Are You in a Predatory Work Environment (PWE)?

With the Great Recession likely to linger into 2012 with many unemployed and underemployed, those who are working may find themselves in a predatory work environment, or PWE. A predatory work environment takes root and thrives when jobs are scarce and employees are afraid of losing them. To retain their jobs in a PWE, employees may be forced to endure all manner of hostility, bullying, lack of communication, low wages with no raises, harassment, and physical and psychological harm. Management adopts the attitude “if you don’t like it, you can leave,” with frequent and caustic assurances that “lots of other people want your job.”

Woe be unto the employee who voices concerns. Not only may they be ignored, but full-blown retaliation may ensue from situations and people against whom they speak, increasing the intensity of the PWE.

Signs You Are Working in a Predatory Work Environment:

Fear dominates. Everyone from the top down lives in fear of losing their jobs. Criticism, back-stabbing, and gossip run rampant. Compliments and encouragement are nonexistent.

Communication between departments and within departments is muddled, at best, and may even be non-existent. “It was just a misunderstanding” is a frequent excuse for a PWE lack of honest communication or cover-up for what is transpiring. The “no talk” rule provides a wall of impenetrable silence.

Employees, especially lower-wage employees, have no one to go to for support. Not even human resources. The PWE tainting is all-inclusive.

Favoritism, cronyism, and nepotism rule. Loyalty among those so favored is impervious.

If promotions are forthcoming, those who are the most predatory and most compliant with the PWE receive them.

Management tends to delegate anything and everything so that nothing can be blamed on them. Those who should be responsible and accountable for outcomes are not, leaving lower wage employees to shoulder the brunt of the consequences.

How can you cope in a PWE?

You really can leave. Begin today to look for another job. It may take time and perseverance, but it can be done.

Keep a carefully chronicled record of PWE incidences — dates, times, who was involved, and what transpired – so that, if needs be, you can salvage your job.

Keep abreast of all that you do well. If there is a way to receive feedback, such as guest comments in a hospitality setting or a happy customer in a retail setting, ensure that you make copies of those comments and file them at home.

Find someone among your colleagues who is willing to give you a recommendation, someone who knows what you have been up against in the PWE. Offer to return the favor.

Don’t give up. Change occurs. Those perpetrating PWE quit, are fired, or, if the pressure among staff is strong enough, may be forced to adjust.

Keep your personal support systems – family, friends, community activities, and recreational outlets – vital. They not only provide a life and purpose outside work, they offer amusement and diversion, as well as viable networking opportunities.

You may end up having to leave a PWE in order to save your health and sanity. Just don’t leave empty-handed. Obtain as much support as possible from honest coworkers and those you have served as customers so that a new employment situation can experience you as the contributor you genuinely are.

Dianne Hayter, “Predatory Work Environments (PWE),” Associated Content by Yahoo!

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