How workplace abuse harms workers

Workplace abuse results in mental, physical, social, and financial harm.

Mental

Abuse is violence. It's psychological torture that takes a toll on mental health, including self-esteem, self-worth, and resilience. The longer the abuse, the bigger the impact, leading to physical symptoms.

Physical

Stress is a natural response to abuse and manifests itself through the mind-body connection. It may cloud judgment and lead to such issues as anxiety, depression, heart disease, digestive issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal ideation.

Social

We're built for connection with each other, but abuse removes that connection by isolating us. Isolation is especially common with mobbing, group abuse aimed to break down the target when abusers manipulate other employees or other employees fear becoming the next target. Bystanders may also suffer when they witness abuse but feel unable to help the target. Friends and family, including spouses, generally tire of...

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Another suicide from workplace abuse

Graham Gentles was driven to suicide after a walk of shame.

He was a 22-year-old in Pasadena who died from suicide on July 18, 2014, after Target store management allegedly accused him of stealing, handcuffed him, and paraded him through the store in front of both customers and coworkers.

Gentles jumped to his death from the top of a hotel just three days later.

During the abusive humiliation and shame tactic, it is alleged that "police forcefully grabbed him, emptied his pockets, and pulled his hat off," explains ABC7. Meanwhile, a shocked and confused Gentles had no idea why police were arresting him. Police took Gentles into custody, released him the same day, and never charged him. Gentles told his mother he never stole anything.

Allegedly, an argument between Gentles and a coworker at a bar outside of work hours may have prompted the incident. The coworker made the allegations of theft after the argument.

Other Target employees suspected of stealing report a similar "walk...

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You are a badass

Changing your life means figuring out what self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors you have and creating a life you love. In the #1 New York Times Bestseller You Are A Badass, Life Coach Jen Sincero takes us on a journey through how to get rid of the garbage and how to say yes to the good life.

At the end of the day, ...it's about you believing you're worthy of being loved and seen for who you really are.

Sincero explains:

When we agree to let ourselves down in favor of supporting the bad behavior of others, it often stems from the same impulse: We're unwilling to make other people more uncomfortable than they just made us. Not terribly studly in the old self-love department, is it? By making them uncomfortable I mean declining to participate in their drama, by the way, not by being equally abusive back.

These insights don't mean your reaction is to blame for your situation. Instead, you can make changes to get the sludge out of your life — for good.

Get the book...

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Three signs your career isn't right for you

By Artur Meyster

When it comes to landing a career, everybody hopes to find an option that can make them feel fulfilled and happy whenever they drive into work. For the most part, however, the careers people end up in are not what they envisioned, and this can be a disheartening experience.

You may never find a career that fills your heart with passion, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for a path that brings you no joy or fulfillment whatsoever. It is important to stay vigilant to the signs that your career is not right for you, otherwise, you risk feeling more stressed and going through years of boredom brought on by a bad career match. 

#1 Money Is Your Motivating Factor

There’s nothing wrong with working to get a fair paycheck. Even people whose job is their passion need a paycheck to survive. However, if money is the only reason you drive to work in the morning, then it is best to look for another career. 

If money is truly an important factor in a...

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The financial costs of workplace abuse to businesses and targets

Workplace abuse leads to decreased productivity, lower morale, increased absenteeism, and turnover (the bad kind — not the kind that results from not needing roles anymore). Imagine burning a big old pile of money. That's the equivalent of keeping an abuser on staff. Let's look at some of the hidden and not-so-hidden costs of keeping an abuser on staff:

Turnover. Examples: announcing the job opening, recruiting fees, interviewing time, and training time.
Lost opportunity. Examples: losing clients and the revenue associated with them and losing potential accounts from the work of competent employees.
Absenteeism. Cost: paid time off (sick leave and vacation)
Presenteeism (being at work but disengaged while there). Cost: lost productivity from that employee and any employee disengagement rubs off on. 
Legal defense. Regardless of there not being laws with teeth on the books protecting targets from workplace abuse, targets can still sue. And...

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Study links workplace abuse to one effect that costs companies billions

In a 2001 study, Researcher Judith Richman linked workplace harassment to drinking behaviors. In a multi-wave panel study at an urban university, targets who had more than two years of abuse had a stronger connection to drinking problems.

"These drinking behaviors reflect an attempt by targets to deal with the psychological stress," say Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman in their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article. "Should such drinking continue, job performance and productivity is likely to suffer. For example, some research suggests that sixty billion dollars is lost in annual productivity as a result of alcohol abuse."

The link isn't shocking. What's shocking is the failure of management to address root cause: workplace abuse. It's far easier to blame a target for a drinking problem than a higher level employee for causing the unnecessary stress in the first place. That negligence to address the actual problem is linked to financial loss.

So why aren't...

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Why you're a target of workplace abuse

Don't worry — I'm not about to blame you for being a target of workplace abuse. Just the opposite. It's insecurity that's the root of why abusers abuse. And when those in power operate on jealousy and insecurity, their biggest threats are the ones with targets on their backs.

Here are a few reasons why you're a target:

  • Strengths (think ethics and competence, technical or people skills, for example) threaten abusers.
  • It's all about the abuser's personality, mob mentality the abuser created, and organizational incentives to keep the abuse going.
  • Abusers might perceive a vulnerability in you. Maybe you're not political. But vulnerability is a strength, not weakness. Narcissists are terrified of vulnerability. And while a certain level of political game-playing may be necessary at work, focusing entirely on politics detracts from your greater purpose at work: to work together toward a common vision as a team.

The bottom line

Ego-centered people view work differently than you do...

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Why it's so important to spread the word about the term "workplace abuse"

There's usually a window of time between a targets' initial shock from workplace abuse and their discovery of the term "workplace abuse." Once they discover the term, they can usually start to detach from the problem or externalize a problem they'd been internalizing and begin to heal. Realizing they're not the problem is a pivotal discovery in beginning the road to recovery.

Often finding the term online and reading more about it can be sufficient for healing, but connecting and validating with others face-to-face also helps significantly. Shame can prevent that connection, but targets are not the problem and are not alone.

With more awareness of the issue, the gap between getting abused and learning the concept will be reduced or eliminated, cutting down on stress and improving target well-being.

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Why employees sue (hint: it's not about the money)

Just as doctors without good bedside manners are more likely to get sued, so are employers. In his article "The Top 5 Reasons Why Employees Sue Their Boss," Plaintiff Employment Lawyer Branigan Robertson reveals that mistreatment — not money — is the number one motivator for employees suing their employers. It's mounting evidence that not caring about employees as human beings costs employers.

Here are the top five reasons why employees sue their employers according to Robertson:

1.  They feel they were treated like garbage.

To have dignity, people need to believe they're more than a disposable company resource. "Fired employees don’t call employment lawyers like me because the law was broken. Regular folks have no clue whether the law was broken. They call me because they feel dehumanized," explains Robertson. "This is by far the No. 1 reason people get on Google and search for a lawyer. They are emotionally upset about how their boss treated, demoted,...

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Coping with workplace abuse by challenging thought patterns

Thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions can spiral out of control, leaving you feeling helpless, depressed, and anxious. That's one of the lessons from a 5-week class I took called "Secrets to a Satisfied Life," a course about taking control of your life path and inner peace.

The teacher introduced a "challenging beliefs worksheet" used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder common with veterans and targets of workplace abuse, which can cause shock to a positive, trusting worldview. Though some say human connection and validation are most effective for coping with workplace abuse, these ideas can still be helpful.

The idea with the worksheet is to change a pattern of problematic thinking and reframe it. Do you have evidence? Are you confusing the possible with the likely? Are you jumping to conclusions? Are you oversimplifying a problem? (This coping technique by no means excuses workplace abuse. It is simply a...

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