MALPRACTICE OF THE MOUTH
Is your mind your greatest asset? Do you suffer from malpractice
of the mouth? That is the malady that occurs when the mouth
enrages before the mind engages! You may work with someone
There is no room in the workplace for verbal violence. None! It
is inappropriate, unacceptable, and, definitely, unprofessional.
No allowances for verbal violence should be made for educated
and mentally competent adults in positions of authority. NONE!
Folks who yell and curse (and some who add obscenities) are
using their words in the same way they would use their fists. It
is no more sophisticated. It is both a sign of lack of skills
and a symptom of unmanaged frustration. They need help--help to
express their feelings and their need for control appropriately.
Should providing this help be the responsibility of the
organization? That is an important question. Employees who are
doing an excellent job in most areas are the consideration,
aren't they? They are valuable and they have a 'people skills'
gap. The good news is that people skills can be taught. The bad
news is that some folks do not want to learn them. So, the first
assessment that must be made is the willingness of the employee
to examine and improve their skills. No number of training hours
can make a person change.
A few years ago, I was delivering a program on managing
difficult people successfully. As this is a program I often
deliver, some agencies regularly sent folks to it. One woman
appeared in the course three times in three years. At one break,
she complained to me, "I just don't know why they keep sending
me on this silly course. I know it by heart. It's a waste of
their money." Well, I knew why she was there. She was the
'difficult person' and she just would not internalize the
information being given to her. You know, we may all be someone
else's idea of a difficult person at times. This woman was the
poster child. She was bright enough. She was able to grasp the
concepts, but, she simply would not apply them to herself.
Perhaps, she is still being sent to that same course...and still
complaining about it!
Confrontation is not a 'four letter' word. Neither should it
employ certain four letter words. To confront simply means to
meet face-to-face. A confrontation adds the dynamic of differing
opinions. It is possible to have a conversational confrontation
when folks have skills and willingness.
Verbal violence is most often a scream for attention, a
misguided demand for respect or an attempt to exert control. All
three come from fear. Certainly, you can understand those fears,
however, two things must happen to make the workplace safe. The
violator must change his or her ways, and, the violated must
express their boundaries. Verbal violence is clearly harassment.
It has no place in the workplace. Yes, every now and then,
mistakes are made, tempers flare and apologies are accepted.
That goes with the territory of being human. It is when verbal
violence is a management style that steps must be taken. Whether
you are managing other folks or managing your personal life,
violence leads to alienation, the very thing the violator is
seeking most to avoid!
First things first. If you are the violator, stop! Step away
and reflect on your needs for attention, respect and control.
Are they healthy? Are they serving you well? Are they
appropriate in this circumstance? If not, find help. If you are
the violated, remember, anytime that you take their bait and
participate in the verbal violence loop, you are letting them
get away with it. Anytime you cower and retreat, you are also
letting them get away with it. Simply say that you find the
treatment unacceptable and that you are willing to have the
conversation when it can be done in a respectful dialogue and
move away. Yes, I know that sounds simple and is not always
easy. It's your first step. Also tell the violator that, if
change does not occur, your next step is to inform a higher
authority of the verbal violence, the harassment. Then, do it.
+++ Remember, you are responsible for teaching people how to