Understanding and Addressing Workplace Mistreatment and Workplace Harassment
Mistreatment in the workplace creates atmospheres that undermine individuals fundamental right, to dignity. This mistreatment can take the form of rumours, falsehoods, exclusion, sabotage and various forms of intimidation. Toxic supervisors, co-workers and employers often employ these tactics to maintain power dynamics while avoiding accountability. However it is crucial to recognise that mistreatment is never acceptable.
Here’s a common pattern of workplace mistreatment;
Employees who excel may face threats from their superiors or co-workers who feel threatened by their competence. Abusive strategies are used to manipulate the situation and portray the achiever as the issue leaving them perplexed and undervalued. When victims report mistreatment to authorities or HR departments they may be led to believe that a proper complaint process will be followed; however often nothing substantial occurs. Employers might evade acknowledging fault in order to avoid liability leaving victims in an environment with no consequences, for those
As stress mounts victims confront two choices; endure the environment which detrimentally affects their well being or leave without income or health coverage. Psychological injuries can significantly hinder ones ability to work effectively. Moreover when victims decide to leave their workplace due, to abuse their employers responsibility in this matter tends to disappear
Those who have experienced workplace abuse go through trauma. Suffer various losses. These include anxiety, depression, job loss, feelings of isolation physical symptoms of stress, erosion of trust, financial strain, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even thoughts of suicide. Such experiences can be devastating for individuals who were once achievers.
It is crucial to acknowledge that workplace abuse is not a problem; it affects millions of people. Has become an epidemic that poses a threat to public health. Often rooted in stereotyping and implicit bias it disproportionately impacts employees. Anti discrimination laws have proven inadequate in addressing these issues as they tend to focus on intent than the actual impact.
The responsibility for this issue lies not with the abuser but with the employer and society at large when they fail to address it adequately. When governments do not regulate abuse rigorously as they do physical safety measures it adds another layer of betrayal. Every individual deserves recognition—being seen and heard—. Should feel valued in their workplace. They should have some degree of control, over their job and a sense of belonging. Workplace abuse directly threatens these needs by dehumanising individuals.
Causes and Solutions
Workplace mistreatment is a pressing concern that can have effects, on both individuals and organisations. It is crucial to acknowledge and tackle this issue. Workplace mistreatment goes beyond conflicts. Encompasses long term psychological pressure and negative behaviours that undermine a persons dignity, well being, safety, job performance and happiness. It can manifest as bullying, ineffective leadership or scapegoating. Numerous factors contribute to workplace mistreatment, such, as performance expectations, the presence of individuals intense competition, unresolved anger issues and inadequate management practices. These factors create an environment that fosters behaviours.
Types of Workplace Mistreatment
Scapegoating refers to the act of blaming a person or a group, for issues that arise in the workplace. This often leads to the replacement of the scapegoat and the selection of a target perpetuating a cycle of mistreatment. Abusive leadership can manifest in behaviours such as shouting, shaming employees disregarding requests, exerting coercion and withholding benefits. These actions erode trust among co-workers. Create a positive work environment.
Workplace bullying is not confined to school settings; it unfortunately persists into adulthood. It encompasses forms of mistreatment including harassment and intimidation which can have psychological and health consequences for those targeted.
Addressing Workplace Mistreatment
Organisations must take action to address workplace mistreatment. Encouraging employees to report behaviour is crucial while employers should strive to foster a culture built on respect and accountability.
Putting an end to mistreatment requires efforts aimed at creating environments where employees are valued their rights are upheld and their dignity is protected.
Every worker should have the opportunity to enjoy the following;
- Safety; Workers deserve a workplace that’s free, from any kind of mistreatment including abuse, threats, sabotage or any form of harm.
- Inclusion; Workers should feel like they belong in their organisation and are valued members of a team.
- Value; Workers should be aware that their contributions are meaningful and important.
- Respect; Workers should be treated with dignity considering their needs well as their individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Well being; Workers have the right to work in an environment that prioritises their health and promotes their well being.
- Achievement; Workers should have access to information and resources for them to excel in their roles and feel accomplished in what they do.
- Support; Workers deserve to have a voice and for their concerns to be heard and addressed when they speak up.
- Fairness; All workers should expect reasonable treatment and equitable standards applied equally among colleagues.
- Empowerment; Workers should have control over their work and the ability to influence it fostering confidence and personal growth.
- Contribution; Every worker has the right to play a role, in fulfilling the organisations purpose.
Psychological mistreatment, in the workplace such as bullying and mobbing is a force that violates employees right to feel psychologically safe. It involves actions between individuals that undermine an employees dignity and basic human rights. This includes the use of unethical words, actions or neglect whether intentional or unintentional in an systematic manner. These behaviours create a work environment that reasonable people would consider unsuitable for job responsibilities. In some cases even a single severe incident can be considered abuse.
The root cause of abuse lies in the exploitation of employees by employers who often evade responsibility for their employees emotional well being due to liability concerns. As a result they lack motivation to address this issue. This form of abuse is closely connected to mental health issues. It is four times more prevalent than sexual harassment alone. The misuse of power often stems from biases, which have posed challenges, for discrimination laws since the 1990s. During that time the focus shifted from considering the impact of actions to assessing intent creating a threshold that hampers regulation of workplace hierarchies based on demographics.
How Workplace Abuse Unfolds;
Typically workplace bullying arises when an insecure or envious employee feels threatened by a colleagues competence or demeanour. The bully then sets their sights on an employee in order to undermine or eliminate the perceived threat they pose. To control the narrative and convince both the employee and others of their incompetence persistent psychological abuse is employed. Common tactics include making accusations ignoring or excluding the employee and sabotaging their career. In work environments employees often find that when they report behaviour to authorities within the workplace their complaints are frequently dismissed. Employers are not held accountable for behaviour and many are hesitant to address it.
This cycle continues with a bully who faces no consequences for their actions. The complaint process is drawn out while the victim either chooses to leave gets terminated from employment or even suffers physical and mental distress due to a hostile work environment. As a result significant harm is inflicted upon them physically / as well, as economically. The trauma intensifies when victims come to realise that the institutions they trusted are complicit, in jeopardising their health and livelihoods. This realisation leads to distress when they discover that there is no recourse available to them. The responsibility for providing long term healthcare and meeting needs for millions of citizens falls on the shoulders of taxpayers, which creates a societal cost.
These are some of the costs associated with this situation;
Distress, including anxiety, depression and burnout
- Physical health consequences such as heart disease, obesity, sleep problems, cancer, PTSD, suicidal thoughts and suicide
Loss of jobs and careers resulting in financial hardship
There are also organisational costs involved;
- Increased absenteeism rates
- High turnover rates leading to additional expenses for training new employees
- Elevated employee benefits expenses
- Decreased task performance levels and productivity
- Lowered morale among employees
To effectively address workplace abuse it is crucial that collective efforts be made to create environments where employees feel valued and their rights as well, as dignity are protected.
David Alssema is a Body Language Expert and Motivational Speaker. As a performer in the personal development industry in Australia he has introduced and created new ways to inspire, motivate and develop individuals.
David Alssema started his training career with companies such as Telstra and Optus Communications, and then developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) within workplace training as principal of Paramount Training & Development.
As an author/media consultant on body language and professional development David has influenced workplaces across Australia. He contributes to Media such as The West Australian, ABC Radio, Australian Magazines and other Australia Media Sources.