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How to tell if you’re in an abusive business relationship

 

By Luana Ribeira.

We are fortunately living in an age where an abundance of services are on offer to help those trapped in abusive relationships seek the help they need. However, where business relationships are concerned, there is a dramatic drop in the support available. Despite the massive financial commitments and consequences of going into business with someone, we do not frame the seriousness of these partnerships in the same way as we do with social relationships. This is despite the fact that abusive business partners often employ the same tactics as romantic abusers to maintain control of their victims. Spotting the signs can be tricky when you are locked into a working commitment, with just your own perspective to rely omen. Abusers take advantage of that fact to control the narrative of the situation. Combatting this issue requires not only bringing awareness to abusive business relationships but also actionable tips that help bring a stop to these toxic working unions. Taken straight from my own real life experience in the workplace, here are the fundamentals of abusive business relationships and how you can spot red flags and escape the clutches of such a situation.

They Never Take Responsibility

Do you find your business partner takes flight when things start to go wrong? Do you find no matter how hard you press for answers, they simply won’t acknowledge any wrong doing that they are responsible for? Do they deflect their failures back at you, perhaps getting verbally abusive when called out? Shifting responsibilities and playing the blame game is classic gas-lighting behaviour 101. Once you learn how to recognise these manipulations, the rose tinted glasses will fly off and you’ll be able to see exactly whom you are dealing with. The inability to take responsibility for a failure or other actions is also indicative of a narcissistic personality. The self-esteem of these individuals is dependant on being perceived by others how they want to perceive themselves. That does not make for the most fruitful or productive working relationship so beware and if you think you are witnessing this personality type in a professional setting – get out ASAP!

Professional Boundaries Start To Break Down

You may notice that the boundaries between your partner’s personal life and professional life are starting to dissolve. Or perhaps they are starting to insert themselves into your own personal life, wanting more than you are willing to give to a professional colleague. This means you must immediately and unashamedly set some boundaries. They could very well be dealing with trust issues that stem from deep-seated personal problems and have in fact very little to do with you. Without proper boundaries you may find yourself the target of their projected trust issues and from that point things could rapidly spin out of control. Communicating confidently and clearly, raising violations without delay is a great way to establish working boundaries that keep your partners more abusive tendencies in check. If you find your suspected abuser to be overbearing, demanding more of your time than you have or are willing to give, suggest a weekly check in of 30 minutes if possible. It might take a bit of convincing, but highlight the benefits – efficiency, clarity and time saved is a great place to start.

Flaky and Lacking In Leadership

While not necessarily traits we typically associate with abuser behaviour, being flaky and lacking leadership qualities can signpost something is off about your business relationship. You might for instance notice you are being strung along, being intentionally distracted from dealing with tensions and issues. Dodging important discussions is a tell tale sign of manipulative behaviour and by prolonging communication, your abuser is telling you how much they think of your thoughts and feelings. Additionally, ‘the false promise’ is a staple in a manipulator’s toolbox. Do you notice there is always a promise of the ‘things to come’ with little progress being made towards those goals? This time biding may be disguising some insidious operations under your nose as you are being led on, blind to your abusers machinations.  It can be hard to imagine the worst if you are an optimist, but this good nature is something manipulators look out for to take advantage of. You may find yourself casting away doubts by…

Rationalising Abusive Behaviour

Business relationships usually begin with good intentions and high hopes. It’s the rationalisation of negative actions and behaviour patterns that lead to straight up cases of abuse. This process is usually a slow one, with micro aggressions and other actions slowly festering over time. Little by little the dynamic between business partners is transformed and the victim of the situation may not realise they are being slowly boiled alive like a frog in a pot. The early stages of such a relationship can seem exciting, especially if a joint venture is an entirely new experience for one or both parties. This is why it can be easy to brush off some troublesome phrasing in a contract or make concessions on pricing. Continuing down this path can lead to some serious consequences and people can often be left feeling like their early rationalisations have made the situation what it is. That in turn can become a further rationalisation to leave oneself open to new abuses. However…

It Is Not Your Fault

Being targeted and taken advantage of by a business predator can knock your self-esteem for six. It’s vital to remember that you did not deserve what happened to you. It doesn’t make you gullible or ignorant or any of the other barbs your inner saboteur may be telling you during a low time like this. In fact, times like this should remind you of your goodness. It is because you would never treat another human being in this way that such abuse is inconceivable to you. Take ownership of the light in you that attracted the darkness and manipulation and you will have protected yourself from being drawn in to shady and potentially abusive business partnerships in future.