Warning Signs of Abusive Companies and People

"I saw these dynamics illustrated by a young boy who got a shock from touching an electric fence and was so frightened by it that he grabbed on to the fence for security-- and wouldn't let go as each successive shock increased his panic, until his sister was able to reach him and pull him off." -- Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That

A job I had had an intense interview. Flew me out, multi-day, nerve-wrecking ordeal that definitely disrupted my life. But when I got that job, the joy and pride of surviving that process and making it made me cling to that fence. When I started work and the manager started laying down the unrealistic tasks and demands, I was so stressed. But I managed to pass that hurdle and even succeed, and grabbed onto the fence harder than ever. Over and over, stressful, abusive situations happened, until I just could not take it any more and was forced to walk away. Even as I walked, I hated that I was leaving. I hated that I was giving up on that challenge. I thought of the good times and the good people and the good work I did.

And then I stepped away for long enough and saw what healthiness, what love, what genuine care looked like, and could not believe I put so much of my heart and time into that terrible job. I saw the fence for what it actually was, and it became obvious that not all experiences in life have to drain me like that. I wasn't loving that job, I was trauma bonded to that job.

Recovering from an abusive relationship and reading on it is like an invaluable guidebook on how to have healthy relationships of any kind-- work, romantic, sexual, friendship, sales, customers, etc. I wish I read this psychology material way before I had to experience the situations first-hand.

I use "the person" in the following list, but it applies to companies as well. And remember, it applies to any kind of relationship.

Some warning signs of abuse:

  1. The person speaks disrespectfully of others they've had this relationship with.
  2. The person is disrespectful toward you.
  3. The person does favors for you that you don't want, or puts on such a show of generosity that it makes you uncomfortable.
  4. The person is controlling.
  5. The person is possessive.
  6. Nothing is ever the person's fault.
  7. The person is self-centered/arrogant.
  8. The person is badly self-destructive.
  9. The person pressures you to do things you really don't want to do that please them.
  10. The person intimidates you when they get angry.
  11. The person has double standards.
  12. The person discriminates against you based on gender, race, etc.
  13. The person treats you differently alone vs with other people around.
  14. The person appears to be attracted to vulnerable people.

Not one warning sign is a sure sign of abuse, aside from physical intimidation. But when you start to see one, make it clear it's not okay. When you start to see many, or if your feedback is ignored, leave.

This is all adapted from the wonderful book, Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. It's a book by an author who has studied and helped heal abusive men for 15 years. He knows what he's talking about.

The most powerful piece of this book so far is his analysis of what it takes to change abusive people. He notes that with abusive relationships, couple's counseling is actually destructive. Couple's counseling is for people with mutual problems-- both people aren't communicating very well, for instance.

This is important-- he said in all the hundreds and hundreds of abusive men he's studied, the only time they have permanently changed (and the vast majority don't change) is when the person leaves, or they go to jail. Let me rephrase that-- the person has never stopped being abusive because their partner tried to talk with them and convince them not to be. They need to see more real, lasting consequences for their actions.

Now let's step back again, and realize that abuse happens in all kinds of situations.

Maybe this means the only right way to deal with an abusive company is to leave, or sue it. The first usually being easier.

Let that sink in.

Life is too short, friends.

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