When employers don't believe targets of workplace abuse

Often jealous of their high-performing targets, abusers gaslight them, aka treat them like they're crazy to gain more power over them. Targets feel traumatized when their expectations of fairness are met with complete unfairness and smearing of their character. Then others come to believe the target is the problem, compounding the harm, through these methods:

  • Abuse of power. Abusers use their position to misrepresent targets, taking advantage of the asymmetry of power.
  • Manipulation. To reinforce management support of each other, higherups often side with abusers in management. 
  • Mobbing. What was once a lone abuser then can become an army. Mobs deprive the target of the chance to feel heard, supported, and believed. When they side with abusers, investigators can't do their jobs well.

When targets aren’t believed
Studies show it’s honesty and integrity that often put a bullseye on a targets’ backs. Yet in this victim-shaming culture,...

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How targets of workplace abuse can reverse emotional abuse

Researcher Loraleigh Keashly coined the term “emotional abuse at work, which leads to stress and at times trauma, which in turn lead to a host of health issues. 

Targets can reverse emotional abuse through social support, especially validation, and remove themselves from the damaging effects of isolation. If a target hasn't experienced abuse before, it may take longer to recognize the signs of confusion, fear, and stress, prolonging the time it takes to begin to heal.

Targets can find support through spouses, other family, friends, websites, social media, professionals, and sometimes coworkers — even though this issue can often show targets who their true supporters are, dominate their thoughts, and misunderstood by therapists.

The best medicine: face-to-face human connection.

Join us for a free weekly peer support group on Zoom.

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Take Your Dignity Back
If you feel like you’re stuck in a big rut that’s...

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Study links workplace bullying 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 bullying 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 bullying. 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...

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The truth on why workplace abuse happens

Abuse at work happens because organizations and governments allow for it — and even reward it. 

Employers set the tone for the work culture from the top down. Without employers giving consequences to abusers, and without governments giving consequences to employers, abusers thrive. They're further enabled by bystanders too fearful to speak up.

Though we live in a culture that likes to blame the victim rather than hold perpetrators accountable, targets of workplace abuse aren't the problem: it's the abusers who lack empathy who are allowed to abuse.


Take Your Dignity Back
If you feel like you’re stuck in a big rut that’s destroying your life, learn how to reverse the damage. 

Right now, you wish you could just tell your bully at work to knock it off, report the problem to management, and show the bully how childish he or she’s behaving. At best, the bully’s sidetracking the goals of the...

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An advocate describes a toxic environment where a supervisor only targeted women

call center story target Apr 22, 2020

When I first started working at a call center, I was really proud. I got good passing rates in my training and was told the business liked promoting from within, so it was exciting.

But I got put into the team with the fastest call times, and the team leader had no time for a newbie who was slowing down the team. The team leader seemed angry if I asked her for advice on a customer.

The team met up for drinks on Fridays. I was always left out of the invite.

If I ever went to the restroom during non-scheduled breaks, the team leader would post the team’s restroom times in a group email. The restroom was on the other side of the building floor, so it took a few minutes to get there and back. When I didn’t use the restroom that week unless on break, the emails would stop, even though I noticed others went without times posted. Then if I had to go to the restroom on work time, I’d run since I knew the email was coming with my name on the top of the list, within five...

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Why “just leave” (immediately) is absurd advice for a workplace bullying target

On Facebook, we’ve seen some people who’ve never been abused at work (or more likely who are abusers themselves or aren’t vulnerable and emotionally tough enough to admit they’ve been abused) tell targets of workplace abuse to “just leave” their jobs if they don’t like them.

I ask those people: if you were to “just leave” your job today, what would be the consequences? For many, it's loss of income and the health insurance that goes with it. 

For others, it's about damaging personal pride, the injustice of it all, and loving their jobs. That awareness, level of integrity, and self-defense are motivated by strength, not weakness, and a building block for a social movement to end workplace abuse.

“Just quitting” versus find another job
You might think this idea of sticking around is in direct opposition to my usual advice to targets of workplace abuse: leave since your health comes first and...

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How you can shine in your power after horrible leadership

“Narcissists love to get your reaction. And as soon as they do, you are handing power away,” says narcissistic abuse expert Melanie Tonia Evans in her article 5 Steps To Ignoring A Narcissist Who Tries To Punish You.

The solution, she says, is totally ignoring them — giving them no energy and no response.

Here’s why: the narcissist has insecurities so intense that he or she creates an image “to be a buffer between the narcissist and his or her inner wounds,” says Evans. “This entity, known as Ego (False Self), is running the narcissist’s emotions and life and feeds from pain.” So when you injure his or her False Self by standing in your power and triggering his or her insecurities, you become the object of the narcissist’s wounds.

The False Self feeds off pain, while the True Self (even if it’s still imprisoned by internal trauma) feeds off love, authenticity, and truth. “Because the narcissist is...

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A lawyer makes the case for workplace abuse legislation

My name is Rebecca Dupras (@redupras). I am a resident of Rhode Island and I currently practice law here. I recently spoke on the passage of the Healthy Workplace Act. Though my experience did not take place in Rhode Island, these types of incidents are happening everywhere in our country. My experience occurred while working for the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in California and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and is well documented in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The New York Times, and Forbes Magazine.

During my time as a Vice President of Development at this charitable foundation, where I managed a team of 10-15 people, I was subjected to consistent harassment, manipulation, and threats by my supervisor. She worked at the organization for over a decade, and I was not her only victim. She would threaten violence towards coworkers, humiliate and embarrass me and others during meetings and in front of other staff, say sexually explicit things, and...

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The key to advocating for healthy workplaces

A few years into my advocacy for workplace abuse legislation, I co-led a small business. I quickly realized that knowing what not to do didn’t necessarily translate well into what to do. What were best practices for bringing out the best in employees? How could I work to help workers feel fulfilled and strong? What did I need to gain self-awareness of to prevent a toxic culture? These questions led me to dive into what it took to create a healthy workplace.

The toxic culture
In his book The Bully’s Trap, Andrew Faas dissects the cultures that lead to abuse in the first place. He says that in toxic cultures, employers see employees as expendable. When employers consider workers a means to an end rather than associates, that’s exploitation. Here are some key factors in a toxic culture:

  • Higher-ups are out of touch. They focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term performance. They focus on power to bring about those short-term...
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A nurse’s aid suffers from health issues after refusing to lie on the job

I relocated my family to Western Massaschusetts to start a new life. I decided to go for CNA training and was hired immediately at a state facility as a 3-11 nurse’s aid.

I am a quiet, keep-to-myself type of person, and for the first seven years had no issues. One afternoon, two coworkers working in my unit got into a verbal altercation just as the PTs returned to the unit after dinner. The two coworkers were quite loud, and another woman and I helped get the PTs back to their rooms so they were not exposed to the yelling. I truly was not paying attention to the altercation — that’s not my job.

A little later, the 3-11 supervisor approached me and asked me what happened. I explained that I wasn’t paying attention to them and that my concern was for the PTs. She took me to the activities room and dictated to me what to write in a statement then left, locking the door behind her. I grew up with words of wisdom from my mom to never do anything immoral or illegal...

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