Emotional abuse, whether at home or at work can be tricky to identify. Typically, the victims of abuse are made to feel that their feelings of being abused are unfounded. This checklist will help identify instances of abuse.
Psychological violence, mobbing, harassment and other forms of workplace abuse have remained out of the lime light for a variety of reasons. Since it is not usually driven by the known forms of harassment: sex, race, disability, etc., most people have a difficult time wrapping their minds around the concept. However, this form of abuse is very real and very damaging. Think about it. You spend a good deal of your time at work. To put it into perspective, a week consists of 168 hours, so if you are working 40 hours a week and are enduring any of these forms of workplace abuse, then almost a quarter of your life each week is spent in an abusive environment. That is not healthy.
While we pay close attention to domestic violence, little heed is given to abuse in the workplace. This blind eye has allowed it to flourish and grow into a serious problem that is crippling our workforce. As with any abuser, their intent is to beat down their victim, gain control and destroy their self esteem. Many victims of abuse, in the workplace or otherwise, feel worn down, exhausted, destroyed and hopeless. They feel that they have no recourse, are not able to defend themselves and have not choice but to continue in the dysfunctional, destructive relationship with their abuser. Few feel capable of defending themselves and fewer still feel that they have the power to initiate legal action. They feel trapped and alone, which is exactly what their abuser wants. It is how he or she maintains power over the victim.
This checklist will help you determine if you are being abused, particularly at work.
Does your employer/co-worker….
____Reprimand you in front of your co-workers?
____ Make fun of or embarrass you in front of your co-workers?
____Belittle or criticize your accomplishments?
____ Try to undermine or halt your pursuit of personal or professional goals?
____ Make you feel powerless or not in control?
____Cause you to feel as if you are unable to make decisions?
____Use threats (implicit or explicit) or intimidation to gain your compliance?
____Tell you that you will not find another job that will put up with you the way they do?
____Get physical with you, rough or not (any unwanted physical contact is harassment)?
____Use physical forms of intimidation such as checking up on you, lurking near your work area, standing very close to you when talking to you or standing over you?
____Use their position of authority as an excuse for saying hurtful things or for abusing you?
____Use physical forms of intimidation when meeting with you or reprimanding you (standing in the doorway, making threatening gestures, raising their voice, standing over you, etc)?
____Blame you for their actions towards you?
____Use verbal bullying as a way of manipulating you (interrupting, yelling, not listening, changing the topic, twisting your words)?
____Blame you for things that you did not do and for which they have no proof?
____Fabricate things that you have done wrong, then reprimand you for them?
____Mocks you, ridicules you, puts you down, calls you names, trivializes your words or accuses you of lying (implicitly or explicitly)?
____Make demands or give directives that are contradictory?
____Intimidates you by using angry expressions or gestures and/or by raising their voice?
____Harass you about things you have done in the past, issues that have been resolved, etc.?
____Use economic coercion as a way of manipulating you or intimidating you to “play the game” (threatening your job – implicitly or explicitly)?
____Sabotage your efforts at work (make up things about you, psychologically batter you so that your production suffers)?
____Uses pressure tactics such as guilt, accusations, threats or the “silent treatment” to manipulate you?
____Call you out for every little thing that they can, fabricating malicious intent on your part where there was none?
____Lie to you, withhold information from you, leave you off of important work related correspondence or leave you out of company communication?
____Refuse to listen to your side of the story when you are reprimanded, but instead berate you and accuse you of things that are not true?
____Make you feel like there “is no way out” and that you have no recourse?
____Isolate you from your co-workers either by forbidding contact or by abusing them when you associate with them (make them victims of abuse because of their association to you)?
____Threatens you verbally or nonverbally in either a direct or indirect manner?
____Try to control your relationships and activities that exist outside of work, such as socializing with co-workers, attending company events, etc.?
____Denies or minimizes being abusive?
____Feel scared of how your supervisor or co-worker will act?
____Feel fearful of losing your job despite your good performance on the job?
____Feel isolated from your co-workers or work team?
____Feel guilty because your association with a co-worker will result in their being abused?
____Believe that you can turn things around and make your employer stop abusing you if only you changed something about yourself (be even more productive, be quieter or “invisible,” etc.)?
____Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your employer angry (walk on egg shells)?
____Feel that your employer disrespects you?
____Feel that no matter what you do, you will never do anything right in your employer’s eyes?
____Feel like you are beaten down, broken or depressed because of how your employer is treating you?
____Feel that you do not deserve better treatment or are not worth being treated with respect?
____Feel like no matter what you do, your employer is never happy with you?
____Feel uneasy about talking to your co-workers about anything, even work related topics?
____Feel nervous or afraid of what your employer will do if you call in sick at work, arrive a few minutes late one day, have a problem with your work tools (computer, software) or have to leave for an emergency?
____Feel that you can not trust your co-workers because it has been implied or told to you by your employer that they will tell on you?
____Feel that you have no one to go to for help because any attempts to seek support or help from upper management will be undermined or intercepted by your abuser?
____Worry that your production is compromised because of frequent “meetings” or “counseling” by your supervisor?
____Feel exhausted and stressed out because of the way that your supervisor or co-workers treat you?
____Feel that you are held to rigid and impossible timelines, structures in workflow and deadlines?
____Experience feelings of dread when thinking about your job or when you are at work?
____Feel that you are being set you up for failure?
____Distrust your feelings and perceptions about yourself, your co-workers or your employer?
____Feel inadequate when doing work that you once felt confident in doing?
____Experience minor or major illnesses frequently?
____Feel that you are always being watched for any slip or infraction?
____Worry that you have done something wrong on your job although you can think of nothing?
____Dread going into work where once you looked forward to it?
____Feel that you are being set up to be fired, disciplined or demoted?
____Feel that the stresses you experience at work are affecting your home life?
____Experience frequent headaches, gastrointestinal upset, increase or decrease in appetite or insomnia?
____Always do what your employer wants you to do even if it goes against what you believe in or you feel that it crosses ethical lines?
____Feel that you are walking on egg shells at work?
____Remain with your employer because you feel that you have no recourse?
One instance can qualify as “abusive,” but it does not necessarily fall into the category of mobbing or bullying. These terms are used to describe a pattern of behavior that includes some or all of the characteristics listed here. The problem with this type of abuse, as with other forms of psychological abuse, is that it often can not be verified. This exacerbates the effects of the abusive cycle because the victim often can not get validation for the abuse. Abusive behaviors are usually done subversively, behind closed doors, implicitly and the abuser may even accuse the victim of causing the abuse or of fabricating it.
This is why documentation is so vital in these situations. When many small, seemingly insignificant things are documented, they can create a much more telling, bigger picture.
If any of these are happening in your workplace, get help. It is important to take care of yourself even if you are in a position where action can not be taken legally. Talk to someone. Talk to a counselor, your doctor, a friend, an attorney. Without some help, the abuse will continue. Abusive personalities prey on who they perceive to be weak. They tear down the self esteem of their victims and make them feel as if they have no options, no where else to go. Establish a strong support system for yourself. Without some support, you will continue to take the abuse and believe that you have no recourse. You can be free from abuse in the workplace.