Effects of emotional & verbal abuse at work

Robin T. is typical of many people who find themselves on the receiving end of abuse – capable, self-assured and vulnerable to being blindsided.

Robin considers herself an easy-going woman, but she says she became “a nervous wreck” working as a secretary in a small office in upstate New York and turned to antidepressants for relief.

“I had an eye twitch, my eating habits became very poor, my sleeping was terrible. I had very severe asthmatic episodes. A lot of it was stress. By the time I got home, I was wound tighter than a drum, I just wanted to be left alone.”

Her boss, she says, was condescending and cruel… His cruelty had long-term consequences for Robin. “I got to a point where I started to question my ability”, she says. “Intellectually, you know not to let it make you feel bad, but you start to believe it. I felt humiliated. I was angry at myself: ‘What have you done with your life that you’re working for a person like this?’..”

For two years, Rosemary C. withstood her boss’s insulting behavior. Now he was screamimg at her again, blowing up when he pointed out work he hadn’t acknowledged she had done. That, she recalls, set him off like never before.

“Let me tell you something”, he raged. He stood close to Rosemary and pointed his finger in her face. “I’m the boss around here”.

“I finally blew up, because I’d held it in for two years”, Rosemay says, still shaken a year later. “I said: ‘Who do you think you are talking to in that tone of voice? Don’t you ever raise your finger in my face again. I’m not an animal in the street. You will talk to me with respect, or don’t talk to me at all”.

“…I realized I should never allow anyone to speak to me in a disrespectful way. When you’re down and out, you don’t see that.”

Abbe, a 50-year-old radiology technician, developped headaches, backaches and nausea as a result of being bullied by her co-workers, a phenomenon known as “mobbing”.

Abbe’s colleagues accused her of being lazy and refused to help her when she asked for assistance… When Abbe appealed to her boss, she says, he told her to “stop causing trouble”.

She became so anxious and depressed that she required medication. “I was constantly seeing the doctor about psychological symptoms and the psychologist about mental health problems”, she says… “I felt paralyzed, almost out of control, like everything was coming at me and I didn’t know how to defend myself. I lost all interest in doing things that I generally enjoyed… I had no ability to clean or keep after things. I was becoming forgetful. I had no ambition.”

Source: NY Daily News, April 5 2004

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