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How To Deal With ‘Bullying Bosses’

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Office building (CBS)

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CBS Chicago (con't)

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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.

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