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Workplace or War Zone- Bullying in the Workplace

Dear Workplace Wonda, I was reading your blog and came across the entry titled, “Bullied to the Bone-Workplace Bullying” and it is pretty sad to know that in situations like these there’s nothing we can do as employees when it comes to being bullied by our boss.  

I am constantly talked down to by my boss who feels the need to copy their boss every time I make a mistake.  I hesitate to ask questions or explain myself because communicating with my boss feels like a confrontation, instead of a conversation.  

I don’t believe this is a healthy environment working under these circumstances.  You can feel the tension.   In fact, several employees have already quit or transferred because of this bullying boss.  Any advice will be greatly appreciated. 

Signed, Workplace or War Zone?

Dear Workplace or War Zone, first may I say, my heart breaks that you are feeling less than encouraged and engaged in your workplace.  When you think about it, we spend 1/3 of our day at work.  We certainly want that time to be positive and productive.  Spending 1/3 of your day feeling discouraged and belittled affects the remaining percentage of your day.

When we think of bullies, we often think of the school yard bully.  Many movies have been made about bullies, including:  Carrie, Mean Girls, Heathers, and Revenge of the Nerds, just to name a few.   One of my favorite movies, “Back to the Future,” had an iconic bully, Biff!   Biff was the classic wedgie-serving loudmouth that famously targeted the shy and timid George McFly.   His best known lines are “Hello?  Hello?  Anybody home?  Think, McFly!  and “Hey, butthead!”  Interestingly, there have been several recent headlines stating, “A real-life Biff is running for president!”  I’ll let you use your imagination to determine who the articles might be referencing.

Whether it is in the school yard or in the workplace, bullies have similar goals:  to intimidate and humiliate.  According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.   

In my previous blog, I explained that many employers ignore “bullying” behavior because in itself it’s not considered illegal, unless; it can be specifically attributed to a protected class, as defined by state and federal law.  In layman’s terms, at this time, it is not illegal to be an ***hole!  But, is it okay?  Absolutely not! 

California lawmakers are even taking notice.  In 2015, California passed Law360 that requires supervisors to complete anti-bullying training every two years in conjunction with the AB1825 which requires supervisors to attend sexual harassment prevention training every two years.   Although a baby step, it is a step in the right direction.  Still, employers hold the ultimate power in stopping workplace bullying.  It defies logic that basic rules of civility would not apply to bosses.  Frankly, the command-and-control leadership style still allowed by many employers is outdated and ineffective in 2016. 

Blah, blah, blah, none of these “excuses” of why bullying and incivility is occurring in workplaces everywhere helps you.  And if I’m to be honest, I’m stalling because I know you won’t like my answer.

Unfortunately, the options haven’t changed since my previous blog entry.  In a nutshell, you can stay, you can quit, or you can report the behavior.  Sadly, until your employer enforces a corporate culture free from bullying and incivility, little will change.

That was my politically correct answer.  What would Workplace Wonda do?  I’d go all “Norma Rae”  and march through the office singing, “We’re not going to take it, no we’re not going to take it, we’re not going to take it anymore….”  Okay, that probably wouldn’t be effective now that I think of it.  Unless you were a child of the 1980’s!  Twisted Sisters, anyone?  A better idea would be to give my employer the opportunity to address it. 

Please keep in mind, change occurs slowly and your employer might need time to assess the situation.  I can’t guarantee this will be a fix, but if no one says anything, it is a guarantee that nothing will be fixed.

Signed Workplace Wonda




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