists of abusive behavior that initially manifests itself in verbal form, and may come from a superior or a collaborator to another colleague, or from a collaborator to a superior.
This means that abuse is not only a question of hierarchy, but that it occurs in different dimensions. Corporate verbal abuse is one form of workplace bullying, as it is conduct that involves a mode of aggression or harassment of someone over others, and that results in undermining, belittling, insulting or otherwise prejudicing, for example, by public or private humiliation.
Although in previous decades it was considered a manifestation of stress, it is now known that it is the impossibility of effective emotional self-regulation, a deficient management of emotions, and, even in highly competitive and stressful environments, due to the impossibility of exercising non-violent modes of communication.
So, communication with verbal abuse is any communicative act, verbal, gestural, obvious or insinuated, where an immediate value judgment is made on another person or persons, which, at least at that moment of the emotional outburst, seeks to undermine, degrade or denigrate.
It is not, in itself, the fact of an eventual and very sporadic rise in tone in the dialogue between two or more people; or a call for attention whose form can perhaps be perceived as strong or out of place, provided it is given spaced out. These can be consequences of the stress or the rhythm of work, and of the impossibility of knowing how to communicate assertively.
One very effective way is to train all your teams in emotional intelligence, and specifically in non-violent communication, a stream of communication learning specifically focused on minimizing (if not completely eliminating) all the traits of violent culture that often manifest in business. In addition to what we know as assertive communication, which is more frequent in companies (at least from a gradual awareness).
It’s a reality that most companies speak loudly. The competition, the pressure for results, the inner insecurity of leaders and collaborators, the changes and transformations, produce a pressure cooker effect that sometimes ends up exploding. One of these explosions is verbal abuse.
These traits are often naturalized in companies, as is the case in the family setting, as if it were socially accepted that there can be verbal abuse of a different tone.
In any case, the best thing to do is to stop in time, to put limits, not to allow the trampling before the slightest glimpse that, emotionally, you are being mistreated or manipulated.
In others, with implosion, people become ill, absenteeism rises to higher levels than expected and there is disenchantment and loss of meaning, which ends up driving people away.
Companies with leaders who are characterized by verbal abuse lose credibility, cease to be attractive to the market.
A frequent example is the amount of ads or profiles that head-hunters have when they profile the candidate by saying something like: The head-hunter is an extremely anxious person, extremely demanding with others, who doesn’t admit too many mistakes and who is blunt in his way of proceeding. You don’t have to be a detective to realize that you may be dealing with a potential verbal abuser, even if you haven’t been told.
It is the companies’ responsibility to train all levels of the company in non-violent communication skills if they want to retain the seal of good employer branding.
In many companies with which I work as an executive coach, abusive leaders have been dismissed, since such behavior does not coincide with the company’s values. In others, we have reached agreements and consensus on the treatment that should be given at all levels; a document signed by all employees has been put in writing, and widely displayed; sometimes we even do The Week of Good Treatment where good gestures are encouraged to enhance and reaffirm that agreement.
It is also a reality that in environments where assertive communication, good manners and healthy environments are privileged, new talent is more likely to attract attention and there is less turnover.
- The first recommendation is to refer the abuser for psychological consultation for as long as the health professional deems appropriate. However, many companies want to cover up these situations because of the legal implications, and even the victim is usually the one who is fired instead of the victimizer.
- It is always necessary to take corrective action, if the employees continue in the company: sincere apologies, the approach of opposing positions and honesty are values that add up when it comes to third parties in these matters.
- Clearly and concisely include abuse as one of the unacceptable behaviours from any point of view in the company, for example, in all protocols, internal regulations, confidentiality documents signed by the employee when entering.
- In many companies there are neutral committees, which even include some employees, who are responsible for receiving complaints and channeling recommendations to the area of talent management, suggesting courses of action, and have even been trained as mediators to help resolve conflicts.
As a positive sign, the number of situations of verbal, physical and psychological abuse is decreasing due to the visibility of the human rights of harassed and abused people (mobbing, among others), so this is an incentive in favour.
On the contrary, many people play with the subject, and at the slightest provocation they already consider it an abuse, and perhaps it is not.
- Do not remain silent: Sometimes, due to situations of disparity in power, what happened is kept a secret. The best thing is to find the appropriate way inside and outside the company, so that the person can express himself, vent and restore his emotional balance.
- Promote a change of position if verbal abuse seems to persist. Many people suffer from burnout stress (which leads to Burnout Syndrome) by enduring unusual doses of abuse. If feasible, ask for a change of workplace, or, in the extreme case, consider resignation or agree to a leave.
- Do not permanently over-adapt to situations. It often happens that an employee, or even a boss who is mistreated by an employee of his team (or by his own superior), over adapts himself time and time again. This produces an enormous wear and tear on his psychological structure that leads him to have to resort to a mental health professional, in addition to other consequences on his self-esteem and self-worth.
- Avoid sudden emotional outburst. If we achieve self-regulation of emotions, we can restrict the violent response (in this case, verbal abuse in companies).
- Detect the underlying pattern within the emotion that triggers verbal abuse (e.g., anger, disappointment, frustration, insecurity, etc.).
- Avoid general expressions as I feel bad, you’re a mess, I expected something else from you, you let me down. Instead, be specific and very descriptive verbally and with the tone of voice, so that, all in agreement, allow the other person to grasp the deep meaning of what I want to convey.
- Practice non-violent communication throughout the organization. Nonviolent communication is a way to channel the way we relate, privileging the power of assertive listening rather than the hurtful, denigrating, or stabbing response directed toward another or others. It is based on the ideas of the psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, a mediator, educator and therapist with a long history who even intervened as a mediator in wars and borderline issues between passes. It is a specific system to use a more assertive and coherent communication with our personal values.
Here, the main keys to this model of Nonviolent Communication from Marshall with some suggestions from me.
- First step: describe the fact as it is, without adding adjectives or judging the value of the other.
- Second: calmly express how I feel about what I have described.
- Thirdly, to explain why that described fact does not coincide with my values or with the goal we need to achieve as a team, for example, in a calm, yet concise and clear way.
- Fourth: finally, to formulate a concrete and specific order that includes an agreement with all the details that we must ensure to arrive at a good result.
While it is a process that may seem difficult for many, once we train it comes spontaneously.
Facilitator and Executive Master Coach specialized in senior management, professionals and teams; professional communicator; international speaker; author of 30 books. LinkedIn Top Voice Amrica Latina 2019.
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