Harassment, Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Hostile Work Environments

In my counseling and coaching practice, I encounter clients who are involved in controlling or abusive personal relationships with friends, partners, spouses, parents, adult children or other family members.

This may involve verbal, emotional, physical, sexual abuse, assault or domestic violence as a component.

There are a variety of contributing factors for these kinds of behavior, both past and present.

However, this is an indication that the people involved are violating relationship boundaries and need help to gain insight to prevent further escalation and harm.

If there is a threat physically or sexually, it may require legal action

It may mean for couples engaged in domestic violence there is a need to separate and get help

Often, people who don’t respect other’s boundaries may be strongly opinionated, judgmental, abusive, arrogant or bullies.

They often lack empathy, are not reciprocal in relationships, tend to be focused on getting what they want or need at the expense of others.

They often have difficulty admitting mistakes or taking responsibility for their actions when it impacts others negatively.

In addition, they can easily feel injustice by others if they are challenged or made accountable for their actions.

In terms of friends, parents, children or extended family members, if you are unable to get through to them, it may mean distancing yourself and limiting your time and interactions in order to avoid the negative aspects of your relationship with them.

In working with clients, we explore ways to get through to these difficult people regarding their concerns, improve coping, as well as, consider how to re-establish healthy boundaries, if possible.

I also see clients who are encountering prejudice, harassment, intimidation, hostility, hate, racism, discrimination, abuse and injustice in their workplaces with managers, coworkers or employees.

If you are working in a hostile work environment, it is likely due to the prevailing culture of the organization, as well as, the leadership style and practices of those in power.

An organization’s culture is shaped by the leadership style, practices, behavior and communication of the leaders of that particular organization.

The top leaders model what the leadership style and practices are to be throughout the organization, in terms of, what is rewarded and what managers and employees will be accountable for.

Organizations are supposed to provide an environment where managers and employees are protected from various kinds of risk, as well as, abusive people and practices.

Policies and procedures are supposed to be put in place to assure managers and employees they will be protected and treated well in the organization.

Human resources is charged with trying to help maintain equitable and fair practices so people are protected.

Some organizations have Employee Assistance Programs and training programs to provide additional resources to support managers and employees behaving and operating in responsible ways.

However, in my work with clients, this doesn’t always happen.

An organization may be operating in good faith by putting forth certain organizational values, policies, procedures and resources, but they may not be consistently enforcing them.

In addition, it only takes one manager whose leadership style and practices are incongruent with the values, policies and procedures of the organization to cause problems for others if there is not adequate accountability for that manager.

Often, in organizations, if there is a conflict between management and employees, there tends to be a bias toward supporting managers and a bias against the employee, unless there are extreme violations on the part of one or the other.

In fact, there is rarely an adequate investigation done by an objective party who has as a mandate to interview all the relevant stakeholders involved in the conflict or dispute in order to determine what really happened.

Clients I work with that are having a conflict or where there has been a problematic work incident often complain, there is no “due process” at work and that can be true unless there is a Union.

There can also be situations where an employee, due to being favored by a manager or due to fear of what an employee might due legally, where there is little or no accountability for the employee’s problematic behavior or violations of policies.

In my work with clients, whether with a manager or employee, I help them consider what options the organization offers to resolve their issues or concerns, as well as, help them improve their coping.

If they have exhausted those options and it has still not resolved their issues or concerns, we might consider if there are other positions in the organization where it might be a better fit for them.

We will also consider other opportunities outside of the organization to resolve matters or positions in other organizations if the client is willing to leave their current organization.

We problem-solve together to find solutions, alternatives and better ways of coping.