At school, at work, and in politics – the list of places where someone uses their position in a way that doesn’t conform to social rules can be quite long. Power abuse, though extremely harmful, is still common, but only sometimes criticized and known to the public. This blog post delves into the question of power abuse in the workplace, which usually fosters an environment of toxicity with far-reaching consequences for both victims and perpetrators. Let’s get started.

Understanding the abuse of power

Abuse of power occurs when a person or group of people who have some authority by virtue of their position, use it unethically or illegally to achieve their own goals at the expense of others. This behavior is often considered immoral, unjust, or harmful to society and others, and usually has negative consequences for the victims, both physical (e.g., injury, assault) and psychological (anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic stress, etc.). Combating such behavior is a chief concern not only for society but especially for law agencies.

Abuse of power in the workplace

Abuse of power in the workplace, in turn, is using position or authority by an employee, manager or other person in authority to harm other employees. Such behavior can take many forms and has negative consequences for both employees and the organization. Let’s take a look at a few examples of power abuse at work:

  • Discrimination – using one’s position to discriminate against other employees (because of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other things),
  • Bullying – harming co-workers or subordinates physically or mentally (may include mobbing, intimidating, sexual harassment, blackmail, and unfair treatment),
  • Sexual harassment – unwanted sexual behavior toward another employee,
  • Crime – committing crimes or forcing to commit crimes, such as theft, fraud, and forgery,
  • Breaching employee’s rights – such as freedom of speech, the right of association or the right to be paid for the work done.

Signs that you work for an abusive boss

Abuse of power in the workplace has negative consequences for both the victims and the organization, leading to lower employee morale, increased turnover, and loss of confidence in management. These effects have a significant impact on productivity and achieving business goals.

This is why it is so important for companies across industries to not only promote ethical behavior and maintain appropriate standards but also to recognize alarming signs of power abuse. The most common of them are presented below in relation to the areas outlined above.

  • Mobbing – repeated ridicule or personal criticism, spreading rumors, slander, invasion of privacy, coercion to perform illegal or unethical activities, intentional disruption of work-life balance, verbal attacks, ignoring an employee, and exaggerating mistakes.
  • Discrimination – unfounded refusal of employment, promotion or raise, professional development, fair pay, as well as access to resources and benefits,
  • Bullying – physical, verbal, and emotional aggression, threats, violating employee boundaries (e.g., tracking emails, recording phone calls, installing video cameras without their permission),
  • Crime – theft of company or employee property, using confidential information for personal gain, falsifying documents, and damaging property.

How to prevent abuse of power in the workplace?

Your company’s policy should contain detailed information on how to deal with those who have abused their authority. However, before you punish them, it’s important to gather the relevant evidence. To do this, regularly monitor the work of authority figures and the decisions they make. With Firmbee, you can do it in a non-intrusive way. Using the system’s features and integrations (e.g. Slack), it’s a way easier to stay in touch with employees and learn more about their opinions and insights.


Both at work and in other spheres of life, abuse of power is a serious social and legal issue that can lead to injustice, loss of public trust, and violations of human rights. That’s why it’s so important to recognize the signs of such behavior and, if necessary, to collect evidence and then report it to the relevant institution. Only in this way can you ensure that the problem will not occur again.

Read also: Incivility in the workplace.

If you like our content, join our busy bees community on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok.

How to deal with abuse of power in the workplace? 4 obvious signs that you work for an abusive boss nicole mankin avatar 1background

Author: Nicole Mankin

HR manager with an excellent ability to build a positive atmosphere and create a valuable environment for employees. She loves to see the potential of talented people and mobilize them to develop.