Workplace abuse (also called workplace bullying) is malicious, often repeated mistreatment at work that damages a target's health. The goal is to undermine confidence and performance.
A 2012 survey by CareerBuilder found that:
Much like domestic abuse, workplace abuse is rooted in power and control. It can be obvious — in cases of screaming public humiliation, disciplining or taking away work without cause, and put-downs — or subtle — in cases of exclusion, behind-the-back sabotage, gossip, minimizing achievements, creating unreasonable workloads, going into personal belongings, and withholding resources.
The abuse often escalates: the abuser misrepresents an issue to others to get them to side with them, leaving the target isolated.
What's worse: targets are generally competence workers whose skills and ethics pose a threat to abusers.
When employers allow workplace abuse to fester, they allow abusers' personal agendas to take priority over the needs of their organizations.
Workplace abuse isn't just a bad day at work. Employers must still manage, including toxic behavior.
When we talk about workplace abuse, we don't mean enforcing existing policies, evaluating performance fairly, giving honest feedback, and denying requests and disciplining with just cause. Employers should be allowed to address problem behavior in a fair way.
Behavior becomes abuse when it's done without just cause and instead out of love of power and control.
Abusers abuse to take away power from those whose competence and ethics pose a threat to them. They often aim to boost their own images at the expense of those who look good based on their own merit. The root of their behavior is low self-image.
When confronted, they don't take responsibility for their actions.