Other Bullies Archives

“What do you think of zero tolerance for Bully Bosses?”

Published on May 30th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I am currently a student at Benedictine University completing my BSN degree. Zero Tolerance policies on Bullying is a debate project my colleagues are presenting. I represent the negative side to zero-tolerance policy. What are your views? Best regards. 

Cynthia B.
Sherman, Illinois

Answer: Dear Cynthia: Though I do a good deal of work assisting people who are victims of Bully Bosses at work, I don’t care much for a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying at work, or zero-tolerance policies, in general. Here’s why:   

1. Because there is no set definition of “bullying,” to some extent “bullying is in the eye of the beholder.” That is, whether someone is a bully, a strict disciplinarian, overly passionate, or perhaps just had an awful, awful day, it is sometimes not clear, but instead a matter of perception, prior experiences, and personal tolerance. Perhaps there is an objective definition of “bully” that everyone agrees on, but I have never heard of it. Where there is such subjectivity, sometimes enforcement is done on a subjective – and unfair – basis, as well.  

2. To my mind, being a Bully Boss is not a one-time thing, but rather a continuing course of cruel conduct committed over time. For this reason, it seems to me that the words “one-time” and “bully” are actually inconsistent with each other. In the experiences my clients have shared with me about their Bully Bosses, it’s never been a “one-time” occurrence, and rarely if ever a “one-victim” situation. Rather, bullying is more of a mindset that exhibits itself over time, with several or more victims, and repeatedly. One “strike” is a problem; three strikes, “you are out.”      

3. Even though I am an employee advocate, I must acknowledge that sometimes, people just “lose it,” and it’s even happened to me. I may be a “softie,” but I do tend to forgive people for their first big mistake. I guess it is because – believe it or not – I have made a few big mistakes, myself. If there is someone among us who has not made a big mistake, he or she cannot be alive, or is not human. A very bad day does not make someone a “bully.” In fact, expressions of remorse, apology or regret can, in my mind, remove the term “bully,” so long as the same mistake does not happen time and time again. 

4. There is always a concern in me that zero-tolerance policies – with just a few exceptions – may be unfairly applied. I guess it is like the death penalty for murder: what happens if we make a mistake? Just as you can’t say “Oops, I am sorry” after you have given someone the death penalty, so, too, you can’t say “Oops, I am sorry” after you have ended someone’s promising career. “Zero tolerance” sounds impartial, fair and objective, but in my experience humans are often partial to their friends, unfair to those they do not like, and subjective in how they apply rules. I think that “zero tolerance” only amplifies the probability that a grave unfairness may take place. Reputational harm is usually lifelong, and so, so very difficult to overcome.

5. In limited circumstances, I might agree with zero tolerance, but only with significant safeguards to protect the innocent. There are some violations of societal rules that are more easily proven, without vagueness, and with substantial certainty, and truly heinous in nature. I would include child sexual abuse and physical violence in that category. It is only in those few instances that I would favor “zero tolerance,” and, too, only with significant safeguards to ensure that the innocent do not get unfairly charged or punished.  

Cynthia, I hope this helps you. Good luck in completing college, and in your nursing career. May I salute you for entering a wonderful and caring profession! 

Very, Very Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: Want a Blog of Your Own? Develop an “Internet Presence” of your own. It’s a fun, challenging, and rewarding thing to do. And it might even help you get a new or better job. We can help you. Just [click here.]

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“What can I do if the HR person is the bully?”

Published on August 9th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, hoping you can help me. We have one HR person at work – there are no other HR employees besides her. She’s a nightmare. She verbally abuses employees, gossips in the hallway, and targets good employees she doesn’t like to get them fired. (Luckily, I’m not on her list yet.)

My first thought would be to tell HR, but I can’t. Is there anything I can do legally? Some central organization that deals with HR professional ethics? I can’t talk to her boss: not only are they friends, but they share an office. Thanks.

Upland, California

Answer: I fully understand why you have submitted your question using the name “Anonymous.” As you may know, it is common for blog visitors to do that. However, in your case I think that your decision to submit your question anonymously suggests certain things to me, which I’d like to share with you.

1. Remember that Human Resources professionals are no different from other people: like the rest of us, they are just “people.” It has always been a puzzle to me, but many people expect Human Resources professionals to be more patient, more moral, more pleasant and otherwise “above” other human beings. That expectation is simply unreasonable, because they are just like the rest of us. Some are patient, some are not; some are pleasant, some are not; some are honest, some are not. And it is my expectation that no professional Human Resources organization would discipline a Human Resources professional for anything they have done, or not done. I don’t think that expecting that would be reasonable, either.

2. And, Human Resource professionals are subject to the same laws and rules as “the rest of us.”By the same token, you can file a complaint or legal claim against a Human Resource professional for the same offenses, in the same manner, and with the same effect as you may regarding any other person. They are subject to the same company policies, too. No one is above the law; no one.

3. While there is a growing “anti-workplace-bullying” movement, so far no anti-bullying laws have been passed to give employees legal remedies, unless the “bullying” is due to age, gender, race, disability, or other “protected” category. A quick search of “workplace bullying” on the internet will show you that many, many people are working all over the world to make workplace bullying illegal. My own search indicates that, to date, no laws have been enacted. However, bullying at work motivated by the victim’s age, gender, race, disability, pregnancy, religious beliefs or other “protected category” is illegal nearly everywhere under the title “hostile work environment.” Unfortunately, “equal opportunity bullies” are getting away with abusive behavior every day.

4. So, I suggest you review what remedies may be available to you for improper behavior, and don’t fear to use those remedies regarding your Human Resources manager. Check your employer’s company policies and Employee Handbook to see if your Human Resources Manager is violating any of them. If so, consider (a) writing to your Human Resources Manager to ask her to correct her behavior, or (b) filing an official complaint with the CEO, or the Board of Directors. Sure, this may require a good dose of courage, but it is something you must do if you would like to change her behavior. Unfortunately, there is no “legal” remedy at this time.

5. If you are concerned about retaliation, there are certain additional steps I might suggest you take.So very often, people are afraid to stand up for themselves and for others because they fear retaliation in response. While there are no “magic” steps you can take to guarantee that you will not be subject to retaliation, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of it happening, including: (a) mention in a letter to the HR Manager that, if she engages in retaliation, then you will have a strong legal claim against her; (b) consider raising this very issue with the CEO and/or Board Members, and that such behavior – if they permit it to take place – would make the company liable for a legal claim of improper retaliation; and (c) you might want to file your complaint anonymously, but with specific names of people she has retaliated against in the past, to prove your point that the HR Manager threatens the interests of the company. If management is made aware that the HR Manager is putting the company at risk, they just might do something to stop her.

I sure hope this has been of some help in your thinking of how to deal with this Bully at Work. While your Human Resources bully has not yet gone after you, the way bullies work, sooner or later someday she will. Consider, for your own welfare, and that of your colleagues, taking some steps now.

Thanks for writing in. Good luck to you, no matter what steps you take, or don’t take. And please share our blogsite with your friends and colleagues.

Al Sklover

P.S.:   For those who have fear of workplace violence, we offer a Model Memo to Your Employer Insisting on Protection from Workplace Violence.  It can help you get the protection you need. “What to Say and How to Say It.” To obtain a copy, just [click here.Delivered by Email – Instantly!

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“My job is definitely ‘The Job from Hell.’ Any ideas?”

Published on September 21st, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I work for a real estate management company that is co-owned by a mother, son and daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law’s brother also works here.

I have a vey stressful position of handling all of the tenants’ maintenance complaints. The tenants are negative. The owners are negative. The daughter-in-law is also the office manager, and she is negative about everyone, except herself. She takes off for days at a time and then comes back with a vengeance as to why things did not get done in her absence.

I can’t get maintenance people to stay working for us because of the people I work for, and the low pay scale.

I need this job, but I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Every day my stomach hurts, I get headaches, and my neck and shoulders stiffen up.

Any advice?

         Wayzata, Minnesota 

Answer: Dear Jonelle, I wish I could offer you suggestions, solace and support, and ideas for how you might change things around. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can.

Some jobs are just so rotten that they are just not possible to change. Your job – and the family that employs you – seem to be that rotten.

I have given many hours of thought to the subject of difficult employment relations. I’ve come to this conclusion: with any employment relation that is not a good, satisfying, productive employment relation, you have just three possible alternatives:

a. Accept the employment relation “as is.”
b. Improve the employment relation, if you can.
c. Abandon the employment relation as soon as you can.

Considering what you have told me, even though it is very hard to find a new job, I suggest that you do all you can to find a new job as soon as you can. You might start looking in the same industry – real estate management – because that is where your experience would probably help you the most find a new job quickly.

You have also mentioned the negative effects your job has on your health. May I remind you that “Without your health, you have nothing.” Anything that makes you sick must be removed from your life as soon as possible.

I wish I could offer you some ideas for improving the situation. I believe the best thing would be to leave, leave as soon as possible, and leave any way you can. On your own time, I do suggest that you engage in additional activities that you find stress-reducing, such as exercise, prayer, meditation, extra time with loved ones, or anything else, so long as it is not an unhealthy habit, such as drinking or smoking. This is a time to de-stress, to the extent possible. I have taken up yoga, which I find does wonders for me. 

Hope this helps. Hang in there. If you pray, pray for “The Three S’s”:  Strength to get you through the day, Stamina to get you through the week, and Serenity to get you to a better place, job-wise, health-wise, and emotion-wise.

My very, very best to you.

           Al Sklover  

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“How can I stop co-workers from bullying me?”

Published on May 29th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I have been bullied by three co-workers for the last three months. One has even threatened “I will take you down.”

Recently, I was injured on the job because two of these colleagues refused to assist me in an assigned task I was doing by myself that required two people.

Because of that injury, I have been placed on a Workers Compensation leave of absence. My manager told me not to mention to the Workers Compensation Board that my co-workers contributed to the cause of the injury. 

How can I stop these people from bullying me?

Brantford, Ontario

Answer: Dear Diane: Like all human beings, employees can be both very nice, and very mean, to each other. Sooner or later, we all “bump into” bullies.

Fortunately, the law in most states of the U.S., and in most of Canada, too, says that employers must take reasonable steps to halt hostility at work, PROVIDED they have first been made aware of it. For this reason, the very first thing you need to do is to make your employer aware of it, in a way that cannot be questioned, doubted or denied: in an “email record” of what happened, and that you reported what happened, including your manager’s refusal to intervene to stop the bullying. This you should do in an email addressed to the CEO, President, Board of Directors or owner of the company. Name the bullies, describe their tactics, and demand an immediate halt.

If you would like to obtain a Model memo to help you report Discrimination, Harassment or Hostility [click here].

Once you’ve done this, your employer then knows that, if it does nothing to stop the bullying, it can be sued for allowing a “hostile workplace environment.” And once you’ve done that, if the bullying does not stop, you then can either (a) file a complaint with your local labor board, or (b) consider hiring an attorney to assist you in suing the company.

I think you should also include in your “email complaint” that you are being urged to lie to the Workers Compensation investigators, which would be a crime, and that your manager may be trying to get you to quit to cover up what he or she is demanding of you: that you lie.

I think you should also make a report with local police authorities that you have been threatened with bodily harm by your colleague who threatened to “take you down.”

Most people shy away from filing written complaints about illegal or improper behavior, out of fear that they will just be harassed more. However, reporting the behavior in a verifiable way is the only true way to stop it.

In their hearts, most bullies are cowards. They are so insecure in themselves that they only feel good when they have “power over” others – the power of fear and intimidation. Once a bully knows you don’t fear him or her, the bully usually feels bad, and no longer bothers you, but instead finds another person to victimize. Standing up to a bully – by reporting everything the bully has done and is doing to authorities – is the strongest weapon you have against the bully. It is hard to stand up to bullying. But inside, I think you know that not standing up to a bully will only continue the bullying, or make things worse. Not standing up to a bully only makes him or her feel more powerful, and encourages them to continue. 

Going to work each day must be very hard for you. I pray you will have the courage to stand up for yourself in this way, and then go on to a more peaceful and productive life at work.

Hope this helps. I really do. 

           Best, Al Sklover

©  2010 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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