Abuse of power in the workplace can negatively hamper an employee’s work performance, personal life and well being. The severity and frequency of this issue vary an may take in different forms. For example, racially, religion or gender is one of the common causes that are significant enough to report. Here are some of the common actions that superiors can impose towards their employees:

  • Favouritism
  • Bullying
  • Biased and unreasonable demands on subordinates
  • Indecent or intimidating sexual behaviour
  • Discrimination based on sexual orientation, racial and ethnic identity or age
  • Illegal financial exploitation
  • Requiring employees to perform peculiar tasks
  • Verbal bullying


Power is Power

Power can influence people to become more careless, less aware of risks and less empathic. Due to that, individuals that misuse their power tend to believe that people will do as you ask. As power corrupts the mind of people who wield it, they refuse to acknowledge or openly relishes the fact they are affecting other people’s lives with little to no concern for the consequences.


Observing abuse of authority

If you are under the submission due to abuse of power, talk to your superior respectfully but firmly how their behaviour makes you feel and it has severely affected your overall work performance. If your colleagues are on the receiving end, put yourself into the middle and try to resolve the situation. More importantly, initiate with a firm remark in regards to what you have witnessed and that it is inappropriate and needs to stop at this very instant. If the situation escalates further, make a report to the management or relevant authorities.


Related: 10 Mistakes Managers Make That Cause Good People to Leave


What and who do you report to?

What you should do when you realise the abuse is getting severe is to keep a written record of the situation. Before making any hasty actions, you should look into your companies code of conduct. The written codes should provide you with the steps on who you should report to and the procedure. Alternatively, you can contact the Human Resources in regards to the situation.

In any circumstances that the company does not want to partake in solving the issue, report the problem to the appropriate state or governmental agency. In Malaysia, you can report to the Industrial Relations Department especially with the cases of sexual harassment which take precedence over other categories.


RelatedBuilding Trust in the Workplace


What can the HR Management do?

1. Power abuse will have the tendency to grow out of proportion if it is not regulated. It is the responsibility of the HR management to ensure that the workplace is free from abuse of power. These are the essential steps that the management can do to resolve this issue: Putting up a suggestions box to provide employees to share their problems discreetly. Due to that, it is also essential for the management to be supportive and open so that employees can easily approach for private discussions.

2. Every company would have established ethics and rules for various employment aspects in place. Make a habit to remind people about these guidelines. Let them know that you don’t take kindly from any mistreatments and you will take swift action.

3. Having a personal or external counsellor may help with addressing problems that are not addressed professionally. Especially in a highly stressful work environment which could potentially lead to abuse of authority.


Ng You Jing 

Content Marketer at Jobstore Reach me at youjing@jobstore.com