States Act on Workplace Bullying

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

School bullying has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but what about bullying at the workplace? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, almost half of all American workers have either suffered workplace bullying themselves or been vicariously distressed by witnessing it. 17 states (Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut) have tried to make it easier for employees to sue over workplace bullying, but there are still no federal laws in place.

We're exploring the topic of workplace bullying, and want to know: Have you been bullied at work? If so, how did you handle it?

We're talking with Dr. Emelisa Aleandri about her experience as the target of a workplace bully — and how she fought back in a case that was settled for $1.4 million in 2005.

And Justin Jones-Fosu, leadership trainer and host of partner station WEAA Baltimore's Listen Up will offer tips for others who are being bullied at work.

UPDATED: We corrected the language above after David Yamada, author of the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts, pointed out that the goals of the bill do not include criminalizing bullying, per se.


Dr. Emelise Aleandri and Justin Jones-Fosu

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [38]

Estrella from NYC

I worked at CUNY Central Office. Things got so bad for me I quit, and have been battling depression for 1yr. I have not been able to find a new job. I hit a dead end and don't know where to go from here. CUNY management is still refusing to pay me for 10hr overtime since I left. Its like a never ending nightmare. Some co-workers witnessed the verbal abuse but wont come forward out of fear they will receive the same treatment.

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Mar. 06 2013 10:45 PM
Val from New york

I was Reprimanded at work being in a civil service position the reprimand was Bogus and made up...I was the only woman among a few men who woked security for a shcool district....I was given a directive If i did not go into a specific vehicle and showed any assertion there would be displinary action..with that I proceeded to follow my oders...after reporting fumes seeping thru the vent's of this older model vehicle .while the men were assigned new vehicles thye claim by quote seniority,,I suffered severe toxic exposure after two week period,,,I had went to my regional union official in reagrds to my health & safety ,they did not return my call for 10 days after leaving previous messages...with that I was also denied workmans comp prior to me getting to a state IME appointment in which it was founded I was infact injured on the job..following this harassing directives regarding comp time etc..ongoing....Have documentation of everything but not in a position to financially afford an attorney,,after proceeding months of this I was finally able to have a phone converstaion with an attorney from my union that stated the mangager is allowed to give me all the harassing directives he wants too..recorded that as well as other recordings I have...he also stated that if i was in fact the only woman the i should file a human rights case witht he state which I eventually did..this was took place a year ago ....I am still awaiting for an investigator to be assigned to this as well as some answers to greivences in which i filed that involve Employment law Issues,,Seems the whole chain o f command is blowing me off..and the situation is not being addressed....I have lost my home in the process to forclosure,,suffered psyhcological effects also lost some Employment during my 12 years as a 12 month employee ,was moved to a ten month position due to removing the midnight shift that I all this undue stress has left me so frustrated because it has not been handled i believe in a timely manner......that's my story !,

Nov. 17 2010 04:54 AM
Donald from Nevada

I drive for a living . My supervisor rides with me. I think I am a target of bullying because my supervisor berates my driving alot. . He tells everyone that I drive too slowly other supervisors and upper management. Just yesterday when I was on the free way he went ballistic and started yelling in my ear and grabbing the wheel while we are going 65 on the freeway I felt so scared he made me pull over and drove us back to the shop going 85 . He has done this to me several times I am in fear of loosing my job please advise...

Nov. 11 2010 12:02 PM
Majorshadow from San Diego, CA

Words of encouragement. Click on or visit URL:

Stand strong...

Sep. 02 2010 06:41 PM
Enid from San Diego

After listening to this podcast last night, I woke up this morning from a terrible nightmare about my feelings of being bullied and demeaned by my employer. I've worked for this one client for fifteen years as an independent contractor and he has always been great to me but over the last eighteen months he perpetrated several acts of bullying toward me, which I put down to his stress with a ten year development commitment in a down economy. Even though I'm not technically an employee, I was urged to work out of his office as a condition of employment. I was working at my usual hourly rate to him while I tried to negotiate a contract by a number of traditional methods of charging design fees but he just kept giving excuses as to why he didn't want to pay me that much. Then he hired a restaurant designer at 325% higher fees than mine and expected this to come out of the bottom line of my design fees! So, you may be thinking, what--she's an independent contractor and can just leave but I was so entangled by then and the point is that he would not discuss issues but instead would find me alone in my office and start maligning my character and my work--threatening to fire me, always on a Friday, so I had the weekend to suffer with my situation of having put myself totally at his mercy. After I moved back to my home office and was working nearly full time on budgeting at his request and when he got the invoice for my work he called me and just screamed at me, saying I was untrustworthy, charged whatever I wanted, and that he was disgusted with me and that I was a liar! I tried to explain the chain of events in a reasonable tone but he just kept assassinating my character and then hung up. I review the events, the lack of respect, the personal attacks, the unwillingness to discuss the actual issue, I realize that I am a victim of his bullying and regardless of how good he may have been as a client in the past, he used intimidation and threats to try to "control" me and my work. I was the only female working in a position of responsibility on this project and I think I was the only person he felt safe to dump on. This should not happen anywhere, let alone in a professional workplace. I can't talk to my co-workers because he made it clear to them that I'm persona non grata and they are afraid to talk to me. One day my name is on the plans as the go to interior design person and now my colleagues have no idea how this came to pass except whatever version he may have given them.

Apr. 16 2010 07:03 PM
Elaine from Worcester, MA

Rick Evans from taxachusetts reminded us that "we need to get both sides of the story." Trouble is Rick, employers have been the only ones who have legally been able to get away with "their side of the story." Targets are finally finding the courage to speak up. Keep in mind, adult bullies are manipulative, bully in a covert manner, play the victim, spread disinformation, sabatage your work, and defame your character and will get you fired when you finally catch on that something is wrong and confront them. The ground work for your death has already been laid. I was an outstanding manager for eleven years. I always exceeded company goals and never had a disciplinary action against me. My bully was a twenty-three year old subordinate. She rallied other workers into her scheme (they also lied and supported her stories), even long-time coworkers who were friends participated or "watched" the bullying. Actually, I was mobbed. That's an escalation of bullying. Bullies are cowards and can never suceed without wannabes. HR even gets involved in the bullying. You could never image that educated, professional people could behave this way. Suddenly there is a papertrail of documentation you have never seen or been questioned about. Sure, give us the right to fight back in a legal setting with filing complaints, and investigations. Give us every opportunity to address every single allegation against us. Any reasonable person who hears "both sides of the story" will understand how much we were hurt. That is not enough though, the best way to eliminate workplace bullying is through education, prevention and support from the highest management level. It must become part of the corporate culture. All people deserve the right to be safe at home, in their community and at work. I'm sure that all decent people would agree with "that side of the story."

Apr. 14 2010 04:08 PM
Machiavellian Nightmares

Get this: I was recently bullied out of a 17-year career at a national women's health nonprofit that represents the very medical condition that I have -- one that is exascerbated by stress! I had put my heart, mind, life, and soul into my work -- I even volunteered there in the beginning. It is all gone now. I don't even communicate with most of my former colleagues, who were like family to me. None stood by me because they either feared that they would lose their job or they wanted mine. I'll never get over this experience.

Two years ago the BOD paid a headhunter to hire a new executive director (ED) and she systematically eliminated pretty much anyone on staff who was more informed (a threat to her), who steadfastly represented the patient population, who had a brain, and/or who wasn't a "YES" person to her 24/7. She was relentless and the mindgames were nonstop. I got sicker and sicker, dreading even looking at my in-box each morning because she stayed up late into the night coming up with ways to torture me the next day (I still have the emails). She, of course, does not have the disease that the nonprofit represents. Most on staff don't any longer. I was treated just like Dr. Aleandri describes. It was tremendously difficult to live through and I suffer the physical and psychological repercussions of the bullying to this day.

We went from grassroots to corporate hellhole in a matter of months. If the donors to this "pristine" organization knew what was really going on behind the scenes, I doubt that any of them would ever contribute again. This organization actually ruined many peoples' lives by letting this sadistic ED run wild, unchecked and unquestioned.

Thank goodness for people like the Namies and orgs like The Workplace Bullying Institute. The PTSD is still there, but at least I know that I am far from being alone.

Apr. 13 2010 02:38 PM
Brown chicken, brown cow from Seattle

I work at a Prosecutor's Office where I was bullied. I realize now why some coworkers who have been there longer than I refer to it as "The Frat House." The public and other elected officials have no idea how bad it is and would be appauled if they did know. I tried reporting a high-level manager to a superior and to my union, but no action was taken. I guess it's a "Good ol' boys" club. I was told to sit my a$$ down, a couple of coworkers were told they were worthless and sworn at. A support staff was told, "I knew you were stupid, I just didn't know you were that stupid." It goes on and on.

Apr. 13 2010 11:14 AM
Okie from Lawton, OK

I remember a case in which a supervisor wanted to get rid of me, in order to hire a friend who had retired from a similar job. She began finding anything wrong with me that I did do or didn't do, though I had worked there five years with no problem.

I began keeping a diary. I included dates and witnesses. The diary got longer and longer, with an expectiation that one day she would make her move, and I would have an accurate recollection of events. The agency was eventually merged with another, the supervisor was fired and the harassment stopped, so I then deleted the diary from my computer.

Apr. 13 2010 10:34 AM
Okie from Oklahoma

Of course it depends on what kind of bullying it is. Is it physical? Are you a co-worker or subordinate or a supervisor? Is the bullying obvious or subtle?

Assuming you are not a supervisor, and the bullying is subtle and non-physical, and of course if it comes from a superior, it is hard to deal with. If your job is replaceable, and there is nobody to report it to, and nobody who would believe s/he was not just doing his/her job, then leaving would be reasonable.

If a lot of people leave, that makes the supervisor suspect. I can think of two cases in which a supervisor drove so many people away, eventually higher management drove him away.

Apr. 13 2010 10:20 AM
Rick Evans from Taxachusetts

With all the testimonies about workplace bullying let's remember we're only getting one side of the story.

Apr. 13 2010 09:54 AM

I left my last job because of bullying by my male team head. The office had a very strange environment- all of the female staff (highly educated and skilled women, mind you), would fawn over this guy, giggle as he flirted with him, dance seductively with him at office parties, and never disagreed with him. They all received raises/promotions and outstanding performance reviews. From a cynical point of view, I guess this was the "smart" thing to do.

The male staff were not required to fawn over my team head. Without really thinking about it, I treated him more like the male staff did- respectfully but not flirtatiously- and it wasn't long before he was taking me into conference rooms, shutting the door, and screaming at me for minor infractions, criticizing my every move, producing fabricated poor job performance reviews, leaving me out of meetings, all the typical things. My flirtatious coworkers were never disciplined, even for larger infractions.

I had always been the top performing employee at my previous jobs, so the bullying really caused a personal crisis for me. I experienced all of the stress related health problems described by other listeners. HR also sided with him, as did our top line manager, who was the bully's longtime personal friend.

Our company crashed at the beginning of this year (I like to think that the same dysfunctional / cronyistic management which sided with a bully was bound to make bad decisions on the financial side), and we were all offered voluntary redundancy packages. It gave me a dignified excuse for leaving, along with some financial padding to live on while I searched for a new job. I had to take a few months off just to recover emotionally, but now I am feeling like myself again.

It's horrible to work in an office where anyone is being bullied and intimidated, and if I found myself in this situation again I would definitely leave. My old boss used to say horrible things about other employees who were absent from our team meetings, and the experience was intimidating and stressful for everyone, even the "favorites."

One more thing, I work in the UK where the labor laws are stronger - yet it is a major problem here and most companies just pay lip service to the law. Also, as an American, my company had control of my work visa and used that leverage to continue the bullying. I imagine that many immigrant workers in the US have the same problem, as the work visa laws are even more strict in the US. If an employer is sponsoring you on a visa, sometimes they feel like they "own" you and will use this to justify all kinds of poor treatment.

Apr. 13 2010 08:43 AM
J from Manhattan

I currently work in a very specialized, major NYC hospital lab. Our director is a classic bully and seems to get a special thrill from humiliating her employees publicly, among other things.

She's made derisive comments about people's weight in front of all of us and uses lab meeting time to address the performance of one or two employees. It is painful to sit through. Most recently, she used our yearly one-on-one evaluations to pressure us into altering opinions we expressed in an employee survey that was supposed to be anonymous.

We have a union that should address these issues, but her academic reputation in her field within the hospital seems to make her bulletproof in terms of discipline.

Apr. 13 2010 08:34 AM
Cristina from Richmond, Virginia

Thank you so much for your discussion on workplace bullying. I have been made to feel bad about myself and the job I was doing at a former workplace and it was terrible. I understand that it must be hard to draw guidelines as to what constitutes bullying but being told that "no one else makes mistakes like you make" isn't something that anyone should put up with. It's incredible to hear other similar stories because workplace bullying does make you feel very alone.

Apr. 13 2010 07:06 AM
Cindy from Austin

I was bullied for 8 years at my current place of employment. I filed a complaint approx 5 years ago, things seemed to get better, but then the bully told me she was just "playing their game" by taking assigned LMS courses and being nice. At the time I did not report directly to her, but from 07-09 I did. Last year once I became tired of the yelling, berrating me in front of co-workers, developing her own set of rules for me and assigning me only menial tasks, even though I had asked repeatedly over the years for challenging assignments, I finally went to her manager. In true form, he defended her, as did HR. My request to be reassigned to another supervisor were denied, as my request to be moved so that I wouldn't be right up under her. Needless to say I would be subjected to this for the next 8 months. Finally, during my performance review, as expected and as I told HR last year she was setting me up to do, she gave me a needs improvement in all four available catagories and, wrote false comments. When I responded to these comments I was asked by HR to "revise" these comments as this tool was not for attacking your supervisor or making "allegations" of a hostile work invironment. I was then reassigned and demoted to file clerk position after specifically explaining that a previous doctor suggest that I find a job that was more challenging.

Apr. 13 2010 06:16 AM

I am a woman over the age of 40. I was a long-time public servant. I was educated, technically-skilled, and had valuable knowledge gained through years of experience. I was bullied on the job for nine years.

My story has similarities to what happened to Dr. Emelise Aleandri and Dr. Gloria Salerno.

My supervisor resented the knowledge base that I had. Rules were made that applied only to me. I was excluded from meetings and denied access to information required to do my job. Later, my telephone was removed and my access to computer programs were restricted.

My supervisor began reprimanding me and writing me up to create a paper trail. I submitted a written response to each reprimand. My supervisor's manager did not want to hear about problems or complaints and was useless. She screamed at me for complaining to her and she wrote me up.

Upper management told other managers that there would be trouble if they had contact with me. Middle managers that I had known for a long time chose to ignore the dictum. My supervisor made trouble for other workers that she perceived were my friends and allies.

After several years of bullying, I took an FMLA leave due to the toll it took on my health. When I returned to work I found that my job duties had been taken away. I was punished without a hearing. When I filed a complaint, the employer retaliated and working conditions worsened. I filed a complaint with the EEOC. An informant gave me a copy of the employer's response to the EEOC. Pages and pages of documents that had nothing to do with me were submitted to the EEOC to pad the document to make me appear to be a bad employee. The employer submitted a report that contained false information that included hearsay and innuendoes not based on fact.

I received a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC and filed a lawsuit against my employer. I remained on the job. My employer retaliated and I was treated as if I did not exist. The women who had treated me badly complained to management that I was being treated too well. They were angry that I was still working and that I hadn't been fired. I was transferred to another office and treated as if I were an employee at the lowest level though my salary and job title remained the same.

My litigation was settled out of court. The cost to my employer would have been significantly less had my state had a Healthy Workplace bill in place.

I now devote my time to helping workers who have been bullied and/or discriminated against at work.

Education and prevention is key. Child bullies will eventually grow up and become part of the working world. Some child bullies will outgrow their bullying tendencies while others will not. No worker should have to work in a toxic work environment caused by workplace bullying. Work shouldn't hurt.

Apr. 13 2010 03:55 AM
Serita Lee from Edgewater Park, New Jersey

I was a target of a workplace bully in a state government office. In January 2009, I was officially terminated (wrongfully) after 24 years as an employee of the State of New Jersey. I was placed on a 30-day stress leave for "work-related anxiety" in June 2008. Two weeks later I was in a car accident and sustained back and neck injuries. In November 2007, I was falsely accused of neglecting a work assignment that I had never received because of a mistake of the office manager. I was the only secretary in the office who did not receive the assignment via e-mail, however, I was not the only secretary who had not done the assignment, but I was the only secretary that the Director summoned to his office to be reprimanded.

I worked in that particular office for 5 years (2003-2008). My employment with the State of New Jersey began in September 1985. I had received exceptional job reviews and letters of recommendation from the attorneys and investigators I had worked for prior to.

They served me with several bogus disciplinary actions and job reviews. I hired an attorney to represent me at the departmental hearing, but was unsuccessful. Even though I testified at the hearing, the hearing officer's final report specifically stated that I "waived my right to testify." Obviously, they totally did away with my testimony and because the office that I worked for has the upper hand over EVERY attorney in the State of New Jersey. I honestly believe they forced my attorney to misrepresent me. Of course, I can't prove it, but they are well-known for their unethical ways, but because of who they are, and my lack of funds, to "fight them the right way," as my attorney informed me, they were able to terminate me. and get away with it. I would LOVE to tell my story. I am currently unemployed and a full-time student.

Apr. 12 2010 11:57 PM
Kat from Dallas, TX

I have been a target for about a year now. This bully has several targets and some have developed severe health problems as a result. Myself, I now take medication for nightmares caused by this guy. Sadly, he just got promoted and rewarded for his bad behavior. It has been very difficult working in this environment without many other outside prospects. I am a manager at a company that espouses "values" in how to treat employees, but this man feels that managers are not people and treats them accordingly, unless you are one of his favorites. He insults me in meetings, yells and swears at me and calls me names. I can't wait to find other job.

Apr. 12 2010 11:21 PM
Joe Caidler from Norman Wells, Canada.

I am from Canada, and I was bullied for 8 months by my head supervisor. I didn't recongnize that it was bullying until it started happened everyday, I was my qualified for my position than my boss that i was working with so it was a case of he was taking all his frustrations out on me. constantly critising my work, even though i did more than what was expected and he just kept piling on the responsiblilities to me. Finally it started to affect my Health i couldn't sleep. I would get sick to my stomach before work, Grind my teeth so bad that it caused them to chip. I had to miss some work people the doctor on site said my blood pressure was too high to work. I worked in a diamond mine in Northern Canada in the kichen was a baker. I confronted my supervisor about his behavior and he said suck it up thats the way it is. and he then said you know what your problem is.. you have been here too long. a week after that i was given a letter saying i was to see a doctor, even though i had not made an appointment. my employer made it for me. saying they were concerned about my health. I mentioned the bullying to the company doctor and he laughed it off. He did run some tests and it turned out my blood pressure was still high despite taking medication for it. and i had mircoscopic blood in my urine and they didn't know where it was coming from. I got a promise from the head of HR, that they were gonig to get to the root of the problem, after i had to leave because my Dr said it wasn't a good safe work environment. I was lucky as workers compensation and Employment insurance was able to help me. I was however unable to get any help from my Insurance company from work despite having documentation from 3 Drs. once i got home things got worst as i had constant nightmares and Blowups related to PTSD
It landed me in the Psysh ward for 10 days so i could get some rest and get my life back together i am 40 years old and on anti depresants and anti anxiety medication. The blood in My Urine the exact cause was never found out. as i had multiple tests done and then a month later as i started to feel better it went away. All i wanted to do in my career was work hard and provide a living for myself and my young family. I Pray nobody else has to go through the living hell i had to go through. Thanks for your time and consideration. Joe In Norman Wells NT, Canada.

Apr. 12 2010 10:03 PM
kafkasrecruit from Louisiana, USA

P.S. I think if one looks at the way performance is measured (and evaluations mis-administered), one might get a glimpse into how bullying is allowed, perpetuated, or rewarded and promoted. What happens when the Rewards are decoupled from actual performance and desireable results? What happens when rewards and recognition for a job well done are replaced with "winning" (promotion, control and power gained) through the elimination of your competition ... your targets?

Apr. 12 2010 09:17 PM
kafkasrecruit from Louisiana

I lasted about 16 months being bullied by management, co-workers, and the company, and I called it retaliation because it was causally related to and in response to a protected act. Still, I couldn't find representation (the attorneys were afraid of bullying, too) and I was left to document everything and eventually leave a full-time permanent position for contract work on the road.
How I handled it? Luckily, I found a lot of information and resources on the subject. Thanks especially to the Workplace Bullying Institute and Square Peg Psychological both on the West Coast. I educated myself, I continued to document everything, I followed all the rules, took a demotion and moved to another department to mitigate future damages (wrongful termination), but finally had to resign because the bullying, undermining, sabotage, and adverse employer actions were not stopped.
I work contracts. Provide my services and move on to the next place that needs my help. I tell my story every chance I get. I don't tolerate bullying behavior from others or against others and when I've seen it since, I've called it out for what it is and why I think it's happening and/or allowed.
I wasn't able to survive my own bullying experience because the problem was systemic - there was no group resistence and everyone was afraid. But, I hope that by hearing our stories, others will join and stand together against this psychological violence in our workplaces and put an end to the sabotage against American business.

Apr. 12 2010 09:07 PM
p ray cha from Massachusetts

I am, and have been bullied, my supervisor tells all the other employees not to talk to me, heaps work on my plate constantly with no definition of what needs to be done first, constantly changes his mind, drives good employees away, costs the company ungodly amounts of money, lies to get his way, wastes exhorbitant amounts of time, uses company vehicles that are not registered, or insured, keeps his mistakes from his supervisor, hides products he has purchased away cannot make a decision especially under fire, makes believe he doesnt understand what your saying when you catch him. he forces all employees to work off the clock, talks about business during employees lunch break Shall I continue ??

Apr. 12 2010 08:55 PM

Isn't it amazing that adults can behave in such a childish way. I only recently realized that I was also a victim of workplace bullying. I started a new job at 5o yrs old. The seasoned people in this facility did not want me there and they made it clear. I was ignored. Not acknowledged by name and often spoken to in a condesending way. I was iced. I told the top manager that I was going to resign after one last incident ( so I thought) but she convinced me to stay. I am now glad I did. One person had issues with everthing I did. She would come up to me and tell me I did such and such, continually. This finally stopped after she brought something to my attention stating that she and the others thought it was dopey of me. I pointed out that she was completly wrong and confirmed this with another professional in both out presents. I then told her we needed to sit and talk with our boss because of her inability to work with me. She spoke with our boss first. Telling him that I had to prove her wrong!! Here she was in a back room calling me a dope!! She has never bothered me since that day. My hard work and interest in my job and patients has shown my strength and I have finally been accepted. About time, It's been 4 yrs!!

Apr. 12 2010 08:43 PM
Carol from California

After 13 years of being an outstanding employee; I moved to an office with a bully. This was in 1985, before anyone in the US was aware of this problem. I tried all of my techniques; suggesting alternatives that would work better, speaking out at meetings, filing grievances and ULP's and finally became a full time union officer for the rest of my career. My bully manager kept trying to fire me with fabricated events which were proven false. He worked to keep all the other employees away from me and blamed every bad work situation on me and others who voiced opinions. During the 15 years that I existed in that office; my co workers were all terrorized, many quit, one spent a great deal of time on inpatieng suicide watch. Many suffer PTSD to this day. 9 people that I know personally working for the same agency are dead as a result of bullying. This isn't just a simple disagreement - it is terrorizing individuals and groups of people. When the bully is a boss it becomes problematic to find other work or transfer within an organization; you're trapped! The Healthy Workplace Bill would give workers a chance, it needs to be passed everywhere!

Apr. 12 2010 08:35 PM

I worked in an administrative position with a large university and was bullied by a coworker. This individual had been a problem employee for many years and had been shuffled around between departments with no one being willing to deal with her behavior. She was verbally abusive to staff and students and threatened violence on more than one occasion. These incidents were reported, however, she never got more than a slap on the wrist which she laughed off. Our supervisor actually told me that it would be better to just put up with her because if anyone tried to discipline or control her things would get much worse!

After a year and a half, my physical health had deteriorated to the point where my doctor put me on medical leave and informed my employer that I was not to return to work unless I could be placed in a position where I didn't have to have contact with this person (pretty easy to do at a school as large as this one). Long story short, HR refused to transfer me and sided with the bully, and I resigned. She is still employed and is still bullying people.

Apr. 12 2010 08:30 PM

I worked in an administrative position with a large university and was bullied by a coworker. This individual had been a problem employee for many years and had been shuffled around between departments with no one being willing to deal with her behavior. She was verbally abusive to staff and students and threatened violence on more than one occasion. These incidents were reported, however, she never got more than a slap on the wrist which she laughed off. Our supervisor actually told me that it would be better to just put up with her because if anyone tried to discipline or control her things would get much worse!

After a year and a half, my physical health had deteriorated to the point where my doctor put me on medical leave and informed my employer that I was not to return to work unless I could be placed in a position where I didn't have to have contact with this person (pretty easy to do at a school as large as this one). Long story short, HR refused to transfer me and sided with the bully, and I resigned. She is still employed and is still bullying people.

Apr. 12 2010 08:29 PM
Mary Lou from Massachusetts

I was bullied in ways I found so hurtful that I couldn't believe it was happening to me. I was written up daily with evaluations that were totally fabricated to suit the attack on me my supervisor had begun. All my belongings from my desk were removed from one room and brought to another including a molded sandwich that I had forgotten was saved in a drawer. I was shocked to find this blackened piece of mush as it was unrecognizable and took unwrapping it and my being forced to smell the horrible odor in the middle of my work day. I sobbed as I immediately threw it away. Why anyone would do this to another human being still confuses me. I was spoken about in her presence as though I weren't even there in a demeaning tone of voice to my co-workers to the point where I was no longer even talked to and would go days without hearing my name spoken. This phenomenon I endured is called mobbing. I felt like I was invisible--the place I had been coming to for years and the people that I greeted and worked with daily were strangers in a strange place. It was simply awful. I suffered depression, migraine headaches, and even passed out one day at my desk from the stress and not knowing what to expect next. I left this position and went on to further my education. An anti workplace bullying law is long overdue in the American workplace.

Apr. 12 2010 07:51 PM
Susan from Kansas

I was bullied at work for over 3 years. I finally got the courage up, after being diagnosed with depression and PTSD, to join my union at work and learn to fight back and put myself first. Once the 2 female bullies/supervisors saw the change in me, they still tried to bully me, but found that it wasn't that easy any longer. I was lied about, given false comments on my evaluations, written up for everything under the sun. I found one of the agency attorneys putting his ear to my cubicle, not knowing I was standing right behind him. When my unit was merged with a like unit in another location late last year, both these supervisors were run off. The very agency that had protected them was now sticking the proverbial knife in their backs. Its difficult, but you have to find your voice, find your strength, document everything. Know your agency/company policies well in order to maneuver through that process. If you have a union, join. Above all, NEVER EVER let anyone tear you down. Stand your ground. We can overcome this together.
In solidarity

Apr. 12 2010 07:29 PM
Ronald Zander

Summary from a longer story:

Years ago, a power-drunken supervisor caught me off guard by interrupting a conversation with a co-worker to demand that I reverse my decision not to participate in a skiing trip, in which I was afraid I would get hurt, because of her experience when she was “at Wellesley”. I was so utterly stunned by her hyperaggressive intrusion, with this maniac in my face, that I could not respond other than by murmuring “Ok, OK, I’ll go”.

The medically untreatable knee injury I suffered in this skiing trip subjected me to ten years of literally incapacitating physical pain (“chondromalacia”), totally ruining my life.

In my opinion, this should never have happened: No one, no matter how slow-witted or mild-mannered they are, should have years of struggle, effort, and achievement through college and graduate school irreparably erased, should have their lives shattered, because they are momentarily caught off guard when making a casual remark in earshot of a power-drunken supervisor. Workplace bullying, this behavior pattern of managers becoming so power-drunken that they behave like absolute maniacs, has become an extremely serious problem that is as worthy of government regulation as is harassment related to gender, nationality, religion, etc.; no one has ever had their life ruined by ten years of debilitating pain because someone commented on their gender, pigmentation, religion, ancestry, or sexual orientation. If an employee decides not to participate in a recognizably dangerous outside activity – Michael Kennedy and Natasha Richardson died skiing – for whatever reason, a workplace supervisor should be absolutely prohibited from extending his/her supervisory authority to harass the employee to reverse the decision. Even the American bastion of organized brutality, the National Football League, protects its players from being attacked at the knees, via its prohibition against crackback blocks. By strictly forbidding management from interfering, in any way, in the personal lives of employees, a fence around this type of occurrence would be constructed.

Apr. 12 2010 07:22 PM
Kay from New York

I just quit a job in order to get away from my new boss, who has many psychological and professional flaws, including being a big bully.

In my last days, as I realized my health couldn't take it much longer, I started finding others of his victims. I've kept talking to people, and have learned of about a dozen past and present targets.

My boss' bosses have known of his behavior over the years and continually looked the other way. It's disgusting and enraging. Though I left my job, I'm not finished fighting this.

Apr. 12 2010 07:07 PM
Kim from Arizona

Workplace bullying is real. I didn't realize I was a "target" until the bully boss physically assulted me. In a matter of just 2 weeks. 1.5 months after being hired and being told "we've been waiting 2 years for you..." the bully boss has swore at me, set me up of deleting files from the computer, told me she her leadership was a "dictatorship" (she actually said this), withheld internet access needed for work emails, reprimanded me for taking the company vehicle to a training, reprimanded me on incidences without obtaining my version of the situation, refused to allow me to go to other trainings, made me do work for co-workers, sabatoged a report I had turned in, changed the office door locks without notifying me, accused me of stealing a computer program, physically assaulted me when she gave me a letter explaning why the door locks were changed, deleted my work email address, accused me of breaking in the office after the assault, accused me of doing "witchcraft" to her while in court, placed a harassment injunction on me, lied to the court of the assault, lied to HR about the assault, held a defamation meeting with HR and my co-workers, told my co-workers to "testify" on her behalf in court, accused me of lying on my employment application, there was more but I think that was enough. It's been 1.5 years now and her criminal trial is being held April 15, 2010 in Flagstaff, Arizona. I filed complaints with the Labor Department and at the result of their investigation they have concluded that the case is going on to the next step to the Labor Commission. She did injuried me in my neck and my back when she grabbed me from behind to reposition me infront of her husband to get the letter she gave me. I struggled to get out of her grasp and after about 1 minute I made it into the hall way in which I screamed for "help" She put her hand over my mouth to silence me and called me "a baby". Workplace bully is real. I didn't realize it was bullyism until I saw the website and the book "The Bully at Work". Step by step everything I went through is described to the "T". IT is unbelieveable. OH, she "retired" last year and I'm still at work but the bully atmosphere still lingers...and it stinks bad.

Apr. 12 2010 06:40 PM

I have been a target of bullies. I know what it means to be under the thumb of those whose sole purpose in life to mistreat others to make themselves feel powerful. Abuse is always wrong - there is no morally justifiable reason that can be used to excuse any form of abuse. We need the Healthy Workplace Bill enacted in all 50 states to ensure that people who are mistreated have protection from the harm inflicted by bullies. Thank you. Drew

Apr. 12 2010 06:27 PM
Victoriat from California

While teaching at a small liberal arts college, I once returned to a room where we had just had a department meeting to retrieve something I had forgotten to find one of my colleagues haranguing another in what could only be described as a bullying tone. It stunned me. I could see that the bully was on automatic cruelty pilot and her "prey" was frozen in disbelief. It also struck me that this was old psychological business (on the part of the bully) trying to pass itself off as the present. Some instinct from childhood took over and I placed myself physically between the two and shouted at the bully to "Stop it! You're out of control!" - This created enough of an energy shift that the "spell" broke and the prey managed to flee the room. I later caught up with her and walked her to her car, talking to help bring her out of shock and something like grief.

Several days later, I visited the other prof in her office and told her I saw her behavior as bullying and destructive, that I would not allow it in my presence nor would I treat it as confidential. This was someone I counted as something of a friend, by the way, though we were certainly less so from then on.

And here's the joke: We were all members of the Communication Department, the other two both specializing in interpersonal communication.

Apr. 12 2010 04:06 PM
Swimmer from Westchester County

My brother was treated like a trained seal by a lifeguard/water aerobics instructor at a pool one evening. When I said something she told another lifeguard to tell him to get out of the pool. When I complained about how my brother was treated by her, and that she treated him the way she did because he is autistic, she proceeded to lie about us and get me thrown out of the pool. This happened because she brings in money by teaching a water aerobics class and swimming. Other people consider her a bully but nothing is done. Furthermore, this happened at a school that is known for its programs for autistic children but this woman was allowed to treat an autistic adult and family member like dirt.

Apr. 12 2010 03:56 PM
David Yamada from Boston

I am the author of the Healthy Workplace Bill, anti-bullying legislation that is the model for the proposed laws discussed in this post. I wish to clarify that the legislation does NOT criminalize workplace bullying.

Rather, it gives targets of severe, malicious workplace bullying a legal claim to seek damages and provides employers with incentives to act preventively and responsively toward this form of mistreatment.

Various of the Healthy Workplace Bill have been introduced in some 17 states since 2003. We believe it is only a matter of time before a state enacts it, which will prompt many others to follow.

David Yamada
Professor of Law
Suffolk University Law School, Boston
Blog: Minding the Workplace at

Apr. 12 2010 12:58 PM
Jay from Boston

I was in intern at a paper supply company in college. I witnessed work place bullying while there. One day a colleague who worked in the call center came to the front of the building to get his take out delivery order. He was an overweight man and he happened to walk past one of the senior sales men on his way back to the break room. Well the senior salesman thought the call center employee was a delivery guy and told him to take his "fat ass" out of the building. He then continued to call him names and not let him into the back office area. Finally the call center guy spoke up and said "I work here". The manager then responded "Why would we ever hire a fat slob like you?" Then the senior salesman continued berating this man long after he went to eat his lunch. When I asked some one why they kept such a bully around I was told that he is the highest profiting salesmen in the state and that his aggressiveness is what makes him successful so they would never fire some one like that.

They offered me a job at the end of my internship and I declined. I refuse to work for a company that allows that type of behavior to happen. Every one has the right to feel safe at work.

Apr. 12 2010 10:23 AM

We got this comment from Carla in Baltimore a few months ago:

"I remembered being bullied by a former manager when I worked at a local hospital and it was a very very harmful experience. You should talk about how childhood bullies become adult manager bullies."

We'll try to include this on air!
-Jim (web editor)

Apr. 12 2010 10:13 AM

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