How To Deal With ‘Bullying Bosses’

CHICAGO (CBS) — The law offers us protection in the workplace from harassment based on age, gender and race, but it doesn’t protect us from a bullying boss.

Bullying bosses can take more than your self-esteem. They can make you want to quit your job.

A Zogby poll found that 37 percent of workers have been bullied by their bosses; 64 percent of them felt forced to get a new job.

“He’s just constantly, ‘You’ve got to get me this now,’” says Barbara, who describes her boss as impossible. “Oh, I’ve spent many, many days just being depressed and absolutely hating to go to work.”

Robin Abrahams, a researcher at Harvard Business School, has some advice. Rule number one: Take control by controlling your emotions.

Stay calm and then figure out if your boss is a bad apple or part of a bad bushel.

“If your boss is the only bad apple in what’s basically a good company, stay,” Abrahams says. “Because sooner or later he will be managed out or they will get rid of her.”

Abrahams also advises that you talk to someone in human resources.  And if nothing works, leave. Nowadays, of course, you have to consider that carefully.

“Sometimes you have to stay.  In this economy, it’s very facile advice (to say) ‘Life is too short to work for a bad boss.’ Life is too short to starve to death, too,” she says.

Illinois workers cannot sue their bosses for bullying.  A bill to change that is stalled in Springfield, but sponsors say they will keep trying.

Chicago lawyer Lori Ecker says it’s inevitable that eventually a law will pass in Illinois to stop bullying in the workplace.

“It just has such a horrific physical impact on people — the stress, the psychological impact,” she says. “People have physical manifestations of the stress.”

Barbara is not holding her breath for any changes in the law.

“I’m looking for another job,” she said.

Ecker says most bullies are men and their targets are mostly women.  If all else fails, Ecker says employees and their lawyers have been able to work out severance packages to make leaving a bully boss less of a financial blow.

  • Shondra

    You should take a look at the management from Northern Trust. They bully their employees all the time. They do not consider that people have lives to live, and are very political. They do not value employees’ words, or hard work. They only hire white folks for the offices located on LaSalle Street. Everyone else is left out of the picture. This means there is no equal opportunity or promotions available for minorities and other ethnic backgrounds..

    • Shondra

      Uhm – have you ever worked for Northern Trust? I don’t think you would be “qualified” to make that assumption that “white folks” are more qualified…….

      if you have worked at the company, you will realize that a majority of the employees at their 50 S. LaSalle Street headquarters building are comprised of white folks……A vast majority of the employees at the company’s operations and technology center at 801 and 800 S. Canal Street are comprised of blacks, latinos, and asians, etc. There are hardly any white folks that work there……
      Would you say that all white folks are more qualified than the other folks? That would be a discriminatory statement Jenn.

      This is the culture of Northern Trust – to hire and promote white folks and ignore everyone else. There are no opportunities for people, so I would consider this bullying

  • safiya felters

    bullies in the workplace can also be coworkers and not necessary the boss. they can also be cyber bullies and send e-vil mail messages.

  • Angela

    Putting laws in place won’t help. There are always ways to get around such laws. I’ve worked at places where bullying was encouraged and ignored by higher ups. I’ve been bullied by co-workers and by those in charge of me. It never did any good to complain because I was told the bullying wasn’t really taking place. Bullying in the workplace is so common I can honestly say it’s occurred every place I’ve worked for as long as I’ve been part of the work force. It’s why I’m glad I’m no longer part of the work force.

    • San

      Agreed! If the workplace has a strong union, then you have a chance, but that is not usually the case. Unions get corrupted too.

  • Dan

    If you don’t want to stay leave. If you don’t want to work leave. Nobody is bullying you. You are overacting and don’t know your place or duties. In short you are not the boss ! Decide to get along or get along.

  • waytogo

    I would hate to be in a position to bully someone. I worked for a bully boss and she made my A$$ ache. Find another job.

  • Executive Support Specialist

    Bullying bosses are everywhere – abusers and victims are both male and female regardless of race or religion. I’ve seen it in the workplace for over 20 years among Fortune 500 companies that continue to let the glass ceiling be the norm. But I don’t tolerate the abuse. I confront the bullying bosses right up front and in their face. That goes for their superiors and subordinates. I don’t tolerate it. Especially if the bully threatens me for my refusal to violate policy, procedure and/or protocol (and the law). Standing up against bullying bosses has earned me respect and rewarding advances in my career.

  • Chivi

    I have left very very good jobs because of bullying bosses and/or supervisors and/or senior secretaries. The senior secretaries that have many many years in the company tend to pick on the new employees especially if theyr are young and pretty. They go out of their way to make the new hire look stupid. I have been sabotaged by senior secretaries. The bullying did not stop until I reached an older age where I believe I wasn’t a threat anymore. Most of the bullies were white and/or black secretaries. I wasn’t afraid of any of them. I just wished they would stop. It didn’t stop until I quit my job. I didn’t get any help from HR because these secretaries had clout (mostly lovers at the top). I am hispanic.

  • Diersen’s News Clips and Upcoming Events; March 29, 2011 « Cao2's Weblog

    […] How to deal with bullying bosses […]

  • safiya felters

    The real question is why do people bully and who gets bullied?

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