Signs of Abuse in the Workplace

March 31, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

At one job, my boss manipulated and controlled her employees. She tried to win over her employees by becoming overly familiar with us and then using the information to manipulate our actions, even play one employee off another. She obviously manipulated my supervisor, Dean, and after becoming his friend, I found she abused him in hidden ways, too. The signs of workplace abuse made it obvious I needed a new job (Dealing With Verbal Abuse At Work).

Examples of Workplace Abuse

Here are some ways that my employer abused Dean, my supervisor:

Boss integrated herself into Dean's personal life.

Signs of abuse in the workplace are easy to spot when the boss yells and threatens employees. Other signs of workplace abuse aren't so obvious. Read this.* Our boss set him up with a woman, and then when the relationship seemed to be working, she began to "hate, hate, hate that woman!" and would demean him for staying with her.

* She found him a rental home and maintained her friendship with the landlord. She often went to the landlord to find out what Dean was doing in his off time, and eventually, claimed to have ownership in the property and threatened to put him out of it if he didn't do certain things (Threatening Behavior And Verbal Abuse).

* She attempted to set herself up as a savior to him, both creating chaos in his personal life and then stepping in to "fix it."

Boss attempted to control Dean's financial prospects.

* She sent him home from work early very often and he lost hourly pay.

* She would take a fit at work and send Dean home or flat out fire him with no documentation.

Boss emotionally manipulated employees.

* After each firing, she went back to him, promising him future rewards if he would come back to work. She's apologized and accepted his apologies, she's promised to raise his pay effective immediately then reduced it the week later. She has alternately cried and begged or stood firm and domineering, depending on whether she thought he had other opportunities outside of her employment.

* She asked him, "What in the hell do you do with all the money I pay you?!" Not only is that none of her (or the other employees') business, but she didn't give him full-time hours as his work contract promised.

Boss attempted to manipulate other employees to view Dean as dangerous.

* Upon firing him, she claimed that he slashed the tires on her trucks, spray-painted headlights, and caused other damages to her property. The last time she fired Dean, she claimed she had him on tape stealing supplies. She has no security cameras on her property; she never filed any police reports.

* She gossiped incessantly about Dean under the guise of protecting me. But days later, she told me that she thought I was good for him. She told me that it would be okay with her if he and I had a love relationship outside of work; I felt violated, in a sense. My love life is none of her business.

* She stated that threw shop property onto the floor in a rage when no one else saw Dean do any such thing. I assume that she wanted to rewrite the memories of her employees (brainwash us).

Boss verbally abused Dean in front of other employees.

* She said his work was substandard and called him names. On other days, she claimed his work was perfection and we should all learn a thing or two from him (Emotional Abuse of Men: Men Victims of Emotional Abuse Too). She yelled and screamed at Dean; there's no excuse for yelling and screaming.

* She argued with him over how to accomplish tasks, yet in the end instructed him to do it as he had originally suggested (she pretended it was her idea).

There is more I could say, more I have witnessed. What is your experience with workplace abuse?

These Pages May Be Helpful:

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, March 31). Signs of Abuse in the Workplace, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

April, 15 2011 at 5:53 am

hello. i checked back here hoping to read more about 'how to deal with verbal abuse'. but, no one wrote anything.

April, 9 2011 at 3:11 am

my trauma was documented nearly daily in writing to a friend about all the garbage i was experiencing at the workplace. a business was started for me by my parents and in my name. i didn't realize i was being used for their financial gain. they may truly have wanted to see me be successful with it in the future after they got all the money they wanted, first. but during the course of the operation, i was treated like a slave doing my physically demanding job. there were no proper breaks and i got yelled at one time when i wanted to rest because my broken leg and ankle hurt. i did my best, i did a great job. they just wanted the impossible from me. when my mother would talk to me wondering why i wasn't giving even more 'blood', i stood strong and quiet listening to her. but my blood was pumping hard and my knees were shaking.
i take inventory of myself and want to do the right things and try to be aware of my shortcomings. constantly being put down, i began to question whether i was falling short or if it was their ridiculous demands. then the busy weekend came, short of help, and with faltering equipment. i know i was doing the right thing but more 'blood' was required. i was really put down. i wrote to my friend 'my brain is starting to believe what my mother is saying to me'. the next morning before i began another long day, i wrote to my friend 'i'm so exhausted that i'm dizzy'. thats when the psychogenic dizziness began but i thought i was dizzy because i was overworked. i was waitressing 14.5 hrs a day every day with no days off. 4 of us put in the same hours but only the cook and i worked real real hard. man power hours weren't utilized. if someone wasn't needed, they still had to be there even if there was nothing to do. my ways, thoughts and beliefs were totally different from my parents. they ganged up on me and swayed the other workers to turn against me. it was a nitemare. then one day my head went 'weird' and 'changed'. i guess i just went 'nuts' and developed some real mental issues.
in my past, i could never understand if someone said 'oh, i can't go to the store, i can't drive, i can't ride in a car, i'm going to stay home'. i sure do understand it now. it's REAL.
sticks and stones do break bones and names DO hurt.

April, 3 2011 at 3:05 am

Awww....Kellie....your words just made my day!!! I cannot begin to tell you how much YOU helped me, and I am SO joyful those days are behind us now, to reflect upon! I was writing the above, while you were posting the above!
The friendship generated from the ashes of suffering is one to be cherished! xox
You battle was a LONG, HARD journey, looking back, it's amazing to see how you kept yourself together and maintained the determination to heal!
You, your life, and experience is the epitomy of inspiration for others to see their way to healing!
Keep it up! You have a lot of wisdom to share!

April, 3 2011 at 2:59 am

You need to pull yourselves together, and not allow another's actions, feelings, perspectives, or decisions to take over and control you. Do not bear the weight of their issues upon your shoulders. Believe in yourself, do not believe in how others perceive you.
In 2008/2009, I experienced a most bizarre work situation. Decent position, wage, enjoyed my work, made improvements by leaps and bounds for this small non-profit. Then, an individual comes into the picture and what seemed to be sexual harassment began. I thought it was a mere workplace/coworker friendship initially, then the signs and wonders began. My work performance was sabotaged by this person consuming a majority of my time, it frustrated me as I was a dept. supervisor. He within weeks became my supervisor. I dealt with it, tried to cope. After a few weeks, I dug in and resisted the actions of this person. When it became apparent that I would not consider even a personal friendship outside of work, his behavior changed. For 4 months he would say things to the CEO who by the way was a close personal friend of his, speak with my staff most likely degrading me, and tried all sorts of cunning tricks that had me convinced he was trying to get me to resign. I dug in deeper and refused to cave. I addressed my concerns with the CEO and they were ignored, as if they did not exist and it was all my imagination. Within 2 weeks, after I spoke with the CEO, I was termed because I refused to resign and accept the severance pay. I struggled for 2 years unemployed and mentally battered over that experience. I sued, and settled for less then what the severance check was. The company in those 2 years spiraled downward, my workplace abuser was termed 7 months after I was let go. That was a biggie to me, as I did not want others to suffer his abuses. Now 2 years later, the BOD termed the CEO, and the truth was exposed. My mental healing is fulfilled.
A few months ago, I was offered a full time position with another company, a significant decrease in pay, but up until recently with the hiring of this new AA, it was a spiritually and mentally healing environment. High stress work, but a fantastic supervisor!
My conclusion; there are principalities (google the word) at work in our lives, and we need to arm ourselves for the battle. Be a strong, wise warrior! You have the Power!
I would also like to point out that during my time of employment with this dysfunctional environment, I was deeply involved in an abusive intimate relationship with what we refer to as a narcissist. That too has ended, and I recently celebrated the 1 year marker of healing. With Kellie's inspiration and encouragement, I began to blog during those last days, and it helped the healing process.
I have not blogged much in the last 12 months, but for me, it's like a healing corner, and hopefully a healing or learning site for others. I simply share what I learn.
Best to all of you, be strong, document, keep the weight of 'others' issues on their shoulders. Remove yourself from their target and heal!

April, 3 2011 at 2:18 am

Good writing Kellie! So pleased to see you continue to write; it's such a blessing to others!
I hope you and your co-worker are no longer working for this terror!
I had an experience with a new employee in our small office last week, which was a big red flag, hoping it will play itself out and her tactics will be apparent to the supervisor before it gets too deep. She totally snapped on me with no one else around, then a few days later asked why I was mad at her!!?? Twisting, could get real messy!
Sad, abuser are everywhere!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
April, 3 2011 at 2:50 am

Thank you and it is good to see your familiar name here! You are a blessing to me, too - you've been with me through many of the really hard times I wrote about on my other blog and I couldn't have done it without you. No, I no longer work for that "terror" and as of three weeks ago, my friend doesn't either. We're both FREE! :)

sandra reyes
April, 1 2011 at 4:12 pm

I had 3 bosses in the past two years they hate me and when i suffered with the death of family and opened up about my sadness i was fired right before xmas just to find out later the bosses were fired too why me I just want to die.

victoria leiter
April, 1 2011 at 8:43 am

i was verbally abused and first developed psychogenic dizziness. two months later i developed other psychosomatic illnessnes in my head. i have just come 'out of it' for the 3rd time in almost two years and am trying to be as strong as i can so that it won't come back again. not being able to let go of the abuse is why i believe that the psychosomatic stuff hung on to me. i'd like to read about anyone who has experienced either psychogenic dizziness or any psychosomatic illness. it's unreal how our brains can make us sick by another persons words.

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