Being humiliated or cursed out can feel especially demeaning in a work environment. Unfortunately, human resources experts say that today’s high stress work environments make these types of unprofessional altercations more likely.
“There are plenty of reasons why people curse in the workplace — among them [are] anger, frustration, stress, ego, lack of a better vocabulary — and all of them are bad,” explains Chris Posti, president of human resources consulting firm Posti & Associates.
And even if you don’t initiate the confrontation, a heated reaction can have grave consequences. “If you are the unfortunate recipient of such treatment, your options for recourse depend on who is cursing you out, but no matter what, your first step should always be to remain cool, and never respond in kind,” Posti says.
Here, conflict experts give advice on how to deal with a customer, co-worker or boss when cursed out at work:
When it’s a customer
If a customer tells you off while you’re helping him or her with a service, it can be tough to know how to react.
Here’s what to do:
Listen closely to what the customer is trying to say, as the person may have a legitimate problem with your product or company, Posti says. Try to understand the situation from the customer’s viewpoint, no matter how horribly you’ve been treated — it can help you keep a level of professionalism.
“If the situation is a one-time customer, your best bet is to keep quiet and just listen,” Posti says.
Snapping back is an absolute no-no says Jonar Nader, author of “How to Lose Friends and Infuriate Your Boss.” “A furious customer is not likely to hear your defense, so it is best to let them vent and leave,” he says.
Losing your temper can make the customer even angrier. Instead, try to stay as calm as possible and explain to the customer what you can do to solve the problem. If the customer is still upset, it may be time to get your supervisor involved.
When it’s a co-worker
An altercation with a co-worker can have long-term consequences. Here’s what to consider:
Getting cursed out by someone you’re obliged to see everyday can be tough to swallow. Instead of reacting to the situation the moment it happens, let your co-worker calm down before responding, says Matt Angello, principal and executive coach at Bright Tree Consulting Group. “Meet with them later, after the situation has cooled off,” he says.
That said; don’t be too quick to let your co-worker off the hook for what occurred. While staying professional, reiterate the fact that you’re looking to work in a respectful environment and won’t stand for this sort of behavior.
“The most common problem people make in this situation is to let it slide,” says Alexander Kjerulf, author of “Happy Hour is 9-to-5.” After you’ve voiced your thoughts try to build back the relationship with your co-worker. While it can take time, getting past the conflict will help you feel happier at work.
When it’s your boss
If your boss curses you out after a project, your reaction can cost you a job.
Here’s how to handle the confrontation:
When your superior snaps at you it can be especially difficult to deal with in a rational manner. Consider multiple solutions before making a decision, Posti suggests. “Your response will depend on your relationship with the boss,” he says.
Most likely it will also take some introspection on your part. “You might think that your boss is shouting at you for something simple, but it might be a straw that broke the camel’s back,” Nader says. While there are plenty of less-than-professional bosses it’s also important to understand why the particular event occurred.
Cool off and consider the reasons before sparking up a conversation. During the talk be sure to suggest an alternative approach to the embarrassing encounter and convey how unmotivated it’s made you feel. If it’s a one-time incident, it’s best to give you boss the benefit of the doubt. If you feel constantly berated, however, it may be time for a job change or visit to human resources.
More importantly, use this as a learning experience, Nader suggests. “Everyone has something to teach us. A rude boss can teach you how not to treat people.”