My Manager Is Bullying Me?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about Bully HR manager:

I have had many various types of occurrences with my manager who is also part of our HR department. Some of them include the following: -I was speaking with another employee about his/her vacation, and my manager told me to talk about it on my own time. Yet, I would have to listen to her about her vacations, weekends, etc. -She has constantly sent e-mails to our team (a group of staff) asking if something had been replied to, knowing that I was solely responsible for replying to FAQ’s. I would always forward my original response, which she was copied into and state yes, this was replied to within xx amount of minutes after it was received. -She constantly asks me, what are you working on? When I was working on a large revenue-generating project, she told me to get my priorities straight and to put that project aside and work on non-revenue generating work. -Another time, I was working on a project that involved transferring data to a certain type of file. My manager gave me the printed instructions she had and I did exactly as it stated. It did not work. I sent an e-mail to our team asking for help. One staff member said they would help me with it the following morning due to time differences.

The following morning, another manager, who required this file, asked my manager if this was completed. My manager in front of everyone questioned me why it wasn’t completed. I said to her that I did everything you told me to do and it did not work. She blamed me and then sent an e-mail to our team stating that this was unacceptable and it makes our team look bad. The only specific name she mentioned was mine. I completed the research work within 24hrs and the only part that failed was the instructions she gave me to transfer the file. -We have a wall posted with compliments to named staff members from clients. A client advised me that they sent an e-mail to our president and my manager complementing me on my hard work. I never saw a copy of that e-mail nor was it ever posted or forwarded to all staff, as is the policy. -Most recently she called me a liar in front of staff members and said that if she felt I was lying to her, she would call me a liar again, and if I wanted to, go find another job. There are too many other incidents to list.

Signed, Bossed By A Bully

Dear Bossed By A Bully:

From the instances you describe, it is clear that you and your manager do not see eye-to-eye and most probably neither she nor you are happy with your working relationship. Can this be remedied? I don’t know. But it is worth a try. Usually subordinates can request a performance review and can resolve performance and managerial problems, and scheduling a review might be a time for you to voice your concerns.

However, in your case, I recommend what might be called a mutual performance review. Other than trying to follow and comply with your manager’s instructions and criticisms, nowhere in your e-mail do you describe how you have tried to resolve the problems your boss has with you and you with her. You don’t say if you have asked for a candid time-out confrontation. Since she is connected with your Human Resources Department, you probably can’t go to HR for help. But you can go to her directly and request that a neutral third party sit in on a face-to-face meeting with her and act as a mediator.Whether of not you can schedule a three-party meeting, I favor one-on-one with you manager in which you might state that if you and she cannot resolve her obvious dissatisfaction with you and what you see as her bullying behavior, you will take you concerns above her. I think it is always wise to inform your manager before you go above.

If this doesn’t work after giving it an agreed upon several weeks’ trial, another approach is for you to present a list of incidents, such as you sent the Workplace Doctors to an appropriate manager above your own manager, requesting an investigation. It is past time for an investigation, when a manager publicly blames you for mistakes that are her fault, accuses you of lying and threatens “that you should find another job” I recommend that you make your case both in written and oral communication. Take time to evaluate your self; what are your skills and value you add to the company.

Compile a folder of positive evaluation and feedback. Reflect in that your desire to be making a positive contribution, and then be prepared to present in writing and orally the frustrations you have encountered with your manager. These thoughts are no sure fire resolution. Rather they should prompt you to think professionally and assertively. Work is hard enough when a boss-bossed working relationship is happy. Work is hell when it is not. Working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes great effort to make big WEGOs, and that entails dealing with saving face and doing all that is possible to be the kind of employee that you would like to have if you were boss and helping your boss be the kind of manager that you would like to work for.

Follow Up: Hello, Thank you for your response. With regards to my actions to rectifying the situation, I have tried standing my ground and defending myself, which of course led to escalated arguments. I then tried the “yes“ to everything she demanded approach, that didn’t work as she would say things such as, I don’t want to dictate to you what to do, yet she still did. Other senior staffs have told me that they have had issues with her as well and had mentioned her behaviour to the owner (family run business) but, nothing was done. I have spoken with other managers and they all said to bring these issues to the head of HR’s attention.

There was one manager who went directly to the head of HR for me on a few occasions and actually spoke with my manager about her behaviour; all to no avail. This manager was present when my manager called me a liar and told me to go find another job. On this other manager’s recommendation, I sent an e-mail to the head of HR about my manager calling me a liar. This other manager requested that I BCC in her as well as the other 3 staff members that were present as the other manager said that “we are witnesses to her actions.”There is senior staff member who is in our department who recently applied for a lower position in another department just so he could get away from our manager.

Our department consists of this senior staff member, I, a new employee and my manager.As time went on over the 2 years of working under this manager, I eventually became withdrawn, didn’t speak to anyone and did exactly as she told me to do. I suffered from tension headaches, anxiety, depression, nights where I could not sleep, crying and laying blame on myself for my inadequacies. I would sometimes ask other staff what am I doing wrong? My doctor put me on medication 2 years ago just so I could suppress the anxiety/depression. I have worked with this employer for just over 10 years and all this started only 2 years ago when she became my manager. Until then I have never been on medication of this sort.

The head of HR and I had a meeting about the incident of my manager calling me a liar and the head of HR stated that she noticed that I have become withdrawn and no more am I the outgoing person I was. She stated that I have been this way for a while. If she noticed this quite some time ago, why did she not address it?…..I never asked her as I felt she really didn’t care, which I think I am right in feeling so. I did have a meeting with my manager and the head of HR (just the three of us) about the incident of my manager calling me a liar in front of everyone. During that meeting, my manager sat across the table from me with her arms crossed and gave me mean looks. When I asked her politely, why you are giving me such a mean/dirty look, her response was, because I am angry at you. The head of HR just sat there and did not say anything about her mean looks to me during our meeting. The head of HR did say that my manager and I have to work together and that there is no other position within the company that I could be transferred to, so basically, I was stuck in this department with this manager.

Once this meeting was over the other manager (same as the bolded one above) asked me how the meeting went. I told her about the mean/dirty looks, how the head of HR just sat there not addressing these looks and that I felt that nothing would come of it but, I would keep an open mind and hope things would be rectified. After this discussion, the other manager sent an e-mail to the head of HR which I did not know about. The following morning, the head of HR called me and asked to see me. I went to her office and she said, close the door and sit down. Then she said, I am fuming, I am so angry, you told the other manager that our meeting was one sided, I haven’t even spoke to your manager about this and what am I to tell the other manager? At that point, I broke down crying, got up from the chair, went back to my desk crying and shaking to call someone to pick me up. I ended up in the hospital emergency having a nervous/emotional breakdown. The attending physician wrote a note for me to be off work for two weeks and faxed the note to my employer.

My employer claims they never received the note from the hospital and as such claim that I have abandoned my position. They sent me a cheque for holiday pay and a letter claiming that I have abandoned my position and as far as they are concerned I have quit. I responded to them via e-mail saying that I never said, nor gave notice of my resignation, I stated that I am currently on medical leave as they are aware of by the faxed note sent by the hospital and sent the cheque back. They sent another letter with the cheque and my record of employment stating that they never received the hospital faxed note and that they maintain the position that I have quit. I am seeing a counsellor, still on medication and out of a job.

Dear Out: If you had explained the details of you situation, my response to you would have been different, and that would have saved you and me time. You are ill, claiming sick leave, and in light of the letters from your employer, they claim your unexplained absence constitutes a resignation. Do you have proof that your doctor/hospital faxed his prescription that you should be off work for two weeks? Or might you or an attorney get such a witness who can so testify. If you want to fight this, you need an attorney who will review the possibility that you might fight it and if so, will vigorously represent you. You will need to make sure that such a case is taken on contingency or the fees for legal matters will make you sick again. Of course I don’t know your manager or employer’s side of the story and if indeed you were and can still be a valued employee. However, working under the hostile conditions you describe were not and are not good for your emotional and physical health. My best to you as you recover and come to be the healthy individual who can cope as you must once have been.

William Gorden