There are many kinds of workplace harassment that occur and although there are social movements that encourage people to stand up for themselves, these problems seem to never go away completely. There are many suffering from these unpleasant conditions today.

Power Harassment is a specific type of workplace bullying that occurs between a boss and subordinate. Most employees bite the bullet of harassment over concerns of their career development. This leads to suppressed emotions and stress, which in worst cases can harm a person’s mental and make them incapable of work.

In this post, we will introduce the characteristics of power harassment and 5 ways to avoid it.

How to Spot Power Harassment

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There are 6 types of actions that qualify as power harassment:

  • Psychological abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Elaborate demands (Demands that exceed a person’s skill or capabilities)
  • Miniscule tasks (Tasks that limit a person’s skill or qualifications)
  • Socially isolating a person
  • Invasion of privacy

In this article, we will focus on power harassment based on these 6 types.

The Boss Thinks They’re “Teaching You A Lesson”

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Type: Psychological abuse, physical abuse, elaborate demands

When you hear that there’s power harassment at a workplace, what situation first comes to mind? Many might think of a boss excessively criticizing a worker over their small mistake. No one wants to “excessively” chastise a person and there is a possibility that the boss is not aware of their power harassing actions. What they may think as a “teaching moment” turns into power harassment when they are unconsciously abusing their position of power.

On the other hand, it can be tricky for a boss when things get misinterpreted. A boss may hand over a challenging project with good intentions so that a person could grow towards taking the next steps in their career. Unfortunately, some employees may take this as a power harassing “elaborate demand” pushed upon them.

Lacks in the Ability to Assess Yet Oblivious to It

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Type: Elaborate demands and minuscule tasks

It can be considered power harassment if a boss demands an unfair task to a new employee that hasn’t been taught the task yet, or if a boss keeps asking a well-experienced person to do only minuscule tasks.

It’s okay if you’ve already agreed on these kinds of arrangements, but if a boss can’t allocate proper work fit for a person’s skill, it probably means that they lack the capability to assess their employee’s skills.

Yes, there are cases where a boss may intentionally give out these tasks that don’t match a person’s qualifications. However, the most common reason this trouble occurs is when the boss is very talented himself, yet has low management skills.

They’re Insensitive to Begin With

Business meeting in a room

Type: Psychological abuse, socially isolating a person, invasion of privacy

This kind of power harassment happens when a boss is incapable of thinking about what another person may feel due to their actions. They may mock an employee directly or ask unnecessarily personal questions.

The root cause of this type of harassment lies in a boss’s personality. In this case, an employee should go consult someone else who is in an adequate position to help them improve the situation.

5 Power Harassment Prevention Methods You Can Use Right Away

A man sitting and talking

Most victims of power harassment never take action because they think that, “there’s no way to fix the problem.” If you don’t take action, the power harassment will continue until you leave the position. To protect your own mental well-being, the following methods may help prevent a situation before it escalates.

1. Tell Your Boss What You Really Think

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As mentioned above, most times bosses may be acting a certain way without noticing what
consequences their actions are causing. Letting them know how you’re feeling is important in this case.

Let them know specifically what’s bothering you whether it’s an action they take, words they say, or if it’s simply a matter of tasks that seem unfit to your skills. Specific details will allow a boss to make improvements on their own actions.

Some bosses can affect more than one person. If there are others suffering from power harassment by the same boss, try to help each other out.

2. Keep A Detailed Record of Your Harassment

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If excessive power harassment leads to PTSD or other mental illnesses, you can sue them for it.
The court case will look into whether there were grounds for power harassment or not. Keep a daily record of the harassment that you took. This will serve as proof in court.

The best proofs are visual or sound recordings of the incidents. If it’s difficult to record, the next best thing is a written record whether it be in a notebook or your smartphone. When you keep a written record, try to include the following points:

・Date and time
・A detailed description of the location
・People who were present in that same location
・Detailed specifics of the harassment (including conversations)
・How the harassment made you feel

Try to keep all recordings truthful to facts and avoid coloring the situation with biased expressions. This will enhance the reliability of your recordings.

3. Talk to Others In A Different Division or Report to HR

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If you have difficulty speaking directly to your boss, you can raise your concerns to a person in HR or a different division that can help.

Research shows that people with high self-efficacy tend to try and go solve problems on their own instead of relying on others. Power harassment may not solve immediately when you raise your concerns, but external help will lead to improvements in the long run.

The courage to step forward is essential in combating power harassment.

4. Find Aspects That Your Respect of Your Boss

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This may sound contradictory, but “getting to know your boss” can be an effective alternative approach. Power harassments commonly occur when a boss and their subordinates lack communication. In other words, a lack of trust can lead to power harassment.

It takes both sides, but you can build trust towards your boss on your end by finding aspects you respect about them. It’s difficult to see the good in people when we keep focusing on the negative aspects. Your boss has earned their way into a management position, so surely, there is something attractive or good about them. When we respect someone, we can start to trust them enough to understand why they act the way they do.

Trust can create a 180-degree changed perspective of an incident. If you start liking your boss, you may no longer feel that you’re being harassed.

5. File A Complaint with The U.S. EEOC

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If there are no harassment procedures in place or adequate people you can talk to, there are places outside of the office where you can raise your concerns. If you’re in the US, consider filing a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC will investigate your claim and work with your employer to put an end to the situation. If it still continues then, the EEOC will advise you to sue your employer.

If you feel hesitant about talking to a person, AI (Artificial Intelligence) counseling may be a helpful alternative. It can listen to your problems without any restrictions on time schedule, or location. It’s an affordable alternative counseling method with a free trial period. Give it a try!

Don’t Bear Through Power Harassment

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There is no need to bear through power harassment. It only harms your mental and makes you incapable of thriving. We hope that the methods mentioned in this post will help you face your power harassment issues starting tomorrow!


Hara, M. (1969). Significance of Legislating Measures to Prevent Power Harassment. Seikei University: The Journal of Law, Political Science and Humanities90, 183–196.

Sekine, A., & Naganuma, Y. (2015). Which factors inhibit talking about workplace victimization? The Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the Japanese Psychological Association79(0), 1EV – 060.

About the Author


As a writer, worked on many medical-related articles based on academic papers. Specializes in articles on mental health and stress care.

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