For most people, the word grooming refers to taking care of one’s facial or bodily hair alongside some other self-care routines. Like many words in the English language, however, grooming has more than one meaning.
In this context, it means building a relationship with someone based on trust and an emotional connection for the purposes of manipulating or exploiting that person. It happens all too often in the workplace, especially with the intent to sexually harass or assault someone.
Detecting when an employee or boss might be trying to groom you isn’t always an easy thing. Remember, manipulators are rarely blatant about their true intentions. Here are a few key warning signs to be aware of.
The Forming Friendship
You may be wondering, “when should I hire a San Francisco workplace harassment lawyer?” At this stage, you don’t need one. It’s incredibly difficult to tell if a coworker or boss is simply forming a harmless work friendship or has ill intent.
Like anyone else, the abuser is going to ask you normal questions about your life inside and outside of work. You should take anything too personal as a red flag, however. Make sure you know your boundaries with workplace friends and acquaintances to help you avoid potential groomers.
The Illusion of Trust
At this stage, the abuser begins to build trust through seemingly harmless actions like helping you with a workplace task or sharing a harmless office secret. Warning signs often include repeatedly asking to get lunch/coffee, grabbing your mail without you asking, and sharing deeply personal secrets with the expectation that you will do the same.
Testing the Bounds
The above two signs are difficult to identify and may ultimately be harmless, but someone trying to groom you is going to hit this third level eventually. The goal with testing the boundaries of a now established friendship, complete with trust, is to see how you react to various scenarios and phrases.
Ultimately, the goal is to understand how easy you are to manipulate and abuse. In secret, the abuser is also gauging your relationships with friends, family, and your community. The best defense here is to keep private information like that outside of the workplace.
If someone does push your boundaries in any sense, take it as an enormous red flag. The tactics employed can range from reading your email to unwanted physical interaction. This is when you might need to hire a team of Orange County sexual harassment attorneys, to answer the initial question.
The Path of Isolation
If the abuser deems you a suitable target based on their ability to push your boundaries, the next step is to isolate you from those close to you. It’s not simple to accomplish this in a work environment, but the trick once again lies in manipulation.
The goal is compliment you, provide favors, and so on to ensure they become just as trusted as anyone else in your inner circle. They’ll guilt you into ensuring they have your companionship with phrases like, “I’m worried we’re not friends anymore,” as well. As they get closer, their influence over you can allow them to damage your relationships with others.
The Inevitable Abuse
Previous forms of harassment in the workplace certainly cross a line, but this stage takes abuse to the next level and most often with molestation or rape. They might abuse your trust to get you alone in your home or theirs where they begin to fulfill their dark desires.
When the victim tries to stop the altercation or confront the abuser, gaslighting becomes the tactic to retain control. Keep in mind that this unfortunate conclusion is something that takes months or even years for an abuser to plan, and that it can happen in-person as well as online via apps like Skype or Slack.