Occupational Stockholm Syndrome: what it is, symptoms and what to do

The Stockholm syndrome is well known, the one in which the person has identified with his own aggressor, coming to put himself in his shoes, understanding it and justifying the reasons which led him to abduct him.

This situation can occur not only with victims of kidnapping, but also with victims of physical and psychological abuse, for example within a couple or at work.

It may seem surprising, but there are people who, although they have been treated in a very inhumane manner in the workplace, do not want to leave. It’s Stockholm syndrome at work, And we’ll look at it in more detail below.

    What is Stockholm syndrome at work?

    Occupational Stockholm syndrome is a condition that occurs when the worker identifies strongly with his work or his company, despite the fact that this same environment is the place where he suffers serious abuse. The environment can be extremely stressful, having dysfunctional relationships with your boss and coworkers, and not buying fairly for your job. The person is the victim of psychological and even physical abuse, but still feels identified with the company.

    This identification can be so pathological that the victim justifies and consents to the abuse suffered by his superiors and peers. It is common that since the person tolerated the abuse soon after starting to work here, they internalized and normalized it. Over time, she becomes more used to harassment and may even have stopped seeing it as a negative thing.. Based on constant psychological abuse, the person feels worthless, having their self-esteem on the ground and feeling like they deserve to be treated that way.


    Occupational Stockholm syndrome is not included in the DSM-5 as a diagnostic criterion per se, however, a number of symptoms or characteristics can be identified in people who suffer from occupational “bullying” but do not want to. not quit their job. These symptoms can be found at any age, at any level of education and in any type of worker..

    • Relationship with boss or peers based on fear and disrespect.
    • Bad coexistence with the boss or colleagues.
    • Tense and toxic work environment.
    • You don’t want to leave the business despite the abuse.
    • You don’t want to leave the company despite the unfair salary.
    • You don’t want to leave the company even if you are uncomfortable
    • Justify the bad behavior of the classmate (s).
    • Maintain a submissive posture at all times.
    • Feeling unable to leave the company.
    • Stop seeing all or part of the negative about the business.
    • Focus on the few positives in the business.


    If you don’t leave work on time or go to a psychologist to deal with your first symptoms, Stockholm syndrome at work has serious consequences. As the worker spends more time in the company that mistreats them, they will lose their security and self-confidence, and will feel more limited. As his boss and coworkers tell him that he does not have good qualities or that he is not able to do tasks well, his self-esteem is reduced and he feels deeply disgusted with himself.

    The person is not able to defend themselves from the comments they make and will not be able to change jobs., As she strongly identifies with him. He can even justify what they’re doing, thinking it’s really not worth it and that he deserves what they’re doing to him. He may even think that the victims are really his boss and colleagues because they have to put up with him at work. His ability to see reality can be so impaired that he no longer knows what is right and what is wrong.

    Employment is not always a goal of well-being, but not feeling at all comfortable generates great frustration. This frustration can contribute to the worker suffering from psychological disorders, usually anxiety and depression. In addition, other areas of his life will be affected, such as family, friends and partner, who will see that their loved one is in pain but consents to be abused. Due to the psychological discomfort, the victim can psychosomatize, suffer from contractures, stomach aches, insomnia …

    Overtime it is common for people with occupational Stockholm syndrome to develop learned impotence. The victim gets used to being manipulated and mistreated, which really makes them believe that they have no other way out and that there is nothing they can do to change things or defend themselves in any way. of the contempt and abuse of which she is the victim.

      What to do?

      To overcome Stockholm work syndrome, the first step is for the person to realize that he is the victim of an unfair situation and that nothing, even if he does not have the professional qualities, deserves such bad treatments. The victim must identify and recognize the inappropriate conduct of which they have been the victim. and how they manipulated her to make her feel identified with the company.

      Abuse can manifest itself in several ways. Some may be subtle, such as showing contempt, not receiving the corresponding salary, not receiving legal benefits, or working more hours than they should. Others may be more obvious like disrespectful comments, slurs, yelling, constant teasing, threats that will make you say goodbye or make you laugh in your face. It is necessary to identify all these behaviors and to relate them to the psychological and physical discomfort from which the patient suffers.

      Getting in touch with psychologists, doctors and psychiatrists is essential. The reason for this is not only to treat the psychological and physical issues associated with the disorder, but also to confirm that the patient has this condition due to workplace violence. Thus, there is evidence that will help a lawyer to make the firm pay for the harm done. You should also consult with other professionals, especially human resources and union representatives.

      If it is not considered necessary to go to court or to quit work, the patient can continue working in the same profession but setting personal limits. The psychologist will provide you with strategies to make you more assertive, showing you when you don’t like nasty comments or disrespect. In addition, in consultation with a union, the person concerned will have to know his rights both as a worker and for the simple fact of being a human being, And you’ll have to assert them instead.

      However, if the company does not seem to want to respect our limits, it is best to leave the position, in addition to taking the appropriate legal action. This is especially recommended when the abuse has been very serious and the person has no guarantee that they will be treated like a human being in their workplace. When changing jobs, you need to make sure that the one from the previous job no longer happens to you, setting limits early on and acknowledging any signs of abuse.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Dutton, Donald G. & Painter, Susan (1993): Emotional Attachments in Abusive Relationships: A Test of Traumatic Link Theory. Violence and Victims, vol. 8, no. 2.
      • Seligman, MEP (1975). Impotence: on depression, development and death. San Francisco: WH Freeman. ISBN 0-7167-2328-X.

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