Hostility/Bullying in General Archives

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

Published on July 17th, 2018 by Alan L. Sklover

“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.
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New Manager? – Big Risks Ahead! Eight Signs to Watch Out For

Published on April 19th, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

“The paranoid person is never entirely mistaken.”

– Sigmund Freud

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Quite frankly, there are so many actual case histories of “New Manager Risk” that I could write an entire book on the subject. A large part of my law practice over these past 35 years has been devoted to severance, and I have identified five or six situations where we can almost expect our client to lose his or her job. Putting aside for the moment the “large-scale downsizing” category, the “New Manager” category is one of the most common “one-off,” or individual, job loss situations.

I often describe “New Manager Risk” this way: (1) new captain takes over the ship, (2) new captain is eager to show how much improvement she can bring about, (3) he thinks his best path to improvement is the hiring of a “new crew,” (4) she thinks that people she has known from other teams she has worked with will be very loyal, as well, and (5) one by one, the “old crew” are convinced, coaxed or coerced to “walk the plank.”

Sound familiar? I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

While I am confident everyone has seen or experienced this very scenario, I am absolutely certain that everyone will, sooner or later, come across it, themselves. Hopefully, when it happens, it will not happen to you.

LESSON TO LEARN: The lesson to learn here is quite simple: if you are assigned to a new manager, or a new manager is assigned to you, you need to be at least a touch extra vigilant, and consider taking extra steps to do all you can to keep your job. So, the first step is enhanced vigilance, the subject of this newsletter.

***Note that in coming weeks, we will write another newsletter about steps you can take to counteract “New Manager Risk” in order to keep your job. It will be entitled “New Manager? – Addressing the New Risks.” In the meantime, consider what events and circumstances you should look out for, as explained below.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are eight things you can be on the lookout for if either you are assigned to a new manager, or a new manager is assigned to you:
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Should I Report THIS to HR? – 11 Pro’s and Con’s

Published on October 18th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“The pessimist is disappointed by the direction of the wind.
The optimist is certain it will change.
The realist adjusts the sails.”

– Unknown

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: This really happened to me on the first day of my second job as an associate attorney:

I was wearing a new suit and a favorite tie that day, but because it was warm and my shirt collar was a bit tight, I undid my top shirt button and pushed my tie up to keep my collar near-closed.

A meeting had been called by the firm’s senior partner to introduce me and two other new attorneys to the legal staff. There were perhaps thirty attorneys sitting in a large conference room. I had been interviewed by the senior partner six weeks earlier, and he had been quite gracious, warm and engaging. He told me something like “Alan, you are clearly the person we want and need for this job.”

When the senior partner arrived, he sat at the head of the large, shiny, wooden conference room table, and began the meeting. Each of the three of us who were on our first day were asked to come forward to be introduced. When I was called, I stood up, walked to the head of the conference room table, stood next to the senior partner, and smiled.

Without saying a word the senior partner moved closes to me, grabbed my neck with his right hand, buttoned my collar with one hand – scraping it deeply as he did – and said, “We button our top buttons here.” As he did so, one of his finger nails scratched my neck quite deeply. He then went on to introduce me. The rest of the day I worked with several small blood stains on my collar and tie. I decided then and there, on that first day, to seek another job at another firm, which I secured about a month later.

Should I have gone to HR to complain? I didn’t do so, thinking only to myself, “Just find a new job and get the heck out of here,” which is what I did within six weeks or so. Though it was many years ago, and standards of conduct have changed, even then it was an unusual departure from commonly recognized standards of acceptable workplace conduct. At least I think so.

LESSON TO LEARN: So many people come to me after an “unusual event” or “bad treatment” at work with the question, “Should I report this to Human Resources?” It is always a hard call to make. Why? Because there are always so many significant “pro’s and con’s” in doing so, or not doing so.

In a perfect world, any kind of misconduct should be reported to those whose job it is to deal with such issues. But, we don’t live in a perfect world. No matter what anyone tells you, what you say to your Human Resources representative will be shared with others, quite possibly the person whose misconduct you are reporting, or his/her managers, or even friends. Though retaliation in the workplace is almost always prohibited by company policies, and often by the law, retaliation in one form or another is so common that you can almost count on it rearing its ugly head in one form or another.

Pro’s: On the one hand, if you report misconduct to Human Resources, there is a good chance the misconduct will be halted, at least in the short term. Chances are pretty good that, at the least, a warning will be given to the person in question, formal or informal. Doing so also gives you certain legal rights, and future credibility if needed in the future. No one can ever say “If it was such a problem, why didn’t you report it?”

Reporting misconduct to Human Resources gives HR the legal obligation to at least look into the report. And, if the misconduct is repeated or gets worse, your employer will have legal liability to you, which they would not have if you failed to make a report. I can’t tell you how many times I have told clients: “It would have been helpful if you had objected to this, or even reported it, in an email.”

Con’s: On the other hand, if you report an incident to Human Resources, the fact that you did so will undoubtedly become known to the person whose conduct you reported or complained of, because Human Resources must communicate with them as part of its investigation. Never, ever, ever think that you can say to Human Resources, “I am reporting this to you, but I want you to keep it confidential.” That is like telling the police the name of a person who you know committed a robbery, and asking them to promise not to speak with that person.

Additionally, reporting an event of misconduct can pour cold water on an otherwise productive relation, either with the person who engaged in misconduct, and perhaps, too, his or her friends. And, too, if someone makes a lot of complaints to Human Resources, their complaints start to lose credibility after a while. Those viewed to be “constant complainers” generally don’t go far or last long.

Why’s and Why Not’s: It is sad, but undeniable: filing a report, complaint or objection with Human Resources can be a risky thing to do. Should it be? Never. But it can be, that is for sure. And doing so when not truly needed may diminish your ability to do so in another circumstance when it is truly needed. Would you believe a complaint from an employee if he or she made a new complaint, about a new person, each and every day, for a year? Of course not. Judicious use of your ability to go to HR is a must.

One thing must be borne in mind: Human Resources representatives are NOT to be presumed to be “on your side.” Their very job description is clear that they are always “on management’s side,” which might or might not be, depending on the facts and circumstances, “on your side,” too. Human Resources representatives are surely not your “friend,” or your mom, or your lawyer, or any kind of “company police officer.” Their job is not to bring about fairness or to protect employees but, as it says in their title, to “manage human resources.”

So, there are “pro’s and “con’s” in both reporting and not reporting an incident to HR.

The truly best answer to the question “Should I report this to HR?” is “Maybe, depending on the outcome of a careful and thoughtful consideration and weighing of the “pro’s and con’s” with a strong emphasis on the word “careful.”

In reading this newsletter, please bear in mind that nothing at all in this newsletter is meant to suggest that you should not take steps that are needed to protect yourself, or that you should ignore any company requirements that you look the other way when you observe impropriety. Rather, we seek to help you make the best decision regarding whether or not to report, object or complain.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are eleven considerations to weigh before deciding your own course of action if an incident of misconduct or impropriety takes place either toward you, or in some way involving you, at work:
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“I fear the consequences of filing a complaint; any suggestions?”

Published on February 28th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I am contemplating filing a grievance at my workplace. I know the decision must be my own. I FEEL abused by a hostile person. I can provide some information with emails. But I’m (to put it bluntly) scared.

I’m concerned that people more powerful than myself will put together a case that will tear me apart. These past few days I feel like I cannot take another day. That being said, what can I use to weigh the circumstances and make a firm, correct decision?

New Milford, Connecticut

Answer: Dear Eleanore, Your letter is like so, so many other letters I receive. What you are feeling is like what so many other people feel. At least you know you are not alone. Here are a few thoughts that, I hope, will help you decide what to do:   

1. You have already taken the most important step forward: you decided to make a decision. No matter what you decide to do, at least you have owned up to the fact that the decision is yours to make, and the consequences of your decision – or non-decision – are yours to live with. We’re all faced with decisions every day – whether or not to exercise, whether or not to eat well, whether or not to undergo a serious surgery – each of which may have significant consequences. Far too often many people think they can just avoid a problem situation by avoiding a decision about what to do, with the hope that the situation will simply “go away” on its own. They never do. Instead they fester, and almost always get worse.                              

2. “When fear knocks on your door, send faith to answer it” is one of my favorite sayings. Fear is such an interesting phenomenon: It is like a self-imposed jail that we use to limit our own freedom. Others can’t make us feel fear: only we can put it on ourselves. Most fear is fear of the unknown, and so really has no basis. I say it often, and in fact often to myself: do not live in fear, do not act in fear, do not fail to live due to fear. The more I listen to and follow that “mantra,” the happier I turn out to be, because I’ve learned, that, as Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear, itself.”  

3. “Action is the antidote to despair” is another of my favorite sayings. One thing that might help you is the truth of this saying: when you start to “do” something, fear just dissipates, degree by degree by degree. Living in fear leads to despair; taking actions in spite of fear makes despair go away. Sooner or later, you have to decide if you are going to be a fearful person the rest of your life, or if you are going to be “adult” about things and “confront” your fears. The sooner you confront your fears, the sooner you will feel that veil of despair lift and disappear, and the sooner you will actually begin to enjoy the process of acting against, or in spite of fear.

4. Standing up to Bullies is the best way to stop them. The first time anyone stands up to a bully, or even thinks about doing it, they fear retaliation, retribution and even greater bullying. Though it is, I’m sure, hard to believe, the exact opposite usually happens: the bully finds a different, passive, willing victim who won’t fight – or bite – back. I say that not just as an attorney who has helped people stand up to bullies for 30 years, but as someone who has had to stand up to bullies in his own life, more than once. I, too, feared the retaliation, retribution and even greater bullying. Experience has taught me that the opposite takes place. In fact – and please don’t quote me – I have come to the point where I actually enjoy standing up to bullies, to see them in disbelief, to see them squirm, to see them run away, to see them learn a lesson: “Even the little old lady on the subway might have a can of pepper spray in her pocketbook.” I know this is a matter of faith, but like the saying goes, “When fear knocks on your door, send faith to answer it.”

5. Health should always come first. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” This, more than anything, should be the guiding star of your decision. It’s hard to figure out what would risk your health more – filing a grievance or not filing a grievance. But I think that your “inside” or “instincts” will guide you in this decision.

6. People tell me that the “pain” of possible retaliation is far less “painful” than the “pain” of certain daily abuse. My clients have reported this to me, too. The daily “pounding” of hostile and abusive behavior has a way of eroding self-esteem and self-confidence, and then even sleep and health. Eventually the dehumanization results in making you a “zombie” of sorts. On the other hand, saying through your actions and demeanor, “I am a human, we have rules, and I won’t take your nonsense anymore” has the opposite effect – on the bully, but on you, too. It is self-affirming, it is humanizing, and it is revitalizing. Sure, from my battles with bullies I have a few “bumps on my forehead,” at least there is a smile on my face, and I enjoy waking up to each new day. And, too, deep down inside I know I have done what I always should have done. But better late than never.

7. What are you really afraid of? Can the bullies really do anything more, or worse, to you? You write that these past few days make you feel like you cannot take another day. Could it be much worse? Eleanore, I don’t know your financial resources, but even getting fired seems like it would be better than losing your emotional, mental and physical health, no? If by this account you have nothing to lose, then by definition you have everything to gain. In any negotiation, the person with the least to lose usually wins the negotiation.

8. A well-prepared and well-documented grievance is a powerful thing. You might ask a friend to help you, or to be your editor, or even to be there for emotional support. Even if you don’t submit your grievance, I suggest you prepare an organized, respectful and detailed grievance – just for the “fun” of it. Even if you don’t send it, I think the process of preparing it will be helpful to your emotions, and help you make your decision. I think when it is complete, that alone will make you feel better about what you have accomplished. I think this process will make the fear disappear at least a bit, and you will be able to see more clearly than you have in a real long time.

We have available a Model Letter entitled “Anonymous Report of Bully Boss Behavior,” for those who are concerned about potential retaliation. To obtain a copy, just [click here].

9. And don’t forget the “Extraordinary Power of Purpose.” Got children? Loves ones? A spouse or partner? Parents? Siblings? If you remember that one of the reasons you work is to be there for them if and when they need you, you will have a purpose outside yourself, a better reason than yourself to stand up for yourself, a strange kind of strength, resolve and determination that you didn’t feel before. When you are standing up for those you love, all of a sudden you’ll find courage that you didn’t know was there before. I urge every one of my clients in your situation to keep a photo of loved ones nearby – in a pocket or purse – to remind you of this “extraordinary power of purpose.”    

Eleanore, because I don’t know you, I can’t help you weigh the particular “pluses” and “minuses” of filing a grievance in your situation. But I do hope that these thoughts are of some help to you in that process. You have a lot of courage inside of you, and I hope and pray it will rise to the surface and guide you in whichever path you choose.

My Very, Very Best,
Al Sklover

One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“In Ireland, can employees sue their employer for bullying?”

Published on December 6th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: What are the circumstances in which an employee will be able to sue their employer for bullying in the workplace and psychological damage deriving from so called “workplace stress?”  

Dublin, Ireland

Answer: Dear Allie, Though I am not licensed to practice law in Ireland, I did a bit of research and found that Ireland is really quite progressive when it comes to protecting employees from “Bully Bosses.” It sets up a resolution procedure that attempts to make lawsuits for bullying unnecessary. Here’s what I found out:         

1. Ireland has passed a Code of Practice to Deal with Workplace Bulling. Though it seems there has been a dramatic increase, worldwide, in the incidence of bullying at work, Ireland is one of the few countries I know of that has passed a law to prevent, and deal with, workplace bullying. In fact, Ireland first passed a law aimed at preventing workplace bullying in 2002. In 2007 it passed an improved law to resolve employee complaints. The improved law was drawn up by the Irish Health and Safety Authority (“HSA”), and came into effect on May 1, 2007. Its title is “Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work.”

2. The Irish Code of Practice provides a wide-ranging definition of “bullying.” It is “repeated inappropriate behavior, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual’s right to dignity at work.” I must say that I am very impressed with the broad definition, which seems widely applicable to all sorts of bullying at work.  

3. The Irish Bullying Code requires an internal investigation and a written set of investigation findings. The Irish Bullying Code lays out a formal procedure that gives each of the employee(s), the alleged bully(s) and management certain specified responsibilities to resolve bullying disputes, and even requires preventive training by all who may be involved in such disputes. The forms necessary to set the process in motion are available from the Irish HSA by calling 1-890-289-3809, or by emailing a request to

4. After the required process, an employee can also then bring a formal lawsuit. If the complaining employee is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she is then authorized to bring a formal suit against the alleged bully boss or bully colleague for any damages suffered – and can use the findings of the required investigation in his or her formal lawsuit.   

Allie, I hope this is helpful to you, though I have not been able to determine precisely how to bring a lawsuit for “psychological damages from workplace stress.” The informal procedure I have outlined above is intended to provide whatever remedy may be necessary or appropriate for any harm done by a bully boss or bully colleague.

Thank you for writing in. Please “spread the word” about our blog to your friends and colleagues in Dublin!

Al Sklover

Repairing the World - 
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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