One can see similarities between domestic violence and workplace abuse by looking at a tool developed by domestic violence advocates in Duluth, Minnesota, 30 years ago to illustrate the tactics used by domestic violence abusers, the Power and Control Wheel (see below). By substituting the workplace for the home, one can see the application of this tool in the context of workplace abuse:
- Instead of male privilege, abusive bosses exert “supervisory” privilege.
- The abusive boss alone feels entitled to define the boss/employer relationship, whether or not it bears any similarity to the victim’s job description.
- The abusive boss emotionally abuses the victim, putting him/her down, calling him/her names, etc.
- The abusive boss uses intimidation, coercion or threats, including unfair threats of demotion or dismissal.
- The abusive boss economically abuses the victim by meting out rewards and punishment as he or she pleases, without regard to merit or actual job performance.
- When the abuse is pointed out, the abusive boss makes light of it, minimizes it, or accuses the victim of being overly sensitive.
- The abusive boss may send out a signal that encourages others to abuse an employee, a phenomenon that has been called “mobbing.”
- The abusive boss may isolate the employee by making it clear the employee is “unsafe” to be around because he/she is viewed as a pariah by management.
Here’s my primitive adaptation of the Power and Control Wheel for workplace abuse/bullying situations, followed by the original Duluth Model Power and Control Wheel:
Here’s the original Duluth model: