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July 11, 2010

When Someone You Love is Abused at Work

As someone who typically tries to find the bright side of life, this post is going to be extremely off-topic for me -- so I apologize to my regular readers who look to me for a dose of inspiration or a good recipe.  Unfortunately, this topic is one that I feel I've been hearing about more and more lately -- and as a do-gooder in this crazy world, I'm trying to find answers.  I'm searching desperately for a way that I can help -- and I keep coming up empty.  I'm hoping someone out there can help me find a way to make a difference.

We're all keenly aware of horrific issues like domestic violence and child abuse.  And I'm sure many of us have been exposed to sexual harassment and diversity training in our workplace. As unpleasant as they may be, we've found a way to talk about and hopefully start resolving these kinds of abuse.  But lately I've heard several people, who are being abused in their workplace because of excrutiatingly poor management and leadership indifference. 

These are regular people who walk on eggshells at their jobs -- wondering if anything will happen that day to upset the angry monster that lives within their boss.  I can think of at least a half dozen people who have confided in me in the six months, sharing stories of bosses who fly off the handle, scream and yell,  threaten to fire them, put them on probation but give them no idea of what they've done wrong or how to improve. I even know of some who have in fact, been abruptly fired or forced to resign -- with no clear reason given as to why.

I know people who have gone on anti-anxiety medication after decades of perfect health, and others seeking professional counseling to deal with workplace anxiety.  And despite known complaints to human resources, and exit interviews where employees held nothing back about the magnitude of the problem, the managers who are at the root of the problem are never confronted, or held accountable for the environment that they've created.  In these difficult times, when jobs are so hard to find - the victims of the abuse feel helpless.  They take whatever is put upon them, and live in fear because they see no way out.

What has happened in this world that the executives of industries can look the other way, even though they know that this kind of workplace abuse is happening?  How does anyone sleep at night?   I've only heard stories -- and several within the past couple weeks that have truly turned my stomach -- and I know that I can't sleep at night.  And I'm not the one living it. 

So my question to anyone who cares to respond -- what advice do you give to a friend or family member who you believe is a victim of this kind of workplace abuse?   Do employees have a legal right to be managed with dignity and respect?   What is missing from our corporate worlds, that there could be so many people who rise to the level of authority, without learning how to lead and manage with decency and compassion? 

Something has got to change -- but what can I do to make a difference?


bhansonmv said...

This is a problem that has always existed and probably always will.
The only thing that I've seen make a difference is when the abused one confronts the abuser, knowing that it may cost his/her job. I've seen it work and I've seen it fail. Some people actually like to be yelled at ... confirming their feeling that they're not worth much. But the majority of people have too much self respect to endure any unacceptable behavior from anyone --boss or not --and walk away from it,if confrontation doesn't work. No job is worth it ... and no good company would allow it.

Bev Ruhl said...

Lauren, this is how my last job was. I was there for 2 years, and 1 1/2 years of it was spent wondering each day what was going to set my boss off. Yes, she screamed at me. She belittled me. She had absolutely no respect for me. I had no real recourse since it was a 2-person office; her & me. Her "supervisor" was the "President" of the Association - basically a figurehead. He didn't give a hoot what she did, as long as he didn't have to get involved. I had no one higher up to go to. It's a horrible feeling, knowing you shouldn't be taking that kind of abuse day in and day out, and yet also knowing what the job market looks like and how badly you need that paycheck. I did preserve a small amount of dignity for myself when I gave her an eight-page rebuttal to a poor performance review she gave me (it was a joke). I was professional but thorough, and I stated all the ways in which that review was bullcrap. I was fired in November (to be replaced by the new President's step-daughter the next day so that my boss could get in good with him) and I still haven't found a job. It sucks. I'm sorry I don't have any suggestions or ideas, but I can feel your (and their) pain.

In Search of Light said...

I spent an hour composing a response, which I guess Bill Gates didn't want me to share and vanished into cyberspace. The short version is pray for those whose "management style" leaves something to be desired.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Love you Lol