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The signs of emotional abuse in the workplace

When you think of a work injury, you may only think of physical injuries and illnesses that occur at the workplace. The truth is that workplace injury can extend to emotional trauma, abuse and bullying, but many do not know what to watch for.

Psychological violence is all too common in the workplace. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 30% of Americans deal with bullying at work and it affects over 70 million workers. Because it can be hard to separate regular workplace stress from emotional distress caused by bullying, it is important that workers know what to watch for.

Signs of an abusive boss

Abusive relationships are not limited to personal interactions. They occur anytime there is a power imbalance in a relationship that one person manipulates for their own gain. In the workplace, an abusive boss can look like any of the following:

  • Gaslighting: An abusive boss may downplay or distort a situation or flat-out lie.
  • Crossing boundaries: Bullying occurs when your boss ignores the appropriate boundaries you created for work, like contacting you constantly after hours.
  • Ostracizing: An abusive boss undermines collaborative or cohesive work environments to isolate employees.
  • Threatening: Some bosses are impulsive or volatile when stressed and may threaten employees with firing or other consequences that are unfair.
  • Demanding: When a boss feels inferior, they may demand constant praise for their work, which can lead to bullying in the workplace.

The effects of emotional distress in the workplace

When dealing with an abusive boss, you may feel extreme anxiety, burnout, dread or apathy about going to work, low self-esteem and even PTSD symptoms. This decreases productivity in your work and ultimately costs the business.