[AD] This post was written in association with CICA UK. Please see the disclaimer.
Are you aware of the signs of psychological abuse in the workplace?
All you need to do is tune into the news or switch on the television to spot stories laden with abuse. These can sdbe stories in regard to sexual abuse, child abuse, abuse of power, domestic violence and many others. Psychological abuse, however, is grossly underreported and can go undetected for years. It’s usually slow and subtle, breaking away at the victim over a long period of time. It might even manipulate their thoughts and memory to reflect the abuser’s needs.
What is psychological abuse?
Abuse can be found anywhere and everywhere. Everyone has the potential to be either the victim or the abuser. The abuse can become so much a part of someone’s life that they find it difficult to spot it for what it is.
The only person who benefits from such acts is the person who is responsible for inflicting the abuse.
What are the effects of psychological abuse?
- Psychological abuse negatively impacts a person’s self-esteem & self-worth. Abusers feed off pre-existing vulnerability by increasing feelings of self-doubt, inferiority and lack of self-confidence. Repeat exposure can have a somewhat hypnotic effect, leaving the abused open to the belief that the abuser is right in everything they say. The abused can start to believe that they’re incompetent, ‘stupid’, unfit for their jobs, etc.
- Psychological abuse often leaves the victim shouldering the blame. Victims tend to shoulder the blame despite often being completely blameless. This is due to lowered levels of self-esteem and manipulation from the abuser.
- Psychological abuse can result in lifelong trauma. The abused may end up suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, social anxiety, stress, etc. Trauma can’t be easily treated or cured. It can take years of therapy in order to fully accept and move past trauma depending on the level. Some may even suffer permanent psychological trauma, preventing them from pursuing different areas of work or even working at all.
- Psychological abuse can lead to other serious conditions such as; Depression, anxiety, PTSD, acute or chronic stress, etc. Stress in and of itself can cause a multitude of ailments and physical illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening if not treated such as stomach ulcers and bowel complaints. Sometimes, the severity of the abuse can be so bad, some victims may even experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
The case against Blizzard and how it relates to psychological abuse.
One of the most recent cases of abuse comes from Blizzard, the company responsible for the Warcraft series, Diablo and Overwatch. However, many employees are coming forward to out the company for the sexist, ‘frat boy‘ environment. Unsurprisingly, the majority of victims are female and have had to endure years of sordid and sleazy behaviour from male colleagues. Now the company have found itself facing a lawsuit from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for upwards of 10 violations of state employment law.
While these allegations are largely in relation to sexual discrimination and a hostile work environment, psychological abuse is very much a core component. Numerous complaints were made to the HR department over the years, however, nothing was done. Victims were left to endure such actions, or forced to leave of their own accord to avoid further harassment.
10 Signs of Psychological Abuse in the Workplace.
Gaslighting is possibly one of the biggest ways in which we can be psychologically abused. It’s become a popular term for various forms of ‘emotional and psychological’ abuse and refers to one person’s attempts to manipulate another’s reality. It’s commonly found within romantic relationships, however, it can occur anywhere; A parent, a friend and even in the workplace.
Gaslighters aim to make the victim second guess themselves. They warp the truth and manipulate the other’s memory in order to exert power over them in a very slow manner.
Signs of gaslighting include;
- They twist information to their advantage. Perhaps using it against others or taking credit for themselves.
- They gossip. Watch out for a boss or co-worker who gossips to you. Don’t tell them anything you might later regret because chances are they’re doing the same thing to you behind your back.
- Abusers appear to listen to you but never engage fully enough to show that they care. They could be gathering bits of information that you tell them to perhaps use against you later.
- They lie and make you feel as if you’re the one who has lied to them. You’re the one at fault because you forgot about that email you were meant to send that they DEFINITELY told you about. They may also make you feel at fault because you made them lie. This tactic is often used when they get caught lying.
- They make you feel like you’re not good enough, and changes are you’ll never be.
2. Shame & Guilt.
A workplace, boss or individual who constantly makes another employee (or employees) feel that they are the problem. You’ll find that there’s an aspect of shaming the victim for no real reason, which in turn makes them feel inadequate and unworthy.
For example; A friend of mine (‘A’) recently took annual leave. He never uses his annual leave in full, and by right, the company should be pushing him to do so to remain within the law. ‘A’ took a grand total of seven days off to relax and unwind from what is a very stressful and hostile work environment.
Upon his return, he was informed of everything that went wrong while he was gone. They informed him that he shouldn’t have taken off because it had left them understaffed or with inadequately trained personnel.
Looking at this situation from afar, and having been in the same position in various workplaces, I can see the problem right away. The company hasn’t trained the appropriate people to the appropriate level, therefore they couldn’t keep up when my friend was off. It’s not his fault; It’s theirs for being unorganised and inconsistent in training. Yet they’ve pushed the blame onto him.
3. Undermining another’s work.
An employer, boss or fellow co-worker who deliberately blocks another person’s success by undermining their ability is committing psychological abuse. Repeatedly passing work to others instead of the victim despite the victim being perfectly capable, serves to reduce confidence in themselves and their work.
The abuser may constantly belittle a colleague’s work, criticizing them unnecessarily harshly and consistently. It can be directed to a group of people or to one person in particular.
The act of belittling or undermining keeps the victim bound in a cycle of “I’m not good enough, I can’t do my job properly, I need to try harder, I’ll never be good enough.”
4. Setting impossible or ever-changing expectations.
By setting near-impossible or ever-changing expectations, employees are doomed to fail before they even begin. A prime example of this would be a manager or supervisor expecting an employee to complete a mountain of paperwork within an unreasonable amount of time, or then changing what they expect and in what time frame constantly. This leaves employees confused, stressed and less likely to perform well.
The abuser may also display inconsistency of words and actions, meaning that they fail to follow through on things promised or previously stated by them. (I.e promising to train an employee or help them with a task, and then constantly failing to do so.)
5. Rationalisation of their words or actions.
They constantly try and rationalise certain words or actions that others may find inappropriate or abusive. As an attempt to justify their behaviour, they may even blame the victim. Most abusers will blame anyone or anything other than themselves for their behaviour because they’re unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.
This doesn’t necessarily have to refer to sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. It can be as simple as the perpetrator seducing the victim into trusting them enough to lower their defences. This is often done through means of flattery, compliments, and building the other’s confidence to leave them more open to manipulative behaviours down the line.
Abusers can be found dodging issues or playing dumb like it’s going out of fashion. They’ll often change the subject in order to distract from the issue such as cancelling meetings, dodging phone calls, claiming ‘lost’ emails and even avoiding people altogether.
Of course, this can also be a sign of nervousness or anxiety in some cases but coupled with other traits, this is seen as an attempt to ignore the situation or issue until someone else can deal with it (which usually won’t be to their liking, which will then be the other’s fault, creating a cycle of avoidance and blame).
Creating a sense of fear through actions or words. It could be physical violence, but it’s more than likely verbal and creates a sense of unease in the victim.
Abusers may repeatedly lie or knowingly conceal the truth from others. in order to get the desired result or pass the blame onto others when things don’t go right.
For example; Something may have gone wrong because important information wasn’t adequately passed throughout the department. The abuser may be a manager who forgot to pass on a message to their supervisor. Instead of the manager owning up to their mistake they may feign innocence by claiming the message was passed on but not acted on by the supervisor.
This would shift blame from the manager to the supervisor, who in reality had nothing to do with it. The abuser may twist the truth so much, and deny their mistake so strongly, that the abused starts to doubt their own memory and capabilities.
Deceit can also be translated by the abuser creating false hope only to repeatedly fail to follow through.
10. Ignoring, isolating or excluding.
Psychological abuse such as the above can be displayed in many ways. The abuser may intentionally exclude the abused or make them feel socially isolated from a group of people. They may also purposely exclude them from major decisions, key conversations and maybe even work-related projects.
[AD] Can I claim for psychological abuse?
Yes, you most certainly can. No one should have to suffer through abuse, especially in the workplace. Although human resources are usually on hand to deal with the majority of issues, it doesn’t necessarily stop them and often psychological or emotional abuse is hard to prove, especially if the abuser is higher on the ladder than the victim (which is often the case).
For those who have ever suffered psychological abuse at the hands of a manager, supervisor or colleague there are measures you can take in order to seek compensation.
“The CICA, short for Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, is a government organisation that was created to compensate the blameless victims of violent crime. People who have been physically or mentally injured can apply to the CICA for compensation ranging from £1,000 to £500,000.”
CICA offers the following services;
- Provide fast and efficient service with no complications and no hassle.
- CICA handle the case as sensitively as possible so you don’t suffer any more needless trauma.
- They liaise and make CICA contact which takes a lot of the pain and stress away.
- High-quality service guaranteed. All solicitors have years of experience.
- Solicitors work tirelessly to make sure that they get the highest amount of compensation possible for you in your situation.
- They help gain justice for the pain caused to you.
- All cases operate on a “no win, no fee” basis.
In order to make an abuse claim, you can get in contact by following the link.