Emotional Abuse in the Workplace: Definition, Examples, and Prevention Strategies - Growth Freaks

Emotional Abuse in the Workplace: Definition, Examples, and Prevention Strategies

Man bullying a woman at work

Emotional abuse in the workplace is also called workplace bullying. Sadly, it may happen more often than you think. Sometimes it even goes unnoticed by coworkers or bosses. All in all, it has a huge impact on the employee morale and essentially changes the organizational culture. Today we are going to go through a definition of it, show some examples and discuss some prevention strategies.

Emotional Abuse in the Workplace – Definition

Workplace bullying refers to a regular mistreatment applied by others in the workplace. It causes emotional or physical harm. This type of abuse can employ various tactics: physical, verbal, nonverbal or psychological abuse, as well as humiliation. It is overt or covert and it can affect several employees.


From supervisors to subordinates:

  • Cutting off the subordinates from opportunities, activities or other benefits;
  • Changing work habits and taking away responsibilities to determine them to resign;
  • Contributing to a hostile work environment;
  • Sabotaging their work (impossible deadlines, not offering critical information, not giving enough tasks);
  • Pitting employees against one another.

From co-workers to co-workers:

  • Excluding colleagues from activities and opportunities;
  • Sabotaging work product (hiding information or falsifying it);
  • Criticizing their work in front of other people;
  • Undermining their reputation;
  • Bullying them (with threatening or demeaning remarks).

Emotional Abuse in the Workplace Prevention Strategies

Luckily, there are several strategies which employers can use to prevent such situations. Here you have some useful tips in what concerns the legal and formal frame that sets the work environment:

1. Inform Everybody

Firstly, make sure that your employees know everything about workplace bullying. Offer them a comprehensive definition and bring examples. Your employees should be able to recognize a case of emotional abuse, especially when it’s happening to them. Moreover, present them the legislation about this.

2. State Your Goals and Objectives

Then, make sure what is the company’s position regarding this topic. Everybody should know that emotional abuse is not accepted within the company. Consequently, inform everybody about the punishments that are in place for people who practice this. Every potential bully should be aware of the consequences of their own acts.

3. Distinguish between Isolated Incidents and Repeated Acts

Many managers make the mistake of taking an incident as something isolated. But is it truly so? Emotional abuse in the workplace can be often covert, so whenever you hear about such a case, make sure it’s not a routine.

4. Set a Procedure

Finally, to know how to deal with such cases, set a typical procedure. Usually, it’s good to ask for help from a psychologist. Make the procedure public, so that people can know they can always ask for help in case they can’t handle the situation on their own.


Finally, emotional abuse in the workplace is a delicate topic. Not many people know how to deal with it, and even less have the courage to signal it. For this reason, it is important to know what is it, how to recognize it and what prevention strategies to employ. Moreover, a psychologist can help everybody with relevant advice both on particular cases and on the general rules.

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Author: Amanda Knowles