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I work with an emotional abuser

(18 Posts)
CrazyBaubles Mon 21-Dec-15 20:44:02

I've posted this here as wasn't sure where would be best.

I work in a management position and someone on my team is EA. His partner also works for the same company, I know her quite well so have a little insight.

He is so controlling - he outright told her she cannot be friends with another colleague (who is not single) purely because he is a man and they got on quite well. He is open about this and says it's about her 'respecting his views' even if she disagrees.

Recently they had an row and she was upset. I was talking to her (about something unrelated) and he came in the room, ignored me and started trying to emotionally blackmail her - he relentlessly pushed her for an explanation for her behaviour, using her words against her and twisting them.
I have been in an abusive relationship and that conversation made me feel sick, I remembered that feeling of knowing I was saying the wrong thing but with no idea what the right thing was.

They have now had yet another 'break' and he is supposedly beside himself - all emotional FB status updates, cryptic mentions of suicide and how he just wants to try again. She is going to go back, she has said as much.

I'm not sure what, if anything, I can do. He seems to think I am on his side so keeps taking to me about her. I am hiding my discomfort and deflecting conversation where I can but I can't listen anymore. Help!

redexpat Mon 21-Dec-15 20:50:11

You can pull her aside and say if you ever need me for anything then i am here for you and put your number in her phone. Does she know that he is EA or does she think thats normal?

Marchate Mon 21-Dec-15 20:53:49

If he thinks you are on his side, that might be a good standpoint from which you can help his partner. I think I have heard it helps not to be on the 'banned list' of friends/contacts.

CrazyBaubles Mon 21-Dec-15 21:42:00

Thanks for replying.

I'm trying very hard to keep him 'on side' in order not to isolate her while also showing her that I don't agree with what he's doing. It's a very hard balancing act, especially as I have to be professional when I want to tell him to get a grip and stop controlling her.

He is 10 years older than her - she has told me she feels like some things aren't right and she tells him she wants a break every 6 weeks or so, so I think she feels he is abusive even if she doesn't know what it's called. But I don't think she realises how bad this is and how much he's changed her. She's ever so conscious of her every move, how she speaks, how long she spends talking to certain people he doesn't approve of.

She has my number, and in a general conversation about relationships I told her a little about my ex. I compared how restricted I felt then to how relaxed I am with DH and hoped she'd see the similarities (her bf and my ex are cut from the same cloth) - I think she knows I can see it iyswim, so she knows she's not imagining it and I have told her she can come to me anytime.

I don't really know what I'm asking for - there's no chance of him or me moving teams for the foreseeable future and I don't want to rock the boat and risk being shut off from her. I think I just wanted to vent because he's really ramped it all up lately, to the point other people in the office have picked up on it and it makes me feel so uncomfortable

DeckTheWallsWithLotsOfMolly Mon 21-Dec-15 23:12:08

I would be direct with her. "I've noticed the abuse and am concerned for you. Here are some resources. I'm here if you want to talk."

My friend only truly recognized she was in an abusive marriage after it had been named and challenged by several people.

If nobody is challenging the behavior than she may think it's acceptable to all of you.

Namechangenell Tue 22-Dec-15 02:46:11

Did he walk into a workplace room and speak to her like that?

Anomaly Tue 22-Dec-15 06:46:51

Could you keep speaking to her, maybe get relevant contacts, explain how you left your abusive relationship. Maybe get her the lundy bancroft book. I think your support and knowing you 'know' will help her to see him for who he is and to garner the strength to leave. Do your work offer anything like counselling that she could use?

amarmai Tue 22-Dec-15 15:20:26

you are the manager of this team and he so disrespects that he walks into a room where you are discussing something with a team member , ignores you and harrasses the team member while you sit there? This wd be grounds for dismissal anywhere. And you shd not be in a managerial position if you have that little authority and self respect.

GarlicCake Tue 22-Dec-15 16:10:33

Harshly put, but a valid comment if you are the abuser's manager, Crazy. Does his similarity to your ex put you on a back foot, do you think?

Namechangenell Tue 22-Dec-15 18:55:04

That's what I was getting at. If that's what happened, surely as manager you would have told him to keep his personal conversations until later (and possibly bollocked him for being so disrespectful!).

CrazyBaubles Tue 22-Dec-15 22:53:10

I don't think i explained the exchange I witnessed very well.
Me and the woman were in a small meeting room - I was positioned in a seat behind the door so I couldn't be seen from outside. We were discussing a project she is doing - I was helping guide her with this.
He walked in and immediately asked her to explain her behaviour - he was not aware I was in the room. He fired question after question at her for a minute while I got myself together. I then spoke and told him to leave the room, which he did but he looked furious.
She then apologised to me and asked me not to say anything as it was all fine, however, as he is on my team, I then had a talk with him about it. I explained that the behaviour was completely inappropriate in work and he needs to keep his personal life outside the office or one of them is going to have to move (we have offices in several cities).
He of course became immediately apologetic (tinged with him trying to make me understand how he was provoked by her). I did not react, just explained it's not appropriate.
Since then he has been on best behaviour around me until they split up. He has now just been declaring how unlucky he is, how rubbish his Christmas will be etc, but all as part of general conversation. It is from other people (and her) that I am aware of his EA tactics (threatening suicide etc).

From the professional stand point, he did something wrong, it has been dealt with and he is professional around me. But I am aware of what's happening and it makes me uncomfortable.

And yes, to the poster who asked, his similarity to my ex makes me automatically uneasy. I am naturally a relaxed person but knowing the type of man he is makes me have to constantly remind myself that I have boundaries and know how to protect myself.

I so want to help her but know that right now, I can't because she isn't ready

magoria Tue 22-Dec-15 23:04:13

I think if this is happening in the work environment you should discuss it with HR to make sure it is handled right.

amarmai Tue 22-Dec-15 23:10:32

you sound like a good manager ,op.For her sake and yours, he shd be moved as he is still the same poisonous person, just trying to hide it now he got caught.

LeaLeander Tue 22-Dec-15 23:18:54

Why is he still employed if he's harrassing someone on the job like that? Can't you get rid of him on those grounds?

Do you work for a large company with an HR department?

lexib Wed 23-Dec-15 06:02:20

Agree with the HR comment, whole systems are processes are handled in the workplace by professionals who've been trained. Do you have an employee assistance programme, ethics officer etc? On a professional basis you shouldn't need to handle this alone.

maybebabybee Wed 23-Dec-15 06:07:30

Don't expect HR to deal with it. My mum works with an abusive ex partner and it has taken them eight months to even contemplate disciplining him, despite the fact there is a non molestation order in place against him and he was arrested three times, once for physical assault, once for harassment and possession of a weapon, and once for breach of the non mol order.

Workplaces are shockingly ill equipped for this sort of thing.

CrazyBaubles Wed 23-Dec-15 08:42:19

I have spoken to HR. As his girlfriend won't say anything, they can only assess things I have seen directly in the workplace, which isn't a lot. As such, they feel I've dealt with the only situation I was part of and now do not need to be involved unless something else happens or someone else approaches them with the issue.

I know there is nothing I or my company can do, I just feel like I'm leaving a young woman in a horrible situation while I watch bad things happen from the sidelines

I have been in this situation with a friend before, but because it was a friend and not someone from work, I was able to be completely direct and point out every time to told me something about him that was abusive. I felt like I was helping then because she began to see it and left after being with him a year, but with the person in work, I can't do that.

FredaMayor Wed 23-Dec-15 10:37:14

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
( E Burke 1729-1797)

You may be the only person who understands what is happening to the woman, as a manager and colleague of course you can do something. The scene in the meeting room was out of order and should not go unnoticed. Rather that seeing it as just an HR issue, start with offering the support you would give any team member and encourage her to take ownership of the situation through discussion. Once she can do that she may gain the emotional strength to stand up to this bully.

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