A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Recognizing Abuse at Work
Dear Sue: How do I know if I am being taken advantage of at
work? I try to be respectful of others, but do not feel I am respected
in return. I don’t know if I should speak up or just tolerate the abuse.
–Taken advantage of
Sue Says: No matter what position you hold, you deserve to be
treated fairly and with respect. If you are feeling frightened,
confused, isolated or powerless, there’s a good chance you are being
taken advantage of. Angry outbursts, constant criticism, threats,
swearing, yelling and raging are some of the indicators of abuse.
Abuse at work can be difficult to recognize and even more challenging
to address. Speaking up can be frightening, especially when the problem
is a superior and your livelihood is at stake.
Understanding what is acceptable and what is not is the first step,
but it can take some time for you to become adept at quickly identifying
bad behavior—especially if you are used to it and have tolerated it for
some time. Don’t rely on the perception of others; you need to learn to
trust your instincts and listen to your ‘gut’. Your feelings are your
most trusted and reliable source when it comes to recognizing abusive
No one has the right to take advantage of you, regardless of title or
rank. Know your rights and defend them. The clearer your boundaries are
the less likely others will cross them.
If you are in a situation that is cannot be resolved, don’t give up:
talk with someone who can help you, be it a supervisor, someone in human
resources, or if necessary, outside counsel.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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