Hope With A Boss/Owner Like Mine?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about bully boss:

I’ve worked for my printing company for 12 yrs. From almost the beginning of its existence, I have learned the business basically by just being thrown into it. I started at a very low entry level and have worked my way up to a pretty good salary. My company started with just a couple of people and now we have branches all over the US.Now that we are bigger then ever, my boss, the owner, is your classic textbook bully. He embarrasses you in public for no reason puts you down every chance he gets. If you get up to get a fresh pen from the supply closet, he screams why are you not at your desk. What happens when you go to the restroom? You return to a screaming nut. If you are asked to do something that my take a couple of hours, he will ask you every 10 minute till it’s done. At times when this is done to other employees and I am in the office after the employee leaves, he sits there laughing and comments how he loves his power.This was not done early on because he needed his people and that’s why we where taken care of back in those days. When the company first started, he asked a lot of his fellow prior employees to come on board with a great salary and car. And they turned him down. So we proved we are what made the company successful. But in the last couple of years, his prior employees’ companies went under, and they came running to us. They were hired at higher salaries than the six of us who have helped build this place from the start. He has made fun of the way we look, made comments if we gain a little weight, and pries into our personal lives. He makes fun of us every chance he gets. When we need to leave early for the doctor or a far ride to a Wake, we are told no. But if the new people need time to take his motorbike to repair it’s a yes. We are not union and have no HR department. If I leave, I will have to take a cut in salary. Do I have any hope here?


Between A Rock and A Hard Place

Dear Between A Rock and A Hard Place:

My advice in a word is: QUIT. Your bully boss probably is beyond changing, short of a Scrooge-like transformation. No doubt you know Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol story of how a miserly old boss had a series of ghostly nightmares in which he saw himself in the past, present and future and then became a benevolent boss to his employee Bob Cratchit and his family. The chances of that happening to your boss are slim to slimmer.

How do you stop bully bosses aside from cutting out their tongues? They are placed on probation and sent to anger management training, sensitivity training, and/or management school. If that doesn’t do it, they are fired. In your case, there is no one to order an owner boss be sent to reconditioning training, nor do you have a union that can stand up to him. Why some bosses are bullies may be traced to their genes, following examples of parents, military experience, lack of self-esteem, etc. Who knows? I don’t. Apparently bullies bully because it works for them. They’re saying, “I’m OK. You’re not OK.” “By putting you down, I boost myself up.”

Your owner screams and demeans employees in the presence of others. What can you do? You can’t do anything unless you determine that you won’t take it any more. If he fires you, he fires you or you beat him to it by saying, “I quit.” Before that, the best course may be to simply say with a smile covering your indignation, “I don’t work well when I am yelled at and cussed out.” A pro-active and tactful approach might be to request a private session in which you firmly tell him how it feels to be verbally abused and that probably he doesn’t realize how it feels because he is the bully and not the bullied. You have a right to be treated with respect and whether your owner-bully-boss realizes it or not, verbal abuse damages you and your productivity. Individuals, who are verbally abused and bullied, should not have to fight solo for relief.

Civility and respect, along side honesty, should be an organization’s moral commitment. It is a workplace-wide and business-wise smart way of doing business. You probably don’t know that fighting bullies has even gained the attention of legislators. The first anti-bullying law in North America came into effect on June 1, 2004. Quebec amended its Labour Standards Act to deal with psychological harassment in the workplace. This was five years after a bullied worker went on a shooting rampage at OC Transpo in Ottawa, leaving five people dead. The new Quebec law defines psychological harassment as: Any vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect an employee’s dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee. Several European and Scandinavian countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, and Norway, have introduced various regulatory responses to the problem. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, the courts currently address bullying under existing legislation. The only reason you have not faced up to this owner-bully or quit is that you are afraid to leave a good paying job. Right?

So you have a choice: to suck in all his meanness and unfair treatment or to speak up for decent treatment. It is a choice you should think over carefully and discuss with your family. If you decide to speak up, it might be best to do a job hunt in advance because you may be fired.I generally advise against gossiping about a boss with co-workers and about complaining to one’s family. However, if you want to confront this boss, you may want to do it with one or more co-workers who feel as you do. If you do that, start by saying that you have invested 12 years of your life and helped him make this printing business a success. Prepare a list of how you do and don’t want to be treated and also what you pledge to do to make your workplace one that is productive and harmonious. Make two or three copies in bold print. Tell him that you want to say some things that you expect he will not want to hear and ask if he is willing to listen to you. If he is, then describe specific instances of what bothers you; the way he micromanages, belittles and favors some over others.

Listen to how he reacts. He probably will blow up. But if not, this when you can present your list. Read each item aloud and ask if the thinks your dos and don’t are a reasonable. And before you leave, ask him to study over the list and say you would like to meet again in a few days after he has had time to think over what you have said and sign off on them. You can also say you would like to have regular meetings in which all of you might discuss ideas you have to cut wasted supplies, time, effort, and money and how to make your workplace the kind of place is even more successful. These thoughts no doubt are more than you expected from your question: Do I have any hope here? I hope you do, but your choices are clear. Please keep us posted on what you do. I wish you the best whatever you choose.

William Gorden