When you think of abuse, you may think only of physical actions. Mental abuse is also a reality, however. If it happens in your workplace, you will need to take several steps to address it as you create a healthy work environment.
Types of Mental Abuse
Workplace mental abuse shows up in many forms. The abuse can be overt and outward or manifest itself in less obvious ways, and it can be directed to co-workers, subordinates or clients. It may also permeate the entire workplace culture or only show up in certain situations. Examples include:
- Angry rants
- Failing to provide relevant information
- Sabotaging work
- Stealing credit for work
- Directing rude or belligerent comments toward someone
- Dismissing legitimate complaints from victims
- Rewarding bullies with better assignments, promotions or pay raises
Causes of Mental Abuse
In your workplace, you may see several causes of mental abuse. Significant changes to business operations could prompt co-workers to become mentally abusive, especially if roles are not discussed and agreed upon. Inadequate communication also causes problems and can prompt someone to cope in an unhealthy manner. Difficult working conditions with high work volumes or short staff may also trigger mental abuse episodes as overworked employees cope in the wrong way.
Effects of Mental Abuse
When mental abuse is present in your workplace, the company, employees and clients suffer. The victims will experience increased stress, lack of motivation and productivity, physical illness and absenteeism. Managers spend valuable time documenting the abuse, comforting the victim and disciplining the abuser instead of doing their work. Abuse can even affect the company’s bottom line as valuable resources are diverted away from projects and toward crisis management, productivity decreases and turnover increases.
Preventing Mental Abuse
Mental abuse is never okay, but it does happen. Your company should be consistent and aggressive in handling the abuse to protect you and others.
First, make sure there’s a zero tolerance policy. It should outline unacceptable behavior and include the requirements for documenting, disciplining and handling abusive situations.
You’ll also want to make sure employees are adequately trained to handle abusive situations. They should be able to recognize abuse and know the guidelines for reporting it.
Everyone should feel comfortable discussing and reporting mental abuse, also. Managers ideally should have an open door policy that allows employees and clients to report improper behavior.
You can’t always prevent mental abuse in your workplace, but you can address it properly and stop it from continuing. If your company does not have a mental abuse prevention and handling process in place, ask your Human Resources department to create one and promote a healthy work environment for everyone.