I’m scared I’m going to lose my job. My coworkers and I work for a bully boss. He insults us constantly. When he’s upset, he yells things like “who’s going to pay for this!” and we all put our heads down and hope we’re not the one he picks on. After weeks in which I went home in tears nightly, I went to Human Resources to get help.
The HR officer listened and I thought she’d help. Instead, she told my boss everything I’d said. Isn’t HR supposed to keep confidential what we tell them?
Now my boss is out to get rid of me. Twice in the last week my boss has written me up for minor infractions. Neither write-up was fair but I don’t have the documentation to disprove I didn’t make the errors. What also burns me is that others do the exact same thing he accused me of, so why did I get written up? I’m being singled out — isn’t that against the law?
What do I do?
Once you land in a bully’s sights, you’re often on your own.
Some HR officers keep what employees targeted by bullying say confidential. Some pull the bully manager aside and arrange for his coaching or discipline. Some give targeted employees coaching. And some HR officers do what yours did, and tell your manager your concerns, potentially thinking the manager will hear them and improve. Unfortunately, if your manager is a true bully, he’ll retaliate.
The laws that safeguard you help you if you and the problem situation fall into certain categories. The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and its state and local counterparts protect employees being discriminated against because of their age, sex, race, national origin, or other protected categories. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Commission and its state counterparts enforce workplace health and safety laws and protected those targeted because they protested safety violations. The federal Department of Labor and its state counterparts enforce minimum wage and overtime laws. The federal National Labor Relations Board and its state counterparts enforce laws protecting an employee’s rights to collectively bargaining laws or act in concert with their fellow employees. In some cases, employee policies or collective bargaining agreements cover bullying, possibly creating contractual protection. Finally, if you work in a state in which Courts enforce the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, you can allege unfair treatment and sue.
I wrote Beating the Workplace Bully to provide employees targeted by bullying strategies. Here are several. Don’t let a bully create an outpost in your mind. When he shouts insults, they say a lot about him, but little about you. Mentally detox yourself nightly by leaving the bully at work and not letting your situation encroach into your evening. Document exactly what’s happening, so if your boss makes up unfair allegations, he’ll lose if he fires you and you sue for wrongful discharge. And never, ever, let your boss know he’s getting to you. Like sharks, bullies go after blood.
I’ll also say that bullying saps your emotional and mental energy until you’re flattened. If you’re crying nightly, that may be close and your best option may be to vote with your feet. Never let a bully win and sometimes that means you have to leave if you work for a company that allows bullies to romp over employees.
© 2017, Lynne Curry. If you’d like an answer to your career question, it’s easy. Write firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne authored Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM, 2016) and Solutions. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.