What generally happens when targets of workplace abuse report their cases to HR

I know some of you work in Human Resources (HR) and help targets of workplace abuse. And for that, I thank you. However, the sad truth is that you are in a tiny minority of HR representatives who advocate for the target because you work in a safe and healthy work environment in which higher-ups want to do the right thing.

In most cases, HR does nothing — unless you count retaliates or terminates the target. They work for management, not employees, so even if HR reps do want to help, their hands are usually tied, meaning it's a management problem.

It's not just management's responsibility to create a workplace abuse policy but also to make sure HR reps enforce it. Otherwise it's not worth the paper it's printed on.

So what will it take to get management to create policies and enforce them? Sadly, it will take passing a law giving employees a right to sue for mistreatment to switch their liability. For years, higherups have considered liability as admitting there's a problem,...

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The most offensive aspects of abuse at work

Abuse is demeaning, disempowering, and humiliating. Here are some ways the abuse cuts deep, in order of how they often occur:

  1. Painting competence as incompetence. Going after a target's technical skill — usually stronger than the abuser's — is a common tactic for abusers, whose goal is to re-define the image of the target and position the target in a negative light. It's an abuse of power that often takes the form of a negative performance review — a bold lie.
  2. Public humiliation. Abusers add insult to injury when they take their re-defining public. Not only do abusers control the target's image through public humiliation, but they also pile on shame and social isolation, positioning the target as someone not to associate with to avoid the same fate.
  3. Ignoring. Ignoring of complaints often invalidates them in the eyes of targets. It's a form of gaslighting that makes targets question their own sanity and perceptions of feeling wronged or that there's a significant...
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A project coordinator was blown off after reporting workplace abuse

I work as a project coordinator in Boston.

The bullying begin after I moved to a different department. I wasn’t getting trained or work to do after moving to the new area. I would ask the project managers and director if there was anything I could help with. They’d say no but would give work to the other project coordinator. I expressed my concern of not getting work to do. Then my cubemate started turning the radio up loud, someone took my cell phone off my desk, and someone opened my desk drawer. Someone also broke the lock to my file cabinet and took things out of it.

The co-worker sent an email stating that I needed to sign in and out because he didn’t know where I was when I’d be to lunch or a meeting or after I supported our new assistant general manager at an event.

I asked myself: why would my group not want to work together?

Problems escalated when I went to Employee Relations. They were upset that I didn’t just let it go and let them continue...

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