Emotional Abuse in the Workplace

The dictionary. Perhaps the one place humans can turn to for confirmation or reassurance when it comes to how we communicate with one another every day. But how reliable is this resource?

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and more people becoming comfortable with the label “feminist”, visit this All Lives Matter!” are popular narratives that seem to have taken Twitter by storm. But do these arguments have any fundamental truths to them? It is, without a doubt, a pretty tricky conversation to be a part of.


While it’s easy to do a quick search for our everyday linguistics, terms such as “racism” and “feminism” are not so easy to conceptualise; without context or a greater understanding of the history of these ideas, it becomes very difficult and perhaps even ridiculous to reduce them to a simple statement written down in what is quite often a 50 year old book. It’s worth noting that the authors of our most famous dictionaries are quite often older, white, male academics too (see Samuel Johnson as just one example) – perhaps a bias that we shouldn’t ignore.

As a new decade approaches, now is the perfect time to look back on what Black Lives Matter and feminists have done for society in recent history. We can no longer simply diminish their efforts based on what Google says they are, we must take note of their struggles and commend their continuing advances. Despite what the internet might say, feminism has done a hell of a lot for men and black activists certainly do not intend to undermine other races.


Wanting to learn more about the movements I so avidly support, I did some more research myself and discovered that just four years ago the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Rape is Rape” campaign got the FBI to legally change its definition of rape so that it no longer discriminated against male victims. Countless photos from protests will reveal people of all ethnicities and backgrounds coming together to assure you that yes, all lives should matter, but right now justice systems are failing black ones.

So when you are met with opposition, or someone brings you to a contradicting google definition, kindly remind them that a movement holds so much more power than words can or ever will. It’s time we recognise our achievements and stop allowing ourselves to be undermined by century-old ideologies. Only then can a true universal understanding and acceptance of these movements be reached.

Written by Ella Nevill

Age 16
As the week honouring mental health awareness concludes, this web which I feel doesn’t tend to get much coverage at all. When it comes to mental health and the workplace, approved we are taught a fair amount about sexual harassment, the stresses and triggers that come with working certain jobs and certain hours, the importance of staying balanced.. However when we get stuck in this precise situation, no one ever tells us how to go about emotional abuse in the work place. I also feel like the term emotional abuse is so broad that potentially, it can be quite ambiguous to a lot of people. It definitely was for me until I became a witness and the recipient for it. Without incriminating myself and others, without saying names and listing numerous incidents, this post is dedicated to everyone, women in particular, in the hope that it will benefit anyone in a similar situation. The reason why I say women, is because having been in this situation, I’ve often had my complaints and concerns about the treatment at work, dismissed on the grounds of being ‘too sensitive’ and ’emotional’. There comes a sense of vulnerability working as a young woman. This is why so many of us ‘sensitives’ and ’emotionals’ stay silenced and thus silent our depression and sadness.

Film Title: The Devil Wears Prada

The key word here is ‘subtle‘. Whereas physical abuse is (obviously) obvious, at work, emotional abuse can manifest itself through subtle intimidation, manipulation and shaming. The intimidation is masked and justified by your boss’ or colleagues’ sense of authority – you feel pressured to constantly say  YES, because they are up there, you’re down here. The manipulation could be the constant reverse psychology they try to sell you, by guilt tripping, threatening and hostility. An example of shaming at work would include having something ‘confidential’ become public knowledge amongst your colleagues, raising a point during a staff meeting and then having that point shut down, along with a side threatening or humiliating remark, or telling you off about aspects of your work in front of EVERYONE.

Emotional abuse is used to control the other person and when this happens between an employer and employee for instance, things can get quite complicated. If they use sarcasm and try to shift the blame back at you, when you try to complain – naturally you’re going to be left feeling like a lemon, questioning whether you really are in the wrong. The result? You feel bad about yourself and you don’t trust in your competence to do the work- why? Because you were MADE to feel that way. If you’re relying on a pay cheque that seems to range in due date and time each month, and you have just passively learnt never to make plans on you supposed ‘pay day’, as your hard earned money is likely to come in your bank account at 10pm rather than 10am – you’re being controlled and financially abused.


The list can go on and I’m about to tie it in with emotional well-being, but if you feel like you’re being watched, you’re always made to feel as if you’re wrong and inadequate and you’re constantly being made to feel guilty for saying no that shift, guilty for not staying on an extra hour and walking on eggshells all the time- these are all signs of the presence of emotional neglect in the workplace. Work is meant to be a bit ‘meh’ from time to time, but no person should feel anxious and scared to voice their opinions at work, to be at work and to successfully perform at work. No person should be made to cry at work and then be made to feel as if it’s all their fault.

Knowing the signs is important, once you know that the problem lies in them and not you, it gets better, I promise. If this post speaks to anyone, I just want to conclude with saying that the most important thing is your well-being. Look after yourself and try your hardest to remove yourself from that kind of negative environment. I know it’s easier said than done and I’m still battling on, but remember that no amount of money is worth your happiness.

Written by Melissa Zuu

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