Coping With Business Bullies

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Dear Susan: My boss spends so much time on trying to find things I am doing wrong that I frankly do not know how he has time for anything else. He also goes around to other supervisors and fellow employees and tells them things about me so now others are keeping their distance for fear that they will be next. I think this is a very severe case of what they call “bullying.”

I am documenting everything because there is no doubt that I am being harrassed by him. We have an employee union but they themself say this city is the worse they have ever seen and just do what ever they say so it doesn’t end up just like the last girl they foced into early retirement (less than 6 months ago). It seems they went after her for over six years! As my old boss & many of the employees put it, “It seems that they always have to have a victim.”

I have gotten a written reprimand for the very first time in my 53 years and just recently after I already had my annual review & it was finished, approved, and signed by two of my supervisors for over seven weeks he called a meeting with me and two other bosses to tell me they decided not to give it to me. Once again he stated I have been late as the reason and then he stated internet usage, as well. I asked for his documentation on both because I have been sending myself an email every day from work to my home when I arrive at work and when I leave to prove he is not telling the truth. It has been over three weeks and he has not mentioned giving me any documentation even though I have asked several times.

The internet usage he mentioned was that I went to one of those free card places and sent a card, which I did, to him for his birthday! The other thing was I went to look up when a training class was at my church so he stated I was looking up things at a “religious site”. Do note that he did agree that all of my WWW usage was done on my lunch hour. I have told him several times I do not have to sit at work to surf the WWW – I have DSL at home and I can surf all I want there WITHOUT anyone saying anything.

So as you see he really is searching for some way to get rid of me permanately! That is fine with me except for one thing…I have 1& 1/2 years left to go until I am vested for my retirement. This means I will get my medical paid by the city even after I retire so it is very important. About a year before I started working for the city I went through a real bad divorce and my ex cashed out all my previous retirement so the city is all I have.

I am at wits end though and do not know what else I can do. I have never had anything like this happen to me at any job in my life so it is truly mind boggling to me. I am just trying to stay out of his way and just do my job quietly but he does not let me even do that. He will come in and say something about something else that he has decided I am doing wrong. He even has done things like tell me not to do a certain set of CAD drawings until after our GIS consultant gives us what he is doing on it (so we do not double our efforts he says). Then in the meeting with the three bosses he told them I didn’t do any of the work.

I am trying to hang in there but I do not even know if I can anymore at this point. I have gone to the union, the HRO manager, and different chains of command but nothing. Tell me if there is any tricks you know of to help me hang in there until I am vested. I know it will probably cost me my sanity but at least I will have the medical to pay for my treatments then.

Have you ever run across this type of situation? Is there any hope of it changing? This has been going on for just over two years now – ever since he started working with the city himself. My other boss gave me great reviews and always praised my work and extra efforts. This one has yet to say anything good about me yet including on my reviews. No he did say one good thing this time – He said I was very good with people and the citizens when I go up to the counter to help them.

I do AutoCAD & GIS & have done it since 1985. As a matter of fact I am the most qualified CAD/GIS person in the entire city of over 500 people. I am one of the key instrumental people who started the city in trying to get the drawings, maps, & atlases done electronically. My skills are highly needed at my job but my boss has asked me why I even want to do the CAD when I am so good at the counter with people. He refuses me any update training classes yet keeps sending the two “guys” in our division.

I know I really have a serious harassment & discrimination case here if it ever came down to it but frankly that is really not my style or desire. All I want is to be treated with respect, fairness, and dignity for 1 & 1/2 years more. What can I do to help myself hang in there??

Thank You,
Puzzled & Confused

Dear Puzzled and Confused,

I wish you respect, fairness and dignity. You deserve this. When I read letters like this it makes me angry that people have to work under such conditions.

Yes, I’ve heard of this before. A client I’ll call Lisa comes to mind. She worked as a middle school counselor for 10 years under one principal and was a star. Nothing but praise and appreciation for what she considered “just doing my job.” Then he retired and a new principal took over and things changed immediately. Being the same person, doing the same work, Lisa began to get nothing but bad reports. Luckily for her, the new principal only last a year.

You have written that you plan to stay there and I’ll take you at your word you’ve exhausted all channels. No you won’t change the place, certainly not in 18 months.

Reading your letter, I sense you’re finding it hard to believe this is happening. The first thing to do is realize that it is. Good reality-testing is good emotional intelligence. Yes, it’s happening, yes, people really do behave this way. Now you have information, and now you can start to cope.

Bullying is a complicated issue. And remember, bullying and mobbing and hostile work place are not illegal in the US. Yet. Bullying is illegal in the UK and Europe is moving in that direction. The French and the Germans both call mobbing “slow poison” — “Le mobbing est un poison lent,” and “Mobbing is ein leises Gift Zuletzt geandert.” (Read my article “What’s Goind on with Mobbing, Bullying and Work Harassment Internationally.”)

Understand I find it reprehensible and indefensible. What I say is not to “excuse” the bully or the boss who allows such a work environment. It’s a survival plan for someone who can’t change the situation, and can’t or won’t leave.

Bullying occurs because of the nature of the bully, but certain types of people are more ready tagets. The targets are generally good workers who aren’t particularly “political,” and who won’t fight back. One piece of advice is — If you live in the vicinity of a predator looking for something to eat, it behooves you to “taste bad.”

Therefore, look at your role here. There are things you are doing that are encouraging this to continue. Without knowing the particulars of the case, here’s some general advice — Look around you at who doesn’t get picked on, observe them carefully, observe their interactions with this person, and then emulate them. TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. However you’ve been responding, respond another way.


Next I would recommend coaching.

#1, It’s good emotional intelligence to have a strong social support group at any time, but especially hard times, and coaching is this, but of a special nature. (Read my article, “I’m Not Looking for a Friend, I’m Looking for a Jedi Master“) A coach is not a friend, and your friends and relatives cannot provide what a coach can.

A coach can help you with the particulars of your situation. This could include calling your coach during the day for tips or a pep talk when something comes up.

#2, Such a negative environment can affect your health, which you mention lightly, but I don’t read it lightly. Please take care of yourself. There are things you can do to bolster your resilience and attitude that can make you feel better and preserve your health. (Read my article, “Emotions and Your Health“)


What else can you do? Read, learn and practice positivity and relaxation techniques. Learn to breathe deeply when something occurs, get up and get away until you calm down, learn to self-soothe. Learn anger management, because anger kills and, contrary to popular belief, both repressing it and expressing it are harmful to your health.

Develop your emotional intelligence. You may not be working there much longer, but you’ll be living for the rest of your life, and there are few things as potentially beneficial to all aspects of your life as increasing your emotional intelligence.


Bullying is very hard to address once it gets going. It needs to be nipped in the bud, stopped immediately. This may happen to you again, elsewhere, and you need to get your EQ going for the future. Again, I’m not saying it’s your fauly, I’m saying there are bullies in the world, and there are ways that encourage them and ways that don’t. What you want to do is learn to put a sign on your forehead that says, “I know you’re looking for someone to bully, but this person isn’t available for that.” They make you think it’s personal, but it isn’t; they’ll move on, as they are just a bullying event looking for a place to happen.

You would think an employer would not ignore such a situation, if not out of common decency, out of smartness. Studies of jurors in employment litigation suits have revealed the following (and remember jurors are simply workers on jury duty):

  • They know harassment, bullying and mobbing exist and they believe the people who report incidents
  • They expect the employer to do the right thing
  • They expect the employer to listen to and believe the victim
  • They expect the employer to take action; if not, and it happens again, it’s considered “tendency”
  • They expect even the most casual comments to be listened to
  • It infuriates them when the victim gets attacked either for reporting the incident or for bringing suit
  • They expect the company to punish the wrong-doer
  • It really infuriates them when a perpetrator goes scott-free because of a power or money issue

    And when a juror is “furious,” he or she has a chance to express this in the damage phase of the trial.
    (Source: Joni Johnston, Psy. D., expert witness and consultant in employment litigation)

    Good luck and thanks for writing.
    Warm regards, Susan Dunn, THE EQ COACH

    Susan Dunn, MA, Marketing Coach,
    http://www.webstrategies.cc. Marketing consultation,
    implementation, website review, SEO optimization, article
    writing and submission, help with ebooks and other
    strategies. Susan is the author or How to Write an eBook
    and Market It on the Internet. Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc
    for information and free ezine. Specify Checklist.

    Coping With Business Bullies
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  • About Susan Dunn
    Susan Dunn, MA, Marketing Coach, http://www.webstrategies.cc. Marketing consultation, implementation, website review, SEO optimization, article writing and submission, help with ebooks and other strategies. Susan is the author or How to Write an eBook and Market It on the Internet. Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for information and free ezine. Specify Checklist. WebProNews Writer
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