Is the Stress You’re Struggling with Employee Abuse?

Author: Nipsy Jhamb | Categories: HR Management

A recent news of workplace harassment, by the founder of a popular channel, was taking rounds of social media. This is not the first instance of employee abuse at the workplace; rather, it is a major problem that goes unobserved many times. Workplace abuse is today a notorious issue that requires far more attention and acknowledgment than it has received.

Abuse can be physical, mental, or both. There is confusion over the kind of action that comes under workplace abuse or harassment. For the uninitiated, there is a thin line of difference between employee abuse and harassment.

How to identify employee abuse? How different is it from employee harassment?

Employee abuse is recurring unreasonable behavior towards an employee, which damages the person’s psychological and physical state to a great extent. On the other hand, employee harassment is an unwelcome conduct by caste, race, gender, etc., which is offending, humiliating, and intimidating. In addition to this, another remarkable fact is that sexual harassment of men and women, both, is equally common.

However, this is not the only form of workplace harassment; some other ways in which employees are abused, include:

  • Constant reminder by the manager that an employee’s position in the company is available only until he or she (the manager) wishes to have them (the employee) around and that the former carries the complete authority to fire the latter from the organization at his or her discretion. This is perhaps the commonest form of abuse in most organizations.

  • Discrimination among the employees by ‘favoritism’ is also a kind of employee abuse. Managers behave partially with staff and favor those that follow their orders without question.

  • Making employees work overtime without adequate compensation is also employee abuse. Many times, women that are pregnant, or have just delivered and resumed work are also made to work overtime.

  • Verbal abuse is another form to cite here. Often managers tend to lose their temper and use abusive language while addressing an issue or providing (critical) feedback.

  • Managers may often deliberately ignore suggestions given by employees despite them being sensible and worthy. This is an indirect form of employee abuse. In this case, the employee is constantly reminded that his/her ideas and opinions are not valid and that their presence is insignificant to the manager.

These are just some ways in which the management in organizations may abuse employees. Statistics show that 45% of employees are victims of workplace abuse.

Abuse at the workplace: Consequences

The effects of employee abuse are often dire than they are perceived. Working overtime on a regular basis can cause outrageous amounts of stress in employees and lead to an imbalance in their personal life. Verbal abuse tends to lower the morale of the employee and also reduce the level of sophistication in the workplace. Ignorance of employees’ worthiness can lead to depression and make them feel extremely unwanted. This, in turn, may affect the mental state of the victim leading to issues like depression, frustration, lack of motivation, and hatred and rejection of oneself.

Professionals are educated enough and capable of expressing thoughts on diverse matters – good or bad. Then why is it that they avoid voicing their opinions and take strong action against employee abuse?

You’d be surprised to know that there can be several reasons for this, which include:

  • Not being aware of the consequences

  • Considering oneself meek and incapable of going against the management at workplace

  • Fearing that standing against such instances may draw ire from the authority, and thereby made to ‘pay the consequences’

Is there a way to curb this ‘menace’?

Being aware of and acknowledging ‘it’ is the first step one can take to restrain workplace bullying. Rather than waiting for others to voice their opinions, begin with yourself!

  • If you feel like your manager or boss is treating you in a manner that you do not deserve, stand up for yourself.

  • Talk to the person and explain how you feel about his or her behavior.

  • If the situation persists, don’t hesitate to visit the HR department at your workplace. If need be, lodge a formal complaint with them and seek advice.

  • Approaching the HR department is also handy in cases where you may be apprehensive about directly speaking to your tormentor, fearing it may appear disrespectful on your part

  • If you are familiar with an HR personnel at your workplace, it would be even better. First, you’d be comfortable sharing about the incident and second, the person will do his best to assist you.

  • In any case, do not miss to document such unfair practices to use as evidence when the matter is taken up by higher officials. This can be in the form of emails, messages, voice calls, etc.

Role of the HR function in eliminating employee abuse instances

Every member is jointly responsible for promoting a healthy culture and maintaining the decorum at the workplace. While it is the employee’s onus to highlight such an instance, it is the responsibility of the HR team also to provide solutions to this problem. So, what should an HR personnel do in such a situation?

  • Treat the instance as grave and hear out the victim.

  • Investigate properly about the incident.

  • Talk to other members of the victim’s team (or friends) to analyze the gravity of the situation.

  • If the situation is under control, speak to the ‘accused’ and explain the disadvantages of such behavior.

  • If the situation isn’t under control or the behavior continues, strict action should be taken under the ‘Employee Protection Act’.

It is crucial on humanitarian as well as official grounds that the higher officials treat employees with respect. If you are on the management side of the fence, remember that your behavior can cause both negative and positive impact on the employees. If all the employees are treated equally in an organization, it can lead to drastic progress of the organization as everyone will be happy and willing to work. On the other hand, harassment or abuse can demotivate people and lead even the high-performing team members to quit their jobs.

To ensure that a healthy environment is maintained at the workplace and that every member is at his or her productive best, it’s important that feedback is provided in a positive manner and that employees are motivated for their good work. A friendly atmosphere is not just advantageous on the job front; it is an excellent way to keep stress at bay too.

Besides, it’s important that one keeps his eyes and ears open to the happenings at the workplace. There can be someone who’s silently bearing it all. Remember to provide a helping hand to the one that needs it.

Michael J. Fox once quoted “One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” To secure one’s dignity, employee abuse must never be ignored, and every employee should be entitled to fair practices and just treatment at the workplace.