Skip to main content

Bullied to the Bone-Workplace Bullying

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

I have been at my current  job for about four months and I am having a problem with my boss. She yells at me every day in front of the entire office, questions everything I do, and is frankly, rude. When I was first hired, there was another girl that she use to yell at and humiliate.  This girl finally had enough and walked out.  Now she's doing the same to me!   I go home in tears every night with a splitting headache and dread going to work each morning.   I want to quit, but in this economy I’m afraid I won’t be able to find another job.  What are my options? 

Signed Bullied to the Bones

A:  Dear Bullied to the Bones,
I am so sorry that you are having to experience such an unprofessional and demoralizing working environment.   Unfortunately, you are not alone.  According to the largest survey done in the US on workplace bullying (WBI-Zogby Survey-2007), an estimated 54 million (37% of the US workforce) report being bullied at work.

There is a name for bosses like yours, and I think you’ve already defined yours as being one.  A bully.  Bullies set out to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, and sabotage.   Personally, I prefer the description Robert I. Sutton gives to these types of bosses in his book titled:  The No A**hole Rule.  He says when he encounters a mean-spirited person, the first thing he think of is, “What an ***hole!”  (Thus, the title of his book).  I know.  This isn’t the most polite or politically correct description; but personally, I can’t think of a better one.  He also describes the importance of determining if the bully is a “temporary ***hole” or a “certifiable ***hole.”  He states that everyone can have a bad day or bad moment every once in a while and act like an ***hole, but a certifiable ***hole’s behavior is consistent, persistent, and is purposely aimed at belittling a person and making him or her feel worse about him/herself.  

The problem employers are having dealing with bullies in the workplace is that unless the behavior can be specifically attributed to a protected class, as defined by state and federal law, then the behavior is not illegal.  In other words, it is not illegal to be an ***hole.  My question to employers is, why does it have to be illegal to be unacceptable? 

There is no doubt bullying is occurring.  In fact, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal, discriminatory harassment.   Combine this with 72% of bullies outranking their targets, and a bullied employee can feel pretty defenseless.  And rightly so.

There is truly only one solution.  Zero Tolerance.  Employers need to STOP reinforcing bullying in the corporate culture by rewarding bullies with promotions or treating complaints with indifference.

There is no doubt that bullying affects the organization’s bottom line.  Costs associated with turnover, absenteeism, decreased performance, workers’ compensation claims,  decreased morale, staff time handling complaints, and legal fees makes keeping even a high-performing bully BAD business!
Sadly, this logic is not registering with employers.  In fact, according to the WBI-Zogby Survey, in 62 percent of cases, when employers are made aware of bullying, they made the problem worse for the victim or simply did nothing.

I am sorry, Bullied to the Bone, this is probably not the facts you want to hear.  But, unless your company has an anti-bullying policy, and are enforcing it, your options are limited.  Options to consider:

1)  You can choose to stay, say nothing, and continue to be humiliated and go home stressed.

2) You could complain to upper management or Human Resources and hope they will do something.

3)  You could quit. 

I know these options do not seem fair, but it’s reality at this point.

An anti-bullying movement has  been gaining speed for years in the United States and more and more states are pushing anti-bullying legislation.  Unfortunately, until employers are pushed by law to protect their employees from bullies, little will change.  You have control though, and you have a choice.  What you need to ask yourself is:  Should I stay or should I go...

For more information on workplace bullying, visit


Workplace Wonda


Popular posts from this blog

Dress Code Policy: Searching for Answers

Q: Dear Workplace Wonda, I am a new employee and reviewed our handbook very closely to make sure I am following all the rules and policies. I have noticed that even though the dress code policy is very clear, a lot of people in other departments and divisions do not follow the guidelines. For example, last week on Friday, I noticed several employees wearing tank tops and thong type sandals. I asked my supervisor if I could wear these comfy options and was told “No” because they violate the dress code policy. Is there really a dress code? Or does it come down to who you know? Signed, Searching for Answers Dear Searching for Answers, A: It’s obvious if employees are wearing tank tops and flip flops (or thong sandals) to work, even on casual Friday, the dress code policy has failed! That is, unless you work for Wild Water Adventure Park. This is a dilemma that many employers face each year around this time. As soon as there is an inkling of temperatures hitting the 80’s, clothes sta

Monday Morning Moment #ChooseHappy

  Coming up with a Motivation Monday this week was difficult as it was on Monday that my Father was laid to rest. Goodbyes are never easy. It seems like I’ve had to do a few of those the past few years. Saying goodbye is a part of life. As you get older, those goodbyes seem to happen more often—at least in the physical sense. I came across this quote by Rumi that says, “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul, there is no separation.” Think about that quote for a moment. Separation is only physical. No one or nothing, including death, can take away what you hold dear in your heart and soul. We have a treasure chest of experiences and memories to cherish long after something ends. Unfortunately, sometimes in life bad things happen. And when bad things happen we want to know, why. “Why me?” Well, why not you? If you are spiritual, you may believe these things happen for a reason and that it is a part of a bigger plan. Scientist

Holding My Breath Until I Get Answers- Addressing Employee Hygiene

Q : Dear Workplace Wonda, there is an employee who visits my office a couple of times a week. Each time he comes in, he has this unpleasant smell that stinks up the entire office. The odor is so bad that employees spray Febreze or turn on their scented candles to cover the smell. Some employees even complain of headaches! How do I address such an uncomfortable subject?    Signed, Holding My Breath Until I Get Answers   A: Dear Holding My Breath Until I Get Answers, Wow, you really are in a stinky, I mean, sticky situation! On one hand, you have employees screaming, " foul." On the other hand, you have an employee who is seemingly senseless when it comes to his own PepĂ© Le Pee-ew! It kind of reminds me of one of my favorite SpongeBob SquarePants episodes titled, "Something Smells." In the episode, SpongeBob decides to make a sundae, but doesn't have any ice cream. Instead, he uses onions, ketchup, and peanuts. When he goes out t