Verbal Bullying To Make Me Cry Or Quit

Question:

I fell, and I told my immediate boss that I would have to work some doctor and therapy appointments around my lunch and that I may have to change my lunch time to accomodate it. He and the salesman I work for have been harassing me to try to make me cry. They call me into one of their offices and either both of them or one of them start hounding me over anything they can think of. On several occasions the salesman I work for was riding me over something trivial and actually asked me if I was going to cry. When I said no he became even more verbally abusive and would bring up every topic in the past that would bring me to tears. When that wouldn’t work he belittled me with things like “This is the easiest assignment there is. What is the matter with you?” He asked me that because I asked a question to make sure I understood exactly what he expects from me.

Are they breaking any laws and do I have any legal actions to take against them?

Signed,

Feeling Abused


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling Abused:

There are no laws about rudeness, but a lawyer could advise you if you have grounds for a civil lawsuit related to harassment or emotional damage caused by the treatment you receive at work. Most attorneys will give you a free phone consultation to see if you have a case. Sometimes they will take a case on a contingency basis–which means they don’t take a payment unless you win the lawsuit. That might not work for your situation, but it might.

You would need to show that you are somehow being damaged or harmed by the actions of your boss and the salesman. And it helps to show that you have tried to make it stop by taking action organizationally, or by speaking up on your own.

You don’t mention the size of the company. If you have a company large enough to have bosses above your boss, or an HR section, you need to let them know about this by writing down what has been said and if anyone has overheard any of it. Ask for someone’s help to correct the problem. You have nothing to lose with that.

It sounds to me as though they are trying to get you to quit. That might be because the boss doesn’t want to have to pay for workmen’s compensation claims if you were injured on the job. If you were injured on the job that would certainly be something a lawyer ought to know about.

Or, it might be that you are not doing a good job or they think you are not dependable, and they don’t want to go to the trouble of firing you, so hope you will quit. If you have had trouble in other work, that might indicate that you need more training to help you do a better job. The Department of Labor in your state might be able to help you gain the skills you need, if that is an issue.

If you have never had problems before, and they also treat other employees this way, they likely just are in the habit of being mean and getting by with it.

On the other hand, what you describe may or may not be inappropriate, according to the tone, volume and words used. For example, someone might very well ask, “This job I gave you to do is the easiest one there is in the office. What is it you don’t understand?” They might even be exasperated and frustrated–but that doesn’t make it bullying. Parents might use the same tone.

But if the boss were to stand over you in a menacing way and yell those same words while shaking his finger at you, that would be bullying and inappropriate.

One thing is for sure: You do not have to stand still and be yelled at in the way you describe, if it really is a yelling or threatening situation–you have a choice about where you work. You might be fired for talking back, but you certainly don’t want to work in that kind of office! And, I doubt very much that you would be fired. If they were going to, they would have done so already. They seem mostly determined to drive you out of the office by making you want to leave.

If there is any other place to work, it seems to me you would be better off finding another job. If there is someone else in the company who could give you a reference, talk to them before you go, so your current boss won’t be the one that is contacted. Or list a co-worker too, so that person can verify the problems, if that is needed.

If you decide to stay, talk to any co-workers you know and ask them their opinion about what might be going on. If they have heard the remarks, ask them if they thought the remarks were appropriate. Whatever the case however, do not allow yourself to be treated rudely or in a threatening manner, without doing anything. Write down everything that is said to you, so you have a word for word description. Then talk to an attorney about the situation if needed. Talk to the owner or someone higher in the company. Do what it takes to stand up for yourself in the right way, after you have looked at the complete situation to understand all of the problem as well as possible.

Best wishes to you in this situation. If you have the time and want to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe