Being Bully-Boss’ed? – The 57 Signs . . . Is It Happening to You?

“I find in most circumstances people leave bosses,
not companies.”

– John Rampton

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Over the past two years, Nike has terminated five senior executives for being bully bosses – four men and one woman. One of those terminated had been identified as the probable next CEO. A rising tide of bullying at Nike resulted, too, in the CEO calling a “town hall” meeting of all 35,000 Nike employees, at which the CEO apologized for letting it get so out of control, and promised not to let it happen again.

From recent press accounts and a rising number of lawsuits, the incidence of bully bossing seems to be on the rise. It may be that so many managers feel under so much pressure to do so much with so little. It may be a reflection of a seemingly rising incivility throughout society. No matter the cause, workplace bullying seems to have become more common, and is a widely discussed phenomenon.

While employees bear the brunt of workplace bullying, employers are coming to recognize that they are victims of bully bossing, too, as it results in depressed morale, increased law suits, significant distraction, loss of valuable human talent and diminished retention of key employees. Oh, it also poses real risk to very significant reputational damage to brand, which is perhaps the “Achilles heel” of every organization, especially those with great investment into brand development and management.

And, too, it seems “something big” may also be changing: “I’ve been bully boss’ed” is, to many, the new “me-too movement.”

If you think how you are being treated by your own manager may constitute bully bossing, this list of the “57 Signs” may help you in two ways: First, it represents something of a “checklist of abuses” against which you can measure your own treatment so you can draw your own conclusions. Second, if you do conclude that you are, indeed, dealing with a workplace bully boss, this list may assist you in addressing the problem by identifying to Management, HR and even the bully boss, himself or herself, with specificity, the elements of the problem.

LESSON TO LEARN: Two questions often arise in workplace bullying situations:

The first question is: “Do I have just a very tough boss, or has he/she crossed the line to represent a true ‘bully boss?’”

The second question is: “If I am being bully-bossed, how can I address that subject, with the most effective manner and yet, if possible, avoid retaliation?”

Well, as I often tell my clients, “Specificity yields credibility.” By being able to identify what is going on, you can help yourself answer both of those questions. Specificity is necessary to identify a problem – like a blood test or x-ray does for a physician. And, too, specificity may indicate to the physician where to apply the medicine or other treatment, how long it should be applied, and what are the indications of improvement? Well, the same holds true for any problem, including bullying at work: the more specific, the more effective will likely be the diagnosis and treatment.

The list below helps you understand whether you are, indeed, being bullied. It can also help you spot the many ways in which workplace bullying often shows itself. While it is not entirely exhaustive, it does contain most of what we all mean by workplace bullying. And, too, it can assist in your standing up to it.

One thing to keep in mind: bully bossing does not need to be intentional. In fact, many bully bosses are not even vaguely aware of what they do. As they have done it so many times before, without being called out on it, they think it is “normal” managing, which it is not.

This is why it is being said, more and more, “Bully Bossed is the new MeToo Movement.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: To help make a conclusion about whether you are being bully bossed, and to also help you report it to others, here is a list of 57 signs of bully bossing. Of course, associated issues should be considered, including (a) how often the activity takes place, (b) its intensity, (c) its effects on you, (d) how long it has been taking place, and (e) whether it has continued after you have taken reasonable steps to stop it.

    A. Humiliations
1. Diminishing or discounting your views and opinions
2. Ignoring you or interrupting you in meetings
3. Hurtful comments about your appearance, privately or publicly
4. Assigning you menial duties or his/her personal errands
5. Outbursts of anger, yelling or screaming
6. Clear disrespect of your religion or culture
7. Making you the butt of jokes regarding your age, religion, gender, appearance, etc.
8. Referring to you by a childish version of your name (“Joshie” for Josh)
9. Continually questioning your adequacy, commitment, skills
10. Criticizing you personally, unrelated to your performance
11. Insisting you be available to him/her seven days, 24 hours
12. Spying, snooping, invasion of your privacy


To STAND UP FOR YOURSELF, we offer Model COMPLAINT OF BULLY BOSS TO CEO AND HR, you can adapt and use. Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.” To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered to your printer in minutes.

    B. Work Sabotage
13. Assigning you more assignments and projects than you have time for
14. Assigning you deadlines that no one could meet
15. Withholding resources necessary to do your work
16. Denying needed information or access to it
17. Denying or delaying necessary permissions or consents
18. Intentionally ambiguous instructions
19. Scheduling meetings without advance notice, agenda and/or reason
20. Denying you training/instruction opportunities approved for others
21. Interfering with mail, email and other necessary communications


If you are Suffering from a Bully Boss, we offer Model ANONYMOUS BULLY BOSS COMPLAINT to Your Employer, for your adaptation. Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.” To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered to your printer in minutes.

    C. Management Dishonesty
22. False under-evaluations of your performance
23. False or petty claims of misconduct
24. Unreasonable, undue, undeserved or non-constructive criticisms
25. Scapegoating for something you did not do or had no part in
26. Refusing reasonable requests for leave in the absence of business related reasons
27. Repeated false accusations of violations of policies, rules or regulations
28. Continually changing his/her expectations
29. Micromanaging to a fault


Need IMMEDIATE RELIEF? TAKE FMLA TIME OFF. Consider using our Model Memo REQUESTING FMLA INFORMATION, FORMS and PROCEDURES from Human Resources. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It”™ and makes a permanent record of your request. Just [click here.] Delivered Instantly By Email to Your Printer.

    D. Isolation
30. Not inviting you to meetings you should be attending
31. Taking you off email distribution lists
32. Failure to invite to business or business/social functions
33. Spreading false or critical rumors and gossip about you
34. Assigning you a workplace that is far from others or difficult to get to
35. Scheduling meetings that conflict with your schedule or availability


    E. Use of Others to Harm You
36. Reassigning your duties to others without your consent
37. Not naming you to committees related to your function
38. Telling your subordinates what to do or not to follow your direction
39. Assigning you of offensive nicknames
40. Slandering or defaming you or those you care about
41. Justifying, defending or refusing to halt others’ abuse of you


Considering resigning? BEFORE RESIGNING, consider our “Involuntary Resignation,” which preserves your rights to severance, unemployment and other advantages. We offer a “Model ‘INVOLUNTARY RESIGNATION’ Memo” for your adaptation and use. To get your copy – Delivered Instantly by Email – just [click here.] “What to Say and How to Say It”™

    F. Violence, Health and Safety Matters
42. Pointing a finger in your face
43. Belly-bumping or getting into your face
44. Threatening gestures, fist in the air
45. Towering over you, invading your space
46. Intimidating looks
47. Discouragement or denial of time to access medical appointments
48. Unwanted physical contact, abuse or threats of abuse
49. Assigning you to tasks that are dangerous or health-threatening


Our Most Requested FREE VIDEO: BULLY BOSS – SIX STEPS TO BEAT THE BEAST is available for your viewing without charge. Just sit back, relax, watch and listen. Just [click here.]

    G. Denial of Earned Payments or Credit for Achievements
50. Denying earned raises or bonuses
51. Refusing to consent the use of earned vacation time or PTO
52. Denying timely or earned promotions
53. Denying awards, citations, etc., that are due to you
54. Least attractive assignments
55. Reassignment of your best clients and customers
56. Refusing to approve reimbursements for business-related expenses
57. Continual Intentional miscalculation of your commissions, earnings, etc.


In Summary . . .

Every employee needs to do his or her best to fulfill his or her job duties. And, in turn, managers are tasked with encouraging, motivating and thus ensuring that they do so. Managers are not tasked with abusing, harassing, humiliating or otherwise sabotaging employees’ efforts. Sadly, many do so, intentionally or not. While the workplace is not usually a “fun place,” it is also not supposed to be a place to dread, or become ill because of how you are treated. Employers are becoming very much aware of how much they lose by bully-bossing. We hope this checklist of bullying tactics helps you both (i) conclude whether or not you are being treated in this way, and, too, (ii) helps you identify those tactics if and when you report your being bully bossed to others.

P.S.: If you would like to speak directly about this or other subjects, Mr. Sklover is available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations, just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can often be accommodated.

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “outside the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the likely bumps in the road. For those who believe they are being bullied, this is how you can tell, and what you can report, as part of your wise “navigation and negotiation.”

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale.

Sklover Working Wisdom™ is a trademarked newsletter publication of Alan L. Sklover, of Sklover & Company, LLC, a law firm dedicated to the counsel and representation of employees in matters of their employment, compensation and severance. Nothing expressed in this material constitutes legal advice. Please note that Mr. Sklover is admitted to practice in the state of New York, only. When assisting clients in other jurisdictions, he retains the assistance of local counsel and/or obtains permission of local Courts to appear. Copying, use and/or reproduction of this material in any form or media without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. For further information, contact Sklover & Company, LLC, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000, New York, New York 10111 (212) 757-5000.

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