Workplace Bullying, or Why Is My Boss Such a Jerk?

Everyone knows about schoolyard bullying and the impact it has on children. But did you know that adults are bullied as well?

clip art from

Let’s say you’re a dependable employee who is an asset to the workplace. So why is your boss working so hard to make you look incompetent? And why are co-workers complicit in supporting the boss’s actions?

Workplace bullying is a thing, so common a thing that Forbes published an article last year that said over 90% of workers have experienced workplace bullying at one time or another. Victims are usually competent, valuable employees targeted by insecure bosses who seek power and control over the victim. In a workplace culture where such bullying is accepted, one sees the same sorts of cliques and “cool groups” that one saw in high school.

The most common example of workplace bullying is sabotaging an employee’s work or reputation. Some other types of bullying seen in the workplace include treating one employee differently, isolating that employee, and micro-managing or excessively monitoring that employee. Yes, it’s a lot like domestic violence, only in this case, the perpetrator gets paid for his or her abusive behavior.

Workplace Bullying is also, to a great extent, legal, and in some workplaces it’s either sanctioned or condoned. Some bullies target their victims at the behest of their own supervisors, or do so with their supervisor’s blessing. Most victims know or suspect this, and almost half of victims never report the bullying.

For victims, workplace bullying can lead to physical and mental health problems such as depression, insomnia, musculoskeletal problems, and illness. Bullying costs the workplace in loss of productivity, loss of reputation, high staff turnover, grievances, investigations and lawsuits. If your workplace is bleeding talent, odds are you’ve got a bully on your hands.

Cartoon by Ted Goff

If you feel you’re the victim of workplace bullying, here are some things you can do:

Keep a detailed diary of incidents, including dates, times, who was present, what was said and/or done.

Keep records of time sheets, schedules, audit reports, and other documents that can contradict a bully’s claims.

Expect the bully to deny your accusations, so keep names of witnesses and have them present if possible when confronting the bully’s behavior.

Find supportive people both in and out of the workplace. Seek out other victims in the workplace and support each other, or lean on family and friends who understand what you’re going through.

It never hurts to consult an attorney. When shopping for one, look for an attorney that specializes in employment law. Your state’s Bar Association website can help you.

Consider looking for employment elsewhere. If the bullying continues, especially after you’ve complained, odds are nothing is going to be done to stop it.

There is a movement afoot to pass laws outlawing workplace bullying. If you’d like more information, you can go to and add your voice to help get laws passed.


18 thoughts on “Workplace Bullying, or Why Is My Boss Such a Jerk?

  1. Workplace bullying was one of the…no, the only reason I left my last job. It totally destroyed my confidence and sense of self worth. Three years later, I still suffer from anxiety (although this is improving by the day) and also had a host of other physical problems – insomnia, excema, etc due to the effects of the bullying.

    I wish I knew then, what I know now, which is basically to follow the steps you have outlined, particularly in terms of keeping a detailed log of dates, times, places. It is very hard when you are in the position of being the scapegoat to want to keep a record of all of your perceived failures however, it is sometimes only with hindsight and solid evidence that not only does clarity emerge to help you soothe your own psyche but also provide evidence in case you do have a legal case.

    In the end, I had to seek alternative employment. Luckily for me, I love my new job and the people I work for/with.

    Meantime, the main instigator of the bullying has risen through the ranks of my old company.

    Thanks for raising awareness of this issue. xx

    1. I’m sad that that happened to you, but you are far from alone. I’m glad you found a new place to work where you are valued and respected. I know not everyone can just leave a job, but it seems to be the only way to truly end the abuse.

  2. This is an important topic. Thank you for covering it. By the way, I really like the “snowfall” you have on your blog page. When I first saw the page, it was falling diagonally from the top right. Then it stopped. When I refreshed the page, it started falling again, but this time from the top left. Very cool effect!

  3. I worked for 3 months on a stat… then my boss presented it as his work. The stat was wrong (yes, I can’t do math sorry) and he got a lot of trouble. But at the end they fired ME! for nothing because it was HIS signature on that poor work :O(((

  4. I had my first lesson in workplace bullies when I was in college.

    I worked as a temp for a financial forecasting firm. The manager admitted to me that he hired young women, just out of grad school, who were married or had steady boyfriends. He’d then force them to work insane hours and if they put up a fuss he threatened to tell their SO they were having an affair with him.

    It was so psychotic I swear my mouth must have been hanging open.

    I can’t help but think of how many freaks like this guy are out there to press the movement to stop bullying forward to the point it’s at today.

  5. I can relate to both school yard and workplace bullying. The latter has happened more than once to me and I believe has a longer lasting impact on an individual. People don’t want to accept the possibility, but sometimes the bullying is deliberate. Instead of just terminating the person, management targets them by trying to make the place so unbearably miserable the associate feels they have no choice but to leave. In most cases, though, I feel that’s the best choice. If a company’s culture is so defective they’re reduced to terrorizing people, then it’s just not worth the trouble. At the engineering company where I last worked there had been a supervisor who harassed several people and caused the firm to settle more than a few lawsuits. Ironically, that person ended up getting fired after going off on a client.

    The Workplace Bullying Institute is an organization committed to raising awareness of this problem and putting an end to it wherever it arises.

    There are plenty of resources to help workers these days. As adults, we don’t have to tolerate that kind of crap. People work too damn hard for their money, and companies never benefit from such antics. They actually pay for it in the long run. Believe me – what goes around comes around.

  6. I’m so sorry you are being bullie, :)d by him (I assume it’s a him) I understand it is common practice with many bosses to bully. Luckily I am retired now and don’t have to put up with that anymore. Hang in there

  7. Documentation skills are always important – for any situation.
    (And people wonder why kids bully and where they learn it….look at how the adults in their lives behave….apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) Always thought Charlie Brown books/movies and the Back to the Future movies were good openings to get kids talking about bullying, why others do it, and how to cope with a bully with skill.

  8. Very much illegal and taken very seriously in Ireland. I was a ‘witness’ for an official bullying complaint at my workplace – the bully was immediately suspended (for months!) and then, luckily, her position was made redundant. She bullied me, too, and encouraged others at my same pay-level to treat me poorly, but I had bigger problems so didn’t bother speaking up. Not so my other co-worker, and I’m proud of her for standing up.

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