The signs of an abusive boss can be difficult to spot initially. People often excuse the behaviors away because they think the boss is just very strict, or he is unaware or even that he just doesn't care.
There are a couple of important points to keep in mind here. First of all, the signs of an abusive boss has little to do with the level of effect he or she is having on you. It's much more important to pay attention to what the boss is actually doing. For example, one person can become very stressed out after several weeks in an office with a particular abusive boss. Another person may tolerate 6 to 8 months of the same boss before they begin to develop symptoms. So you are not the measure of whether a boss is abusive or not, it's about the behaviours the boss exhibits.
Point number two has to do with repetition of the behaviors. A boss who raises his voice while reprimanding a subordinate for making a mistake on very rare occasions would not necessarily be considered abusive. Someone who shouts every two or three days for weeks or months on end is in a different category.
The third point is that everybody can have their foibles. If a boss wants a task done a particular way every single time and gets upset when that's not done, then this can be chalked up to the idea that the boss is very particular in this specific area. A boss who is actually abusive will not just have one of these things, but typically there are many, many areas that they criticize people for and even these areas can be different from one day to the next.
If you do see lots of the signs of an abusive boss below in your own situation then, whatever you do, don't ignore them! You need to do something to stop the abuse. We will cover that a little later.
He shouts at you a lot.
He calls you derogatory names.
He uses foul language on a regular basis.
There are sexual innuendos.
He touches you a lot, which makes you feel uncomfortable, especially if you've told him you don't want to be touched.
Any physical violence whatsoever is a major warning sign. This is not just physically striking you, but also striking the wall or the desk beside you, throwing things, breaking things or threatening to do any of these things.
Constant criticism about your work, your hobbies, your private life, your religion and so on is never acceptable. There is no constructive criticism in that they point out what is wrong but don't actually tell you what to do to fix the situation.
Openly laughing at you if you make a mistake, or even if he claims that you you've made a mistake, is another common indicator.
An abusive boss will commonly spread rumours and lies about you. This has the effect that other people may stop talking to you. They may have been openly told not to do so or they stop themselves because they don't want to become a target of the boss and to avoid that they simply stay away from you. This has the effect of making you feel that everybody is against you.
The boss may stop answering your emails and phone calls, or he may delay getting back to you, sometimes for days. Other people in the office may do the same thing.
You are not allowed to defend yourself. People talk over you, stopping you from expressing yourself.
You are told that you don't fit in, your values are not aligned with those of the company and that if you don't change, you risk being fired.
Things are stolen from your workspace. Or you come back to your desk and you find that your objects have been broken.
Your decisions are frequently questioned and ridiculed.
If anything goes wrong in the office, you get the blame, even when it's obviously not your fault.
The human resources department turns out to be of no help at all. They try and brush you off by saying that the problems you're having with the boss is simply a personality clash, you're too sensitive, or you need to just ignore it and get on with your work. When you ask for the protocol for bullying, they tell you that they will get back to you. If you are at this stage, you need to consider that the whole organization is now abusing you.
Some people are even given their own office away from everybody else. They literally are physically isolated from their co-workers. There may be no computer or telephone in this office.
The boss actually treats you like you invisible!
You have assignments taken away from you.
You are given menial tasks to do.
You are given projects that are way below your qualifications.
You are given tasks that are way beyond your qualifications and you know there is going to be trouble when you don't complete them.
Or you are given lots and lots of tasks, you know you have no hope of achieving them all in time.
You are no longer allowed to invent tasks to do.
You are ridiculed.
Your nationality is ridiculed.
Your religious or political beliefs are ridiculed.
Some physical attribute of yours is ridiculed.
The fact that your anxious or stressed is ridiculed. This is a double whammy because the abusive boss has actually set you up to be stressed and anxious.
Your mental health is questioned and you may even be sent for psychological or psychiatric evaluation.
It's not possible to be in an environment such as this and not be affected,
Your work situation is on your mind 24 hours a today. The stress is affecting not just your work life but your personal life and social life as well. It may even be affecting your sleep, difficulty getting to sleep, early-morning waking, nightmares, et cetera.
There may be physical symptoms such as headaches, digestion problems, backache and so on.
Inability to concentrate, memory difficulties, problems making a decision, doubting yourself, losing a sense of who you are, all these are common side effects of being in a situation with an abusive boss.
The best thing you can do is learn. Learn about manipulation, learn the tactics of mind control, learn about manipulators, learn what is being done to you and how. In this way you can begin to make sense of what's going on in your workplace.
It usually comes down to the idea that either you or the boss has to go. If you are on the receiving end of emotional and psychological abuse, and you don't fully understand what's going on, trying to get rid of the boss is a mammoth task, in terms of mental and physical effort and often in financial terms, too. Remember, he or she is not going to give up easily and if you start causing problems they're going to try and force you out.
So if it's not the boss that goes, you are the one who is going to leave. And the sooner that happens the better. The longer you stay, the more distressed and upset you will end up. Much better to think about leaving and getting a new job now while you still have your wits about you, then to be trying to find a job when you're an emotional wreck. Going out on sick leave is another option that gives you a break from the abuse, time off and money in your hand to look for a new job.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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