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Friday, 18 February, 2000, 11:54 GMT
Is your boss a bully?
Do you get picked on at work? Are you punished for making the smallest mistake, or do you just feel that you don't fit in?
A new survey is expected to reveal that a huge number of people have witnessed bullying in the workplace. Most victims point to managers as the main culprits.
Bullying is known to affect the quality of people's work, but what can be done about it? Is someone at work making your life a misery? Send us your views and experiences.
I am being bullied at the moment. It is a sad case of affairs because I used to be able to hold my own, but since starting at this company I find I am "on my own" in a corner most of the time. My job has been well respected in other companies, now I am being treated as a new kid and being bullied into doing jobs which I am over qualified to do and I have lost my confidence altogether.
Claudine Sinnett, United Kingdom
From past experience, its always the women bosses who bully people. They lack inner strength and as a result confidence. Just read below the amount of people who have complained about them. I would personally never work for women bosses.
Zoe Baker, UK
It seems to me that all the comments demonstrate the need for businesses to adopt upward feedback to allow employees to comment anonymously on their supervisors. This needs to be handled with care otherwise it turns into a popularity contest. There are times when bosses doing a good job may have to be unpopular, but this method at least gives management some idea of the traits displayed by their supervisors and potential managers.
Norm Calder, Canada via Scotland
I have recently been made redundant from Thomas Cook where I had a boss who was totally incompetent. He was aggressive and a bully because he could not cope with his position; his credibility with his peers and staff were zero. The very people who could have done something were the ones who appointed him so to take action would, in effect, be an admission of failure on their part.
Chris Lawton, UK
I work for the most heinous woman that has ever existed. She is a backstabbing liar who will blame anyone for anything. She is completely incompetent at her job and exhibits nearly all the characteristics of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Twice she has had nearly entire staffs walk out on her. She constantly over-promises and under-delivers. She also constantly undermines herself and her staff. Yet, the upper management either thinks she's wonderful or just does not care. She has been reported to HR many times to no avail. I would love to leave but this is one of the best-paying jobs in my area and I hate to give up so much over such petty behaviour. However, she does make all of our work lives hell. Just wanted to vent for a bit. Thanks.
Can a leader who neglects his responsibilities, in turn overworking his subordinates be considered a bully? I worked for an organisation in Zimbabwe whose director used to spend half of the time out of office doing his personal business. Ultimately, all his responsibilities would have to be done by a certain lady who directly fell under his supervision.
The guy wouldn't dream of treating me so dishonourably. And as a co-worker I used to discuss with the lady about how to resolve the problem. She religiously continued to be 'used' due to fear of further victimisation. Most female bosses are a terror but I believe the worst is an incompetent male boss who goes for the smarter but weaker female workers.
Name witheld, Zimbabwe
I am working for a bully at the moment and it can get very stressing at times. Personally I am of the opinion that bullies are bullying because they are deeply insecure and have no other means to try and establish their authority. All in all - bullying is just a power game, a sad one nevertheless. I found that an ironic grin and looking at a fixed point on the wall work wonders. They drive my boss up the wall and he is looking fiercely for the next thing to pull me up on. I call it passive resistance and I enjoy it! By now it has become a mind game and I am glad to say - I've won....he's leaving¿.!
G Walker, United Kingdom
I know what it is to be bullied. I worked for 15 months with a manager that had good intentions but never could help herself whenever it came to bullying junior staff whether male or female. The irony of it all is that she's attended various courses on human relations and once was head of the HR department. I believe bullies can be helped to realise that rather than hurt others, the damage is really against them. Nobody wants to be friends to a loud and uncontrollable person. Although the period I spent in that department should have turned out to be the best in my carrier because I learnt a lot of things.
Biodun Soremekun, Nigeria
I worked for a foreign establishment and there were no communications with our supervisors who were always busy to receive reports or make any decisions. This negligence made us, as subordinates, inherit the falling management until the enterprise went into bankruptcy.
Nasif Rafiq, Palestine
The best managers I've had have been women! In a previous job I had a manager who felt quite comfortable screaming and yelling. HR were worthless - oh yes they'd say - we know he is difficult but can't you change your behaviour? The last straw: after I received a standing ovation from over 500 sales people for the sales conference put on, my manager yelled and cursed at me in front of twenty other people. I found a new job within two months. My manager asked me not to leave and offered to increase my salary 50%. No luck. I did return and do my job as a contractor for a period of time. However, shortly after I left that role, his organisation was dissolved and he was fired. I love it. What comes around goes around - it's inevitable. The best part, that manager just contacted me, over two years later; could I come run his new company for him....are you kidding? Talk about a respect problem.
Last time someone tried to bully me I returned the favour. I got moved out of his team to a different project. I love what I am doing now and the bully is short of people in his team. Upper management also noticed that he had a high turnover in his team. I believe he has changed his manner in the past few weeks.
I find it disturbing that more than one person in this forum has pointed out that bullying bosses they encountered where not kicked out (even though management were aware of the problem). Reasons such as 'he or she is indispensable' are false; NOBODY is indispensable, however good. I would not wish to see a return to the days of union power; instead, it is up to management to tackle this issue head-on, not patronise us with mealy-mouthed excuses.
Anonymous, USA, British originally
Management by bullying is terrible - the only way to do anything about it is to confront the bully: not in a one-to-one situation, but preferably in the sight and hearing of other employees and or the bully's manager. It worked for me, my manager was sent on an "awareness course" after I confronted him in front of 10 colleagues and his manager, he has since left the company as more people refused to work with him. You should never be placed in the situation where you resent going to work. Seek support, seek advice and above all do not suffer is silence.
Paul Williams, United Kingdom
I am a senior manager in a very large utilities company and I do not tolerate any form of staff bullying. My wife works as a clerk in a local council and unfortunately, along with her teammates, is subjected to bullying from her direct manager every day. I've told her to stand up to him but she assures me that the last person who did was fired. They took the council to a tribunal but, due to the council's ability to hide all the evidence, she lost and so, in the process, lost everything including her self-esteem.
More than 10 years ago, I worked for a Member of the British House of Commons. He screamed at his staff, threw things, and fired people for minor offences. It was a great day when his driver quit his job and got out of the car on the motorway in the middle of the day after this MP had screamed at him for changing lanes. I believe that temper tantrums and irrational behaviour have no place at work. Unfortunately, this person is now in the House of Lords!
As long as there are businesses that will think more about their profits than their concern for the people working for them, there will be bullying, intimidation, humiliations, etc., in the work place. And as long as there are lazy employees who will take advantage of both their fellow employees and management alike there will be conflicts in the work place. Most governments have lost control of the well intentional laws they created to protect the working populations. The loss and decrease of the membership in labour unions have also increased the bullying in the work places.
Fermin-Fermon Torres, New Mexico - USA
Fifteen years ago, I worked for a small family-owned company where bullying was the only managerial skill they possessed. After about a year, I got fed up and quit. I will never forget the feeling of elation that I had when I gave my notice. I didn't have another job lined up, and I didn't care. I took a lower paying job in a more egalitarian work environment and I haven't looked back since. Every so often I will run into a former fellow "refugee" from the old company and we just laugh in gratitude that we got out when we did.
The people I work directly under are okay, but there is one person in upper management who is so very miserable and has made anger and grudge-keeping into a hobby. She is abusive and swears at her assistants, and the few people who have complained to other management about this treatment have been systematically driven to quit. This individual starts rumours about people she feels are not behind her 100%, and sees to it that they are fired without severance pay (she is an accounting manager). How do people stay in power like this? They invoke fear and treat everyone as an adversary. I used to think that I'd be here long enough simply to watch her get fired for gross negligence, but it's clear that won't happen for some time yet. Bullies fleece everyone around them, when they don't intimidate them.
I have been accused of bullying before. Some people at work take such a laid back almost lazy attitude. A stern talking to can be just what is needed to get them going and they will often thank you for it later.
Bullying Bosses are a serious problem in the work place. However it is the aggressive nature of the companies they work for which perpetuate and foster this behaviour. In the absence of any effective Unions, companies can get away with bullying on masse. Take for example the RBS aggressive take-over of the Nat West. I can not comprehend why 18,000 members of staff and their colleagues can sit back and allow their jobs to be taken from them in the interest of profits for the few. Workplace bullying is on a larger scale and goes far beyond bosses and line managers.
Joe Crawford, Scotland
I would not say that getting somebody to make repeated corrections to a piece of work constituted bullying - there is always the possibility that the work was of a poor standard. It's worth bearing in mind that we are not all well suited to our jobs, despite what our CVs may claim.
In a previous job, I had "King Blamestormer" as a boss. He worked obsessively hard and every problem and mistake was another employee's fault. Communal meetings with him resulted in sitting around the boardroom under his razor eye until someone owned up to the problem or mistake. One-to-one meetings with him meant that he would dress you down then stare through you trying to break your will. He once took a female colleague into the boardroom and swore at her for several minutes. Afterwards, she asked the Head of Personnel to sack him - who replied, "Yes, he should be sacked, but he's just too valuable to the company"! Many female colleagues were reduced to tears and left the company because of that boss.
When he sentenced me to his boardroom one-to-one meeting I refused to enter - which he could do nothing about. When he got stroppy in his emails to me, I forwarded them, with comments, to his superiors, which he hated and which he actually had to grovel to me not to do again. Even on my last day at the company, he tried to sentence to me to the last "blamestorming" meeting at 5pm. I just walked out before the meeting. Stay on safe ground - but fight the boss oppressor!
My current line manager is female and is genuinely interested in promoting the continual professional development and wellbeing of all her staff. By and large, I find that female managers are good and do not use the staff they manage merely as stepping stones for their own advancement.
My boss in a disgusting unwashed smelly slob. He is constantly late for work, is often drunk or has a hangover, and spends most of his time sitting in his office smoking or even sleeping. He treats female employees as sex objects, boasts openly about his drug-taking activities, and in all my working life I have never met someone so incompetent at their job. Yet woe betide any of us if we step out of line, or dare to question his decisions as he thinks he is some sort of expert. If I didn't need the money I'd leave today, and I dread coming to work in the morning. Without exception every single person in our department is looking for a new job. And yet the management thinks he is wonderful.
I fail to see why people get bullied. I accept they do, but cannot fathom how the bully assumes that this will get maximum productivity out of his/her charges. I would never operate in this way, for you won't get the maximum out of your team. Looking at the comments above, it is worrying to see that many of them had to leave the job, rather than have the bully fired. It demonstrates that senior managers are obviously not aware of just how serious a problem this can be.
Alex Banks, Wales
It's a pity that owners and managers can't treat their employees with a bit more common courtesy. I know it's a 2-way street but I've worked for far too many bullies and I won't allow it again. I have my own business now. If I had employees, I certainly would expect a good job but I can guarantee that I wouldn't belittle them. This world is one of give and takes...we should all give a little more and take a little less!
I had a manager constantly bullying his staff. I put up with his in-competence for so long but one day he called me in his office to scare me. That was it! I called him up the next day and told him that I was resigning. I was one of his star employees so he would call me to pester me every so often to change my mind. I said that I was sorry and bid him good-bye forever. Bullying doesn't work for me.
Reetu Rajpoot, USA
Stand up for yourself. If they sack you, sue them. Most bullies are cowards, and if they know they can't intimidate you, they will leave you alone.
L Wood, England
I was bullied for several months by a female manager. At first she attacked me verbally in private, slowly attacking my confidence. Then towards the end of my employment she started to spread rumours amongst my peers that I was mentally unstable. I spoke to personnel about the problem but they were unwilling to do anything.
On my final day she went mad at me for taking a personal phone call that was with regards to my house. She swore at me in front of over 30 people, then told me she was going to get personnel to sort me out. I walked out and took her and the company to a tribunal. As I had only been with the company for 18 months I had to try and win a sex discrimination case.
I had three people who backed up my story, I even proved in the tribunal she had lied. During this case the company claimed that women too had complained about my manager, therefore she was just a bully not a sexist bully. I lost my case on this technicality. Now a year on she is doing the same to another man.
Bully Bosses are around everywhere. They are basically poorly educated and poor trained management personnel who believe they are given the right to talk down to other employees they believe are powerless to do anything about their discomfort. Most major corporations are populated with these types of managers that really mess up the reputation of an otherwise decent organization.
Beresford Davidson, USA
I worked for a very large retail chain and was bullied for about a year (along with other members of staff). I loved my job and had been working there for several years. It's all very well for people to suggest getting a new job but it's not always that easy, and anyway, why should I be the one to suffer for someone else's irrational behaviour?
My boss had a violent temper but he was always the regional manager's 'blue eyed boy'. Even when he punched another manager at a conference, the regional manager treated this as nothing more than an amusing incident. In the end I was glad he was so highly regarded because he was promoted and moved away, and thankfully I've not seen him since.
My former company (a very large music retail chain) would not allow us to join a union so what was I supposed to do?
The Construction industry is rife with bullies which is another reason that that industry is experiencing shortage of Graduates joining etc. These bullies in my experience have no concept of modern management techniques but achieve results by intimidation, bullying etc. They display theatrical behaviours in order to conduct meetings and make it look like they know all. 90% of bullies are known to their superiors.
My advise to anyone being bullied is to stand up to them, ask does it serve the good of the company, or would you mind repeating that in a manner that I can comprehend it etc. They are easily exposed as fakes.
Although what I do is not considered "work" by many, I am very familiar with bullying by a superior. I am a Ph.D. student in physics, and my advisor is notorious for yelling at people to get what he wants. The result is that he cannot keep a secretary for more than a few months and we graduate students are actually scared to ask him about anything, when as an advisor he should be there to help us.
The situation really gets me down and I feel angry, sad, and scared all at the same time. I originally came into this program with so many hopes and dreams and I just loved science. Now I dread going to the lab each day and I just can't get motivated.
During the 80's I worked at a large site near Christchurch. My manager there was frankly vile. Looking back, I realised that his reputation must have been known to senior management, but they did nothing about this.
However the experience has led me to be sure that, if ever in future I suspect a manager to be a bully, I will be off like a shot.
Companies should realise that bullying managers can give their staff health problems (I developed stress symptoms at the time). Bullying managers are not value for money, even before you consider the risk of being successfully sued.
A manager under whose direction I was working before leaving my last employer made some serious errors in judgement and when our client wasn't pleased with the outcome, he was adamant in his pursuit of punishing me for his own mistakes. This incident led to my resignation.
I became an independent contractor after leaving that company, thereby tripling my salary, the most objective measure of one's value as a professional. I could still be generating revenue for the firm, were it not for a vacuum of leadership in which a subordinate is held accountable for this superior's ineptitude.
Scott M. Erlandson, USA
I am not bullied but if I were then I would simply go elsewhere. Why should I put up with that kind of treatment? Life is too short. And to Dr S. who always puts in misogynist comments - the world's ills can usually be traced to men, not women.
I was bullied by a manager (who was appointed over me despite his having less experience and qualifications than I did). The joke's on me, however, because after a while he was "invited" to retire, and I got his job!
Roger Moran, UK
You poms don't know the meaning of bullying at work. On my first day at the Woolonger sheep shearing factory, I was hung upside down, sheared from head to foot and dipped in a vat of blue dye. Now that's how to bond with your fellow workers.
George Toulantas, Australia
My boss made my life a misery for the first 10 months of my working life. Her most memorable moment was bringing me to tears in my 6-month review, which lasted 3 hours and consisted of ripping apart all the work I've done until then.
All conversation (personal or work related) in the office was banned, we were prevented from meeting people from other departments, she was rude and offensive and regularly shouted at staff and visitors. We were subjected to all-afternoon productivity meetings where we were told that our work was rubbish, mostly due to time wasted on unnecessary tasks.
I soon started getting panic attacks about going into work and had constant headaches until her departure four months ago. Since then the headaches have gone but the sense of insecurity is harder to shake off.
My boss is a bully. She rules by fear and is respected for it by the directors. It also allows her to hide her laziness. I don't know why so many bosses seem to be too harsh. They quickly forget what doing the job was like. Bosses should have to spend a week a year doing what their subordinates do, to remind them.
Gary, Hong Kong
I run a helpline and employee counselling service for victims of workplace bullying, stress, discrimination etc. All my clients complain of bullying by managers. Most of gone to personnel to ask for it to stop but many personnel officers back away and say they are unable to help.
Many have gone to their trade union reps and most get the same approach. Unions seem to be weak, or are unwilling to help, wishing to remain on the side of the employer, in spite of the members paying their yearly subs to protect them from this sort of treatment.
Clients have also been to solicitors for help and advice. Nearly all solicitors are reluctant to help, money being a priority. We urgently need a law in this country giving employers a Dignity at Work right, to protect vulnerable employees. I was a victim of workplace bullying and witnessed so much of it, being employed by a company with a bullying culture. It took away my confidence to work in a company again in spite of my having gained degrees and post grad qualifications.
Gill Rowe, UK
I've been bullied. The higher management who should have dealt with it, did not and on the day I gave in my notice, the bully started in the same way on the next person - my friend. this isn't the first job where I've witnessed bullying and sadly, it probably won't be the last.
This is probably a highly unpopular contribution, but I was a manager who was accused of being a bully by an employee. From my perspective, this employee was progressively failing to adapt to changes in technology and customer expectation which finally led him to lie, brief other senior managers against me and to engage in mischievous behaviour that undermined the morale and effectiveness of the team.
I recognise that bullying can have a negative impact on employees and that it should never be endorsed. But my experience is that a minority of employees will manipulate the situation to their own ends, irrespective of what action is taken to help them come to terms with changes in their jobs.
Name withheld, Britain
Bullying is rife where I work, so much so that I have resigned rather than continue to work for such a backward and malignant employer. To the outside world it would appear to be a progressive and liberal organisation - it is an educational institution with the Investors in People kitemark and an Equal Opportunities policy.
However, this belies the real situation, which is that top management can run a dictatorship, since they are effectively unaccountable to anyone. Management by bullying thrives in situations where those at the top are not competent in their own roles, where the quick fix is seen as more important than the longer term considerations and where no-one is going to call the bullies to account.
What all employers should have is an explicit policy and procedure to deal with bullying and a culture which values difference and truly values individuals for who they are and what they can bring to the workplace.
I left my last job after two years of bullying by a boss. She continually criticised my work (when I would write reports, letters, leaflets & press releases) and I was made to re-write one piece SIX times. She bullied me so much I often ended up in tears at work and when I got home.
I thought of killing myself, developed an eating disorder, became depressed, and was always ill. The managers knew what this woman was like, but wouldn't sack her because she'd been with the department so long that it cost them more to pension her off than it did to continually recruit new staff!
I've left now, and since I've gone I am so much happier. I've been commissioned to write articles for two web-sites while she's had her PR & writing responsibilities taken away from her. Laugh? I nearly wet myself.
No, I'm not bullied, but my fiancée was bullied in her previous job. In my opinion women in management positions always lead to trouble.
Dr. S, UK
My boss is a sweet-hearted, hard-working, fair individual, both personally and professionally. A former police officer, he knows how to achieve what he wants effectively through assertiveness rather than bullying.
However, I wish I wasn't the only one who appreciates this approach as some take him for granted and treat him as a soft touch. It's all give and take on both sides and mutual respect and appreciation which lead to working harmony.
I am doing a sandwich course, and last year took a year out to gain work experience. My boss started off as very helpful but soon turned nasty when she realised that colleagues found me more approachable and efficient than she was. She used to spend all day on the phone to her husband (who worked for the same company and got her the job there) and never did any work. When she did start something, she would soon lose interest and give it to me to do a few weeks later, saying "it's urgent". She would come in late, go home early, yet expected me to be punctual. Management by example? I don't think so. She would also pick on me for the smallest things, like not telling her that I had printed something off so that she could collect it from the printer, or for taking an international phone message and not writing down the country code for her to call them back. OK, I was her assistant, but not her slave. I was too scared to say anything because I felt that as a work placement student I would not be believed or would be found to be at fault and then punished.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
I'm glad to say the bosses in my present job are total gentlemen, courteous and helpful to their workers and its a great company to work for. I have however worked in 3 places in the past where the manager or owner has been a bully in the emotional and mental sense both to myself and other employees.
This is what happens when the Unions have been emasculated as they have been under the past 20 years of Tory rule. Restore Trade Union rights and have stiff punishments enshrined in Employment Law including prison for those who bully and humiliate their employees.
Steve Foley, England
Bullying by management is an obvious side effect of the management attitude to a work force - that they are "work units" a resource not people with feelings. I have been bullied at work and seen it happen in my workplace. In the main it is not treated seriously, and generally is carried out by the very people meant to stop it. HR and senior managers.
Every company claims that they are "people companies", "people our are best asset", but it is just PR. In reality it is work them hard and cheap as short term, quick results are all that is important.
I will be honest, my place of work would not tolerate bullying, I work for a large organisation with excellent union and management relations mind you.
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