People with behavioral issues often abuse others in the workplace in order to fulfill their psychological needs. Most of the time, abusers mistreat other people in order to achieve their goals of maintaining power and control over others. A human being cannot maintain power and control over another human being without influencing the emotions of the other person. Therefore, abuse is behavior that abusers use for maintaining power and control over others by disturbing their emotions.
Abuse occurs both in the workplace and at home. It could be physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal. Abuse occurs in both blue-collar and white-collar work environments. Physical abuse is often visible, and can usually be more easily identified compared to emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse, which is not always as visible to others in the workplace. The most common abuse that occurs in both work and personal life is emotional and verbal abuse, because the impact does not leave physical marks and is therefore not as visible to others.
Abusive behavior involves constant yelling, making cruel or hurtful remarks, exhibiting anger, intimidating, manipulating, discriminating, and demeaning the target, and not giving credit for accomplishments, among other examples.
Abuse is a learned behavior. Individuals learn to abuse others while growing up within a group consisting of family, friends, and the general community. If they are successful in abuse at home, they may then try to test this behavior in the workplace. Abuse can also be learned in the workplace. For instance, if an employee is abused by a person in a position of responsibility and authority at the workplace, and then that employee is later promoted to a position of responsibility and authority, the promoted employee may very likely use the learned behavior to abuse other employees. Similarly, if children are abused in their home, then they may use the learned behavior to abuse others in their personal lives.
The ability of the abuser to abuse others will depend on the position of the abuser within the organization, the nature of the working environment, the workplace policies, the availability of employee education on abuse, the established reporting procedures, and the organizational feedback systems available in the workplace.
Five things to note about abusers and abuse:
- There are two types of abusers: Type I and Type II. Type I abusers mistreat others until they are forced to stop the abuse. In the case of Type II abusers, they may abuse and then later apologize, but then continue to abuse after that. These are serial abusers, capable of destroying one’s work life at the workplace and family life at home.
- Abusers always find willing and unwilling enablers in both work and personal life who support abusers in achieving their goals of maintaining power and control over other people, or who protect the abusers by not reporting their activities to management or their authorities. Willing enablers participate for their own financial, social, and psychological benefits, whereas unwilling enablers participate out of fear, and personal safety.
- Through their actions, abusers are responsible for low morale within the organization, lack of motivation, and health issues, and the actions of the abusers can impact the organization’s health costs, corporate culture, and the performance of the company in the marketplace.
- Abuse occurs in both the workplace and at home. A person with responsibility and authority may abuse employees to maintain power and control. Parents may use abuse to maintain power and control over children. Siblings, friends, husbands and wives, and partners may abuse each other to maintain power and control. Whenever there is an indication of an abusive behavior pattern in conjunction with interaction between people in the workplace or home, abuse will occur.
- Abuse is a learned behavior. Abusers generally have behavioral problems such as anger, jealousy, low self-esteem, insecurity, and addiction, and they use abuse to try to maintain power and control over others. If the abusers are not successful in achieving their goals, the degree of abuse increases.
How do you identify an abuser in your workplace?
Abuse comes in different forms: physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal. It may come from people who work above, below, or around you. It is best to look for signs such as yelling, making cruel or hurtful remarks, demonstrations of anger, intimidating others, manipulating others, falsely discrediting accomplishments, and similar such behaviors. An individual at a workplace must learn to identify such behaviors and report abuse the first time it occurs. If it is not acted on right away, the abuser may become more comfortable in abusing others. Modern organizations are aware of the impact of abuse on employees in the workplace, and are often swift in demoting and even terminating employees for abusing others.
How do you identify an abuser in your personal life?
In family life, whenever abuse occurs, the parents are usually involved. Abuse may occur between parents and children, children, spouses, or partners. Most of the time, one parent is involved in the abuse of a child, and the other parent becomes a victim or an unwilling enabler because of fear of losing family or financial security. The children may have difficulty in separating the abuse from perceptions of love, and abusers use this weakness to abuse the children even more.
The same thing occurs between spouses; the abuser uses the ideas of family and love to maintain power and control. Again, to identify abuse, it is critical to look for signs such as yelling, loud outbursts, cruel or hurtful remarks, anger, intimidation, manipulation, and the constant reference to “love” and “family” to cover up the abuse by the abuser.
If you have a pet, it may be helpful to observe how the abuser treats the pet. People who abuse human beings tend to adopt the same behavior with the pets. They like to maintain power and control over them. Abusers never take the responsibility for their actions. They shift the blame to addiction, work, or to their victims.
In the family, children and spouses are the victims. Children who were abused will likely have behavioral problems such as anger, depression, and anxiety. They may start drinking or using drugs at an early age, leave school, engage in violence, have issues in the workplace, and encounter problems in maintaining personal relationships.
The best way to deal with abuse is to report it as soon as it occurs, and to stay away from the abusers.
© 2017 Mohammed R. Ahmed
Ahmed, M.R. (2017). Abuse Should Not be Tolerated in the Workplace.
Published in Linkedin