The Dignity At Work Act is about granting our fundamental human right to dignity at work. Workplace abuse (or workplace bullying) often involves a person in power, such as a manager or supervisor, taking advantage of a less powerful employee.
Abuse of power is too often a symptom of implicit bias — a problem discrimination law stopped helping since the 1980s when courts moved from focusing on impact to intent. Intent is a high threshold that makes the law mostly ineffective at addressing bias and disrupting hierarchies at work that create haves and have-nots when those in power “other” people. More than 50 years after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, white men still occupy the vast majority of power positions in the U.S. workforce.
Abuse may take the form of:
Interpersonal abuse like public ridicule, disrespect, overwork, and overcontrol, including put-downs, screaming, excessive criticism, destructive gossip, false...
The late Congressman John Lewis talked about the importance of saying and doing something when you see something that's not right — getting into good trouble. “I fought too long and too hard against discrimination based on race and color not to fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he said. “He (President Obama) is sending a powerful message that discrimination in any form has no place in a democratic society. It also gives hope to the 9 million LBGT Americans and their loved ones who have had to bear the pain and sorrow of rejection, loss, and shame with limited means to make their voices heard.”
In 2007, a healthcare organization hired me as a military medical insurance analyst, a position I would stay in for 12 years. (I had the same position for 20 years in a different healthcare organization.) For those 12 years, I received excellent job evaluations year after year from my previous...
Through their in-depth American Working Conditions Survey (AWCS) of 3,066 U.S. workers, Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School, and the University of California, Los Angeles found that "the American workplace is very physically and emotionally taxing," CBS reports.
Before you say "I could've told you that," let's see how bad it really is:
Workplace abuse results in mental, physical, social, and financial harm.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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...
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:
Ego-centered people view work differently than you do...
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.
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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