Unrealistic responses to targets of workplace abuse

We've all read comments on online workplace abuse articles telling targets to just get a tough skin or a new job — that life is just hard, and abuse on the job is just another problem that we have to deal with.

Experts compare workplace abuse with domestic violence. In the recent past, it was perfectly legal for a husband to beat his wife. Imagine telling a wife to "just leave" or to "toughen up" as her self-esteem worsens but yet she needs to rebuild her life. Doesn't sound simple, does it?

A target of workplace abuse faces a similar problem. As abusers encourage targets who care about their work and organizations to question their abilities, targets feel beaten down and lose confidence to find another job. Even if they do have the strength to find another job, they generally need months to find other work — and endure more abuse during those months. Only those with safety nets (enough savings to cover months of living expenses, a second income through a side hustle or spouse, or a trust fund, for example) can think about leaving without taking much time to prepare. 

And those who've experienced workplace abuse know that the only way to "solve" the problem is to leave the organization. Speaking up more often simply encourages abusers to double down through retaliation.

This tough skin that some speak of — tolerating often months of abuse before leaving an organization — leaves many targets with health problems and many businesses with more costs (absenteeism, training new employees, and lawsuits) than if they had addressed the problem to begin with and disciplined the abuser.

"Grow a tough skin" and "just leave" aren't smart or realistic answers when it comes to addressing workplace abuse.

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