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You are here: Home > Distressed Faculty & Staff > Specific Problems > The Verbally Aggressive Employee

The Verbally Aggressive Employee

These employees become verbally abusive in frustrating situations that they see as being beyond their control.  Anger and frustration can become redirected from those situations to you, and it helps to remember that the anger is not directed at you personally.



  • Acknowledge her/his anger and frustration. You may want to comment: "I can see that you are angry".
  • Rephrase what she/he is saying and identify her/his emotion.  You may want to say:  "I can see how upset you are because you feel your rights are being violated and nobody will listen". If you feel comfortable doing so, allow her/him to ventilate and tell you what is upsetting her/him.
  • Reduce stimulation. Invite the person to your office or other quiet place (if you are comfortable doing so). Speak calmly and quietly.
  • If you become alarmed:
    • Tell her/him that you are not willing to accept her/his verbally abusive behavior.  Say:  "When you yell at me I find it hard/impossible to listen” or “We need to find another time to talk when you can do so without yelling.”. 
    • If the person is too close, tell her/him to please move back.
    • Help the person problem-solve and deal with the real issues when she/he becomes calmer.



  • Get into an argument or shouting match.
  • Become hostile or punitive yourself.  Don’t say: "You can't talk to me that way!"
  • Press for explanations or reasons for her/his behavior.  Don’t say: "I'd like you to tell me exactly why you are being so obnoxious".
  • Look away and not deal with the situation.
  • Sacrifice your own rights as a person.


If you believe that a verbally aggressive employee could become violent or destructive, you may want to alert University Police for back-up or request they be in the vicinity. 

by sebenl99 — last modified Oct 24, 2012 10:42 AM