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Make abuse stop

July 10, 2010
By KIMBERLY SHORT WOLFE

If life were a bowl of cherries, a bed of roses or one non-stop picnic, we'd all be spoiled little brats, wouldn't we? However, though life is sometimes difficult and we need to learn to "roll with the punches" and "bend like the willows," there comes a time when push comes to shove that abuse must be identified and addressed. Whether that means moving on or digging in your heals for the long haul, something has to be done and no one should be a doormat.

Abuse is a poison that leeches from one person to another spreading like wildfire throughout families and into workplaces, churches, places of business and society. That's how oppression starts. Good people say nothing. When good people say nothing and remain helpless, then oppression is the result.

Abuse is a cycle that simply must be stopped. It is true that "hurting people hurts people." While that's a reason, it's not an excuse. The abuse cycle at home infects the workplace, school system and society. Standing up is always the right, though sometimes unpopular, thing to do.

Personally, I'd rather enter a room of rattlesnakes than deal with confrontation. (OK, maybe not!) But confrontation makes me uncomfortable. However, when the alternative is watching or experiencing abuse, God has provided scriptural advice on handling it.

Scripture says to "speak the truth in love." Sometimes it is easier in the short term to gloss over or ignore behavior. But, the Bible is clear: Telling the truth is the only way to go. The alternative to telling the truth is lying, and we know that's a no-brainer on the "do not" list.

Telling the truth and confronting someone about abusive behavior is hard, especially if that someone is intimidating, mean or downright nasty. However, we are commanded to "have courage, strength and fortitude." Courage is knowing you are right and going ahead. Speaking to that person about their abuse is liberating. Finding your voice is empowering for someone who has felt powerless and weak.

Scripture is also very clear that you may call upon God to fight for you. The Psalms states over and over that he will fight for you. Psalm 7:16 is a strong reminder that God does not look the other way when we are abused, maligned and mistreated. That's why we need to face the giants in our lives with grace and fortitude, knowing that he sees and wants to deliver us from an abusive life. He is there with us and will give us God confidence for the task at hand. What if David had allowed Goliath to continue maligning God's people? What if he would have said, "Well, I'm just a shepherd boy, what can I do?" He and everyone else would have felt smaller, more weak and oppressed. No, David knew God wanted to fight this battle, but he needed an instrument through which to do it. You know the rest of the story. Five stones were taken, but only one used and the giant came tumbling down.

Psalm 7:16 states that God will wound the pate (crown of their head) of someone dealing violently. Goliath experienced this and died. Now we do not wish death to anyone, or we should not anyway. I saw a Facebook group the other day and kind of cringed: "You hurt my daughter and I'll make your death look like an accident." Can you say anger, bitterness and rage? Wow. And no, I did not join the group! But that's why speaking up is the right thing. When you keep silent, bitterness and anger grow. When you speak up, the liberation you experience is worth the uncomfortable and sometimes terrifying act of confrontation. I've seen many medical studies that prove that keeping silent when you should be speaking up about abuse, causes a myriad of health problems ranging from high blood pressure to heart problems and some think cancer.

Here are five excellent tips by Gerri Willis, personal finance editor for CNN Business News, on dealing with an abusive boss. This could also apply to a spouse, friend, parent, sibling or enemy.

It's no secret that there are abusive bosses out there - you know the type. Bullies with big job titles who make the people working for them miserable.

According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, an abusive boss is more likely to be a woman than a man. That's right - forget their nurturing image! Woman to woman bullying represents 50 percent of all workplace bullying; man to woman is 30 percent, man to man 12 percent and woman to man bullying is extremely rare - only 8 percent.

What should you know if you're the victim of an abusive boss?

1. Identify the behavior. There are all kinds of abusive bosses. The Institute classifies them a few different ways. There are the constant critics who use putdowns, insults and name calling. They may use aggressive eye contact to intimidate. There are also two-headed snakes who pretend to be nice, while all the while trying to sabotage you. Then there are the gatekeepers - people who are obsessed with control - who allocate time, money and staffing to assure their target's failure. Control freaks ultimately want to control your ability to network in the company or to let your star shine. Another type is the screaming Mimis who are emotionally out of control and explosive.

2. Don't take it lying down. If your boss has a difficult management style, you don't have to let their bad behavior go. You can respond - just remember to stay professional. So, if your boss insults you or puts you down, Susan Futterman, author of "When You Work for a Bully" and the founder of MyToxicBoss.com, suggests responding with something like, "In what way does calling me a moron or an idiot solve the problem? I think that there's a better way to deal with this."

If you find out that your boss is bad-mouthing you to higher ups in the company, confront them directly and professionally. Get the evidence in writing from your source if you can. Then, ask him or her what is causing them to do this.

You could say, "I've been hearing from other people in the company that you're not happy with my work. You and I know that this isn't the case and I want to talk about how we can fix this."

If your boss is a control freak who's breathing down your neck, you should address it. Say, "I can't function effectively if you're going to be micromanaging me and looking over my shoulder all the time. If I'm doing something fundamentally wrong, let's talk about it. But this isn't working."

If someone screams at you, don't be a doormat. If you've made a mistake, acknowledge it. But let your boss know that they're creating a difficult work environment. Even if you haven't made a mistake, you may want to calmly ask what they're upset about and if you can address it.

3. Take notes. Documenting your boss' bad behavior is key for two reasons, according to Futterman. First, you might not even realize the extent of the problem. Futterman explains, "Taken in isolation, these events may seem trivial, but taken as a whole, it often becomes more clear what's actually going on. Some victims may be in denial or discount these events as isolated incidents. Your written records can document how severe the situation is."

Documentation is also important if you plan to report the behavior to your boss' boss or to your company's human resources department. And don't dismiss the idea of taking the bull by the horns and working toward a solution.

Try arranging a face-to-face meeting with your boss. Tell them you want to discuss the problems you've encountered because you want to resolve them. Chances are often slim that this will work, however. If they reject the opportunity to discuss things with you, add that to your documentation.

4. Know when it's too much. Bosses may exhibit bad behavior sometimes. Hey, no one is perfect, not even bosses. But if your boss is abusing you, that's a problem.

The problem takes on greater urgency if the abuse starts to make you feel bad. If you chronically suffer high blood pressure that started only when you began working for your boss; or you feel nauseous the night before the start of the work week; or if all your paid vacation days have been used up for mental health breaks.

When the bullying has had a prolonged affect on your health or your life outside of work, it's time to get out. It's also time to leave if your confidence or your usual exemplary performance has been undermined.

Ironically, targets of abusive bosses tend to be high achievers, perfectionists and workaholics. Often bully bosses try to mask their own insecurities by striking out.

5. Control your destiny. Even after you leave your nightmare boss, you'll still have to explain why you left to potential new employers. Futterman advises against dramatizing your old work situation. One way to gracefully sidestep the issue: Say you and your manager had a longstanding disagreement over the most effective way of getting things done and you thought the most professional way to resolve it was to move on.

"You certainly don't want to start recalling and recounting the abuse you suffered. You'll inevitably get upset and that's not the way you want to handle a job interview," she says.

Try to control the interview situation to the extent you can. Don't give your abusive boss as a reference but rather someone else with whom you worked previously. Another good choice might be a colleague or a peer you're on good terms with or someone who can speak about you professionally.

Also, if you only worked for your bullying boss for a short time, you may want to consider leaving that job off your resume altogether.

(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a home school mom and the grief counselor and chaplain for Mountain Hospice. To contact her, e-mail kwolfe@mountainhospice.com or call 304-823-3925, ext. 136.)

 
 

 

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