What is Abuse at the Exchange?

This is the final article in a series on fraud, waste and abuse.

Abuse is behavior that harms an employee emotionally, physically or is improper compared to behavior that is reasonable or necessary within the circumstances.

Abuse covers many situations and often overlaps with HR or EEO policies. Since Exchange associate are government employees, abuse also includes misuse of authority or position for personal financial gain or to benefit family, friends or business associates. Cases in point:

  • Don’t ask for friends and relatives to be hired over more qualified persons.
  • Don’t endorse a product or service using your official title.
  • Don’t grant a contract to your friends or cronies.

Isolating, excluding, withholding

Abuse includes aggressive, insulting, intimidating, humiliating, offensive, degrading, coercing, bullying or hostile behaviors.

Other examples include isolating someone at work, withholding information, calling in sick for a fun day, taking credit for somebody’s work, recommending inferior products to make sales or reach goals, repeatedly arriving late to work, directing or implying that an employee work beyond hours paid, or setting impossible goals for associates.

Abuses can be perpetrated by anyone, not just supervisors, and can occur in writing, on phone calls, in emails and through social media.

At times, without intention, abuse occurs by a person’s perceptions.

For example, is it abusive to ask a co-worker when he or she is retiring? You might think that’s an innocent question, but the person may perceive a threat.

What you may consider to be normal conversation with other co-workers is considered gossip by the subject of the conversation—and gossip spreads easily and affects an individual negatively.

Creating a toxic culture

Persistent abuse creates a toxic culture with high stress, real fear of reprisal, low morale, increased absences and higher turnover.

Knowing what constitutes abuse is vital so you can take action to stop it. Knowing when you are committing an abusive act and changing your behavior are also keys to stopping abusive patterns of behavior.

The opposite of a toxic culture is a “speak-up” culture, where associates are empowered to say something without fear of reprisal when they know that something is wrong.

Taking action to report instances of abuse is the right thing.

Contact the Exchange Office of the Inspector General, call 800-527-6789 or send an email to Hotline@aafes.com.

LTC Vernon Jakoby is the Exchange’s chief of inspections in the IG’s office

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