Manipulative & Exploitative Behavior in the Workplace

Workplace bullies change their behavior based on the situation to get what they want.
i Christopher Robbins/Photodisc/Getty Images

How you feel at work affects not only your well-being while at the office, but how you feel and act at home too. Working in a manipulative and exploitative office is stressful. Stress can be harmful to your health and happiness because it can cause headaches, fatigue, stomach aches, anxiety, anger, depression and drug or alcohol abuse.


    Some may be surprised to learn that gossiping is indeed manipulative and exploitative. The act may seem harmless and as simple as just chit-chatting between friends but the negative repercussions can be significant. Gossip is unproductive and fosters resentment and anxiety, both of which create an ineffective and inefficient staff. Sometimes people engage in gossip in hopes of fitting in with their peers or feeling powerful, but the reality is gossip demeans and marginalizes others and makes for a lousy workplace.


    If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, you’ve probably dealt with a bully. There are many different types of bullies but for the most part, their goals are the same: getting their way and gaining control and power. Bullies use manipulative and exploitative behavior to accomplish these goals such as teasing, being outright aggressive, being passive-aggressive and even threatening others. Bullies do only what's best for them, even if it’s unethical, instead of what’s best for their co-workers and office as a whole.


    Discrimination is manipulative, exploitative and comes in many forms but in short, is any unwanted, offensive behavior. Workplace discrimination is illegal -- employers are required by law to create and maintain an office environment that is healthy and safe. Despite this, discrimination is still present in today’s workforce. Common discriminatory and exploitative behavior includes intimidation and threats and teasing based on someone’s race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, age or religious beliefs. Sexual harassment and assault are also common. In fact, one in four women reported being victims of sexual harassment in a 2011 ABC News/Washington Post poll.


    Eliminating manipulation and exploitation in the workplace really begins with the leader(s). Management sets the tone and expectations for the rest of the office. A good place to start is with an employee handbook. This handbook needs to discuss policies that are supported by law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits workplace discrimination. It should also clearly identify office expectations and what is considered appropriate, professional behavior. For example, it may discuss specifics on how co-workers are expected to treat one another as well as any no-no’s, such as gossiping. The handbook also needs to include the procedures that will take place if an employee violates the policies.

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