Something’s off, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You expect your boss and co-workers to support you to do the work you were hired to do and expect to be treated with dignity and respect.
But that’s not what's happening. Your boss or co-worker talks down to you. It seems you can’t say or do anything right. Your boss falsely accuses you, isolates you, or sabotages your job or career.
You've been targeted by a workplace bully.
You try to please the abuser or try to figure out how you need to change. But nothing works. The abuse continues. The bully is threatened by your competence, social skills, and any other good qualities you have. They either keep you immobilized under their thumb or do everything in their power to get rid of you.
You want to respectfully confront the abuser and tell them their behavior is unacceptable but are afraid they'll come back at you even harder next time. The power imbalance silences you into submission to keep the peace and your paycheck.
The bully doesn’t let up, and you report the problem to management. You expect the organization to intervene and either discipline or get rid of the abuser, but neither happen. Delay after delay. Nothing is ever done about the bully. Something isn’t off. Everything is off.
You're in a toxic work environment.
For the majority of targeted and victimized employees, the psychological abuse doesn’t stop until they leave. If toxic workplace behavior isn’t dealt with effectively in the short term, employees are likely in a toxic work environment — where higher-ups prioritize avoiding corporate liability over human well-being.
Employers aren’t currently liable for the psychological safety of their employees — nor do they want to be. So the employer further abuses the employee with a willful blindness and deafness to the problem (mobbing). They choose to ignore the problem and make reporting employees go away instead.
In toxic work environments, employers deceive and conspire against employees who report abuse to avoid the threat of liability. If employees fight them, they fight harder. With legal resources at their fingertips, they win most of the time. The mission of mobbing aka organizational bullying is to break you psychologically, leaving no fingerprints.
There are three typical outcomes for bullied and mobbed employees:
- They leave voluntarily from the significant health harm which has immobilized them from remaining under the silent killer stress waiting for organizational resolve that is willfully denied
- They are fired by the employer because they can no longer perform their duties due to the significant health harm.
- They die.
These inhumane workplace practices violate basic human rights without account. The majority of targeted and victimized employees never realize what’s happened to them until after they leave the toxic work environment. In the aftermath, the realization of the premeditated health harm and job loss leads to further traumatic psychological injury.
We need a law.
Psychological abuse at work is an epidemic that affects an estimated 48.6 million Americans according to a 2021 Workplace Bullying Institute study.
The mistreatment often leads to serious, long-term physical, psychological, emotional health harm and economic injury, as many employees suffer severe financial loss after losing their jobs and careers, too ill to return to work. PTSD, a brain injury, and stress-induced illnesses are common consequences as is suicide and suicide ideation. Employees die.
We have regulations at work for environmental safety. We have regulations at work for physical safety. It has been the historic practice in the United States to legislate issues of employee exploitation. The psychological safety of employees is of no less importance.
We need a law NOW.
THE DISCRIMINATORY NATURE OF WORKPLACE BULLYING AND MOBBING
At the heart of workplace bullying and mobbing is the imbalance and misuse of power, with people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, the oldest and youngest members of the workforce, and those with disabilities mistreated more frequently.
Anti-discrimination laws are supposed to protect workers against harassment and unfair treatment due to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age (40 or older), or disability or genetic information, but they have failed to do that for decades, as researchers have shown. Workers outside these protected classes have no legal protections whatsoever.
Our workplaces, legislators, and the legal system have failed to protect employees from psychological abuse. Psychological safety is an issue of occupational safety. Psychological safety is implicit to human well-being. It is an issue of employee exploitation.