Get advice on how to deal with jerks at work Check out the book 'Jerks At Work' and other titles by Ken Lloyd Ph.D. Return to the homepage Learn more about Ken Lloyd, Ph.D. Submit a question to Ken Lloyd, Ph.D.

You asked, Ken answers ...

This item is filed under these categories:
E-mail Anger Communication Bullies Power Plays and Players

When one particular senior manager in this company gets upset, he uses a lot of profanity in his email. Several of us are offended and upset by this, but we are not sure what to do about it. After all, he is in senior management. He does not use this language in person. How do we get the profanity to stop?

It sounds like you are dealing with a classical virtual bully. He's a tough guy when he is online, but not in person. The computer shields him from the responsibility that accompanies real interaction with another human.

The first step is to approach the bully himself, and do so face-to-face. Let him know that his profanity is offensive, hurtful, and demeaning, and you want it to stop in all future communication with you.

If you continue to be targeted by his profanities, go to his manager. Let the manager know that these messages are creating a hostile environment in which it is increasingly difficult for you and some of your associates to work. Bring a few examples of the email messages with you. This paper trail can induce senior management to become more proactive in this area.

You can also suggest that management review its email policy and make sure that inappropriate messages, such as those that contain profanity, are clearly prohibited. The virtual bully should be encouraged to keep the following in mind: what would his family think about his messages, and what would a jury think about them?

Comment on this item

Your name (optional)
If you leave this blank, we'll list you as "Website visitor"

Your comments
Please keep your comments focused on the topic. Thanks!