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How to Identify Abuse In The Workplace (And What You Can Do About It)

employee verbally abusing another employee

When people think of abuse, the workplace is most likely the last place that comes to mind. In reality, workplace abuse is actually more common than you may think. According to Forbes, 75% of workers are affected by bullying annually. Having gaps in your resume due to workplace bullying and job separation can be hard to explain to a new employer.

In this article, we talk about workplace violence, abuse and bullying to give you a clear description of what workplace abuse is and what it looks like. We also touch on the lasting effects of workplace abuse including emotional trauma. Lastly, we give you tips and advice on where to get help if you’re a victim or survivor of workplace abuse.

An Exercise In Manipulation And Control

Workplace bullying experts point out similarities between workplace bullies and domestic abusers who seek to manipulate and control their abused counterparts for emotional, financial, or social gain. Workplace abuse and violence can occur between a superior and a subordinate as well as coworker-to-coworker and can have lasting effects on the abuse victim’s mental health.

Workplace Violence, Abuse, and Bullying

People who initiate workplace abuse may feel threatened by the target of their abuse and take every opportunity to demean and ridicule their victim, oftentimes to the point of emotional trauma including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Workplace abuse not only takes an emotional toll on the victim but also the workplace as a whole.

Behaviors in the workplace that prevent the work from getting done that relate to workplace abuse are threatening, humiliating, and intimidating. As a result of work interference, and sabotage, other employees and the business suffer. Some workplace abuse behaviors aren’t always easily detected.

Verbal Abuse

Rude, threatening or inappropriate comments made out of earshot of coworkers is an example of covert verbal abuse. Much like domestic violence abusers, perpetrators of verbal abuse often take care to make sure that their inappropriate language is only heard by the victim.

Verbal abuse can also come in the form of emails, text messages, and phone calls made by coworkers or superiors that are demeaning or threatening to the victim. For example, a coworker may constantly berate or ridicule other coworkers in the name of “poking fun.”

This behavior continues even when the victim has voiced their concern or displeasure about the inappropriate teasing. Employers who don’t address these issues (especially if they are known to the employer) may find themselves facing public lawsuits or embarrassment when an employee seeks damages for harassing, threatening or abusive behavior in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment

Unwanted sexual advances or demands for sexual favors in the workplace fall into this category. Sexual harassment can involve inappropriate requests from superiors to subordinates, males to females, and vice versa. Sexual harassment can happen between all sexes. In most cases, the person being harassed is threatened with being fired or demoted if they don’t comply with inappropriate sexual advances and requests.

Physical Abuse and Violence

On rare occasions, workplace abuse can escalate to physical abuse or violence. Instances of workplace violence can range from simple battery to homicide. Workplace violence can come in the form of physical aggression like hitting, kicking, or throwing things. It can also become more violent when weapons like guns or knives are involved. This is why it’s critical to address workplace abuse before it escalates into something more.

Lasting Effects Of Workplace Abuse

Experiencing workplace abuse can have a lasting effect on your self-esteem and self-worth. You may devalue yourself and feel that what happened to you was somehow your fault. Depending on the level of abuse or violence experienced, you may have actual physical scars from instances of workplace abuse.

If you’re having trouble coping with the fallout of workplace abuse and you need help, remember there are leading therapy sites like BetterHelp that will provide affordable access to board-certified therapists online 24-hours day. These counselors from online therapy services can provide you with coping strategies for dealing with the effects of workplace abuse. Talking to a therapy expert is one of the best things you can do to heal and move forward with your life.

How To Get Help

If you’ve been a victim of workplace abuse, you’re not alone. Remember that 75% of employees have also experienced workplace abuse at some point in their careers. In order for workplace abuse to end, it has to be reported. Keep records of incidents of workplace abuse whenever possible. Contact your human resources representative to learn how your company policy on workplace abuse, sexual harassment, and other forms of workplace abuse. If you’re struggling with damaging emotional effects of workplace harassment, abuse, or violence, seek the advice of a licensed therapist.

For more great tips in the workspace, check the other blogs on Career Geek.

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