My boss is verbally abusive to me in front of my team members, having threatened to punch or slap me on multiple occasions. He has done this at least twice now, in the space of a few months. It's happened when situations have turned out counter to what he'd like.

At first, I ignored it as a once off. However, it happened again shortly before I posted this, so I've decided to keep a log of these incidents. How many incidents do I have to log before it's appropriate to file a complaint against him? Is it acceptable to complain to his superior without first complaining to my boss about it?

For what it's worth, I'm not concerned about being unpopular with him; it's hard to have a good working relationship with someone who's hostile to me.

Note 1: I have read this question and the accepted answer, (as well as this one) but decided to pursue it anyway as the advice they give is somewhat conflicting.

Note 2: My boss also happens to be the head of the equity committee where I work, despite making sexist and off-colour (no pun intended) jokes and comments.

  • 1
    Not sure if this is a duplicate. There is no time span that I would guess. Record what was said and names of witnesses.
    – paparazzo
    Jan 31 '18 at 16:29
  • I'm also not sure if my question is a duplicate, either (although there is some overlap). I have been recording what was said and in front of whom. I'm not sure what number of incidents is sufficient to make a case against him. Once is fair for giving him the benefit of the doubt that it was a mistake. Twice is likely to become a third, at which point there's a pattern. Jan 31 '18 at 17:13
  • 4
    If your company has HR, you may want to contact them instead of/as well as your boss's boss.
    – David K
    Jan 31 '18 at 17:52
  • 2
    As an aside. When you report him don't assume that the abuse will immediately stop. Make sure to keep recording all incidents - big or small, and the names of any witnesses etc
    – Peter M
    Jan 31 '18 at 18:00
  • @AgiHammerthief Recording in what manner? If you're making audio recordings you need to be very careful before you disclose their existence (and should consult legal professionals before you do). Beyond that, I think you overestimate the value of keeping incident logs. It's good to have them especially in long-running situations but there isn't a golden number you have to hit before you can raise serious problems, like threats of physical violence, to HR.
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 31 '18 at 21:17

Keep a record of when, what was said, and name(s) of witnesses.

It kind of depends on what was said and how. I would like to slap you for that opinion in a light tone is different than I would like to punch you in the face right now in a raised voice. Neither are proper but there are different degrees.

If the threats are minor then talk to your boss and see if they stop. If threats are major then wait for 3 or 4 and report to HR or his boss. If he stands up or approaches to physically intimidate then report immediately. Clearly this is a matter of opinion.

  • 2
    Document, document, document....
    – Neo
    Jan 31 '18 at 20:59
  • 1
    @MisterPositive How is document different than "Keep a record of when, what was said, and name(s) of witnesses."
    – paparazzo
    Jan 31 '18 at 21:01
  • 1
    Its not. I support and voted for your answer.
    – Neo
    Feb 1 '18 at 11:54

"How many incidents do I have to log before it's appropriate to file a complaint against him?"


If your boss were simply standoffish or abrasive, I would say to try ignoring it and deal with it in other ways. Threatening to physically assault a team member is unacceptable beyond a shadow of a doubt, and a single instance of this is too many. Given what was said to you, I would skip talking to your boss about it and go right to his superior.

EDIT: you could also go to HR if you are not sure your boss's boss will take care of the issue.

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