Manager Bullies Me But HR Won’t Do Anything

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about stressed by bully boss:

I’m 19 and have currently been in my job for nearly 2 years and I’m getting bullied by my boss. I am the supervisor and it is very difficult for me to keep strong in my job while being bullied and suffering with depression anxiety etc. I’ve put up for it for long enough and now feel my health is seriously getting worse because of this. I have been to the head of the company about this loads of times but each time nothing seams to get done about it. It’s almost like because I’m 19 they don’t want to listen. I think I’m going to have to give my notice or I will get ill.

Signed, Sick Over Work

Dear Sick Over Work:

Anyone, at any age, can feel frustrated to the point of feeling sick about work. Based on additional material you provided in another message, it sounds as though you and your manager have two completely different views of the situation. She thinks you are making her miserable and you see it as her bullying you to the point of making you depressed and anxious. There may be many reasons you and your manager don’t get along. It would be helpful for you to consider when these problems started and if it seems there is something specific that makes things worse. Your age would indicate that you and she have very little in common. Maybe she doesn’t approve of some aspect of your appearance or lifestyle, but she knows she can’t say anything about it, so she just stews inwardly, then acts unfriendly to you. Maybe she didn’t want to hire you and is now trying to show she was correct. Maybe she genuinely thinks you are a challenging employee for her to deal with. It could be that she has a mental, emotional or personality disorder that makes it hard for her to get along with anyone. It could be that you have an unrealistic expectation of how she should act.. because you’ve had better managers in the past. Those would all be good things to explore with the HR person or higher managers to whom you have spoken. You mention that you’ve gone to HR and to the company owner, but nothing seems to change.

Have you directly asked those people why nothing has changed? If you continue to go to them but your manager continues to act the same way, either they do not think the manager is wrong and they have told her so, or they think you are equally responsible for the problem. It would be good for you to know that. Or, if you have any witnesses to her bad behavior, it would be good to provide HR with some proof about what you’re dealing with. You said in the other message that your manager glares at you, lies about you to HR and blames you for the problems you’ve complained about.

The question you have to answer for yourself is, is she doing something that is so harmful and demeaning to you that you can’t function at work? Or, could you inwardly dislike her to the extreme, but still get your work done? Only you can decide that, but it sounds as though you may have to make that decision, soon. Consider what would have to take place for you to stay, then consider if it is likely to happen. Do you think they will fire her? (Probably not.) What kind of behavior would she need to consistently show in order for the two of you to get along? Do you think she and HR would consider that behavior to be reasonable? For example, you said in your second message that you want her to leave you alone and let you do your work; but she’s the manager, so that probably isn’t going to happen. You don’t like her telling HR something that isn’t true. What can you do to prove the truth? She doesn’t talk to you, even though you’re a supervisor and she’s the manager, so communication is needed. Do you think the two of you can ever get over this bad time, to the point that you can have comfortable conversations? Have you asked your manager to tell you what she would like you to do differently at work or in your conversations with her?

Often we are quick to tell someone what they should stop doing, but we don’t ask what they think WE should stop doing. At the same time, consider asking her what you are doing that she wants you to keep doing; what does she find acceptable about you? You probably have tried that kind of thing many times. If not, try it. If so, maybe one more try, then a letter to HR about what you’ve tried, would at least be a final effort. The sad truth about work is that sometimes things are so bad there is no getting them better. That’s when the employee has to decide: Stay and be miserable, stay and focus so much on work that you can overlook some of the behavior and the manager has less things to complain about, or leave and find a place that fits your knowledge and skills and is a more pleasant place to be. It’s not easy to find the perfect job, or even close to it. That is why many people choose to stay and hope for better days. None of that provides you with a magical solution, but perhaps it can help you do some different thinking about the situation. The one sure thing that I would suggest, would be to ask HR to tell you honestly how they perceive the situation and what they think you should do now. Force them to be truthful about what they think. I have seen far too many employees believing that others are supporting them, when just the opposite was true. Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide to do and how it works out.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.