Workplace manipulation isn’t spoken about often, but when it happens, it can have consequences. Having a manipulative boss, especially if you are in a position where you have close, frequent contact with them or where they have an extensive amount of power over you, can impact your mental health in serious ways. It can affect your self-esteem, your physical and mental health, and your life outside of the workplace. So, how do you know if your boss is manipulating you? Here are some warning signs to look out for.
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Warning Signs Of A Manipulative Boss
The APA dictionary defines manipulation as “behavior designed to exploit, control, or otherwise influence others to one’s advantage.” Here are some warning signs of a manipulative boss or leader:
- Extreme ups and downs
If there is intense praise one moment and extreme criticism or ridicule the next, it is a warning sign. This is commonly seen in emotionally abusive relationships, and it is something that a manipulative boss may do as well. You may find yourself trying desperately to avoid ridicule or becoming extremely anxious, stressed out, or walking on eggshells.
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic where a person makes you question your reality or sanity. Say that your boss tells you you’ll get a bonus if you complete a particular task, but once you do it, they tell you that they never said that and can’t do that. Or, say that they tell you to do something in clear, direct instructions but proceed to tell you that they didn’t tell you to do it once the task is complete. These are both examples of gaslighting.
A boss who undermined you to make you feel less secure or less capable may very well be manipulating you. They may do with this through covert comments, or it may be more overt. Say that your boss gives you unclear or faulty instructions and proceeds to say, “wow, I didn’t know you wouldn’t be able to do that.” This is one potential example of undermining.
If you’re always fearful that you’ll lose your job despite completing your tasks appropriately and efficiently due to what your boss says to you about yourself or other employees, they may be using fear-mongering as a manipulation tactic. You may scramble to go above and beyond at all times to avoid losing your job due to their comments with no recognition or payout.
- Boundary crossing
If your boss crosses your boundaries or overly involves themselves in your personal life, it can create a host of problems. In some scenarios, it could be a part of workplace manipulation. Either way, this is not okay. Your boss is your boss, and they shouldn’t be involved in deep aspects of your personal life.
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Coping With Manipulation At Work
The unfortunate truth is that, even if you recognize manipulation at work, you may not be able to leave right away. That said, recognizing manipulation can help you cope with it. When you recognize what’s going on, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to remind yourself that it’s not your fault and mitigate some of the potential negative impacts of workplace manipulation. Manipulation and emotional abuse* in the workplace is never okay. If you are healing from past experiences in the workplace or are going through other work-related concerns, a counselor or therapist may be able to help. You can find a therapist by asking your doctor for a referral, searching the web, contacting your insurance company, or utilizing a reputable online therapy platform. Regardless of how you find a therapist, you deserve to get the help that you need, so don’t hesitate to seek the support of a professional today.
*Know your rights. If you are experiencing abuse in the workplace, make sure that you reach out to the appropriate party, whether that means taking legal action or contacting the human resources department.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.