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What are some workplace emotional abuse red flags?

Do you wake up every workday morning raring to start the day and go to your California job? Or do you dread the thought of one more go-round of negativity from your boss or one of your co-workers? No one expects his/her workplace to be ideal, but likewise, no one expects to be emotionally abused while at work.

Cleverism.com, an organization that deals with employment issues, warns that workplace emotional abuse is difficult to define because it can take so many forms. Usually, however, it includes one or more of the following:

  • Your abuser deliberately chooses the words and actions by which (s)he victimizes you.
  • (S)he may be your supervisor, boss or a co-worker higher up the chain of command than you are, making his/her words and actions part of a power play.
  • (S)he abuses you consistently, often escalating his/her aggression as time goes on.
  • (S)he uses nonphysical and insinuating behaviors such as insults, threats, etc. instead of using open warfare tactics that other employees might object to and report.

Debilitating effects

Whatever methods your abuser uses to victimize you, any type of workplace emotional abuse is serious, not simply good-natured teasing. When you receive constant criticism at work, you start questioning your own abilities and often your self-worth. Your confidence can wane to the point where you blame yourself for whatever goes wrong at work, whether or not it realistically has anything to do with you. You may even start to expect that you will make frequent mistakes, which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The longer such abuse continues, the more likely you could develop both physical and psychological symptoms that may require medical or mental health treatment. Consequently, do not let it get to that point. Be proactive. Start keeping track of the following:

  • What happens
  • When and how often it happens
  • Who perpetrates it
  • How it makes you feel
  • How it affects your work
  • How other co-workers react to it, assuming they do

Once you have this evidence in hand, file a formal complaint with your supervisor, assuming (s)he is not your abuser, or someone in your company’s management tier. If your employer does not satisfactorily resolve the problem, you may have a valid workplace discrimination and/or personal injury claim.

While this educational information is not legal advice, it can help you understand workplace emotional abuse and how to handle it.

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