Outside of work, if someone curses at you, you can choose to walk away, or if you're the temperamental type, give back as good as you got. In the workplace, however, dealing with cursing is more difficult, especially when the person doing the cursing is your supervisor. Handling this difficult situation with professionalism and grace can not only work to stop the behavior, but can help you to learn the skills you need to deal with other difficult work situations.
Responding to Cursing
When a supervisor yells or curses at you, your first instinct is likely to become defensive. After all, no one has the right to treat you with disrespect. However, sinking to the supervisor's level of behavior could result in the loss of your job. Do your best to remain calm. The Department of Human Resource Management for the State of Utah emphasizes the importance of providing a clear objection to such behavior. You can say something like, "I'm sorry I forgot to turn in that receipt. However, I expect to be talked to in a professional manner that respects my dignity as a fellow human being." If your supervisor continues to rant, simply don't respond.
After an incident in which your supervisor is cursing at you, document what happened while the details are still fresh in your mind. Write a letter to the human resources department, or in a small company, the person above your supervisor. Date the letter and describe what happened, as well as your desire that the behavior stop immediately. If another employee heard the cursing, make a note of this in the letter. If you wish, you can provide a copy of the letter to your supervisor. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. If your supervisor persists in the behavior, keep a notebook in which you write down the date, time and what was said during the conversation. After two or three additional incidents, write another letter, listing the details of each encounter. The person in charge of your supervisor will see that you are serious about not tolerating disrespectful behavior.
Often, the first complaint you make about a supervisor's behavior will get no result. You must be persistent and patient. It is possible that you are the first person to speak out about the supervisor's abusive speech. If the human resource department receives complaints from additional individuals, it will often take action quicker, as they will see it as a pattern or pervasive problem, and not merely a symptom of a personal conflict between two people.
Sometimes, a supervisor's cursing is legally actionable. Take note if your supervisor uses racially derogatory speech or makes slurs about religion, gender or skin color. Referring to a mental or physical impairment is also illegal in many circumstances. If these sorts of remarks are included in your supervisor's rants, it may be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Such violations may result in a claim of a hostile work environment being successfully filed against the employer. Most human resource departments take these allegations very seriously. Note also that it is illegal to retaliate against you if you make a complaint of harassing behavior.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.