Dealing with abusive bosses

Melissa Dawn By Melissa Dawn, 7th Feb 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Jobs>Management

Abusive bosses exist across all employment levels and socio-economic groups. Learning your rights as an employee, and tackling employer abuse is paramount to your safety and your career.

Introduction to abusive bosses

Not all bosses do a Jekyll and Hyde, but when a boss becomes abusive you need to deal with it immediately and effectively. Abuse from bosses comes in several forms, verbal abuse, emotional abuse or bullying, financial abuse, and sometimes even physical and sexual abuse. Left to its own devices abuse can quickly spiral out of control, co-workers don't wish to get involved and you may find yourself unemployed and even without a reference. Here's how to handle abusive bosses.

A smart employee is an informed employee

Most middle sized companies and larger corporations give new employee's a company handbook at the start of their employment. If one isn't offered to you, request it immediatly, along with a copy of the Province/State labor laws. If your not familiar with your local labor laws now is the time to orient yourself. Keep a copy of both your employee handbook and the local labor laws in your filing cabinet at work. This will make it easier to report abuse should it occur.

Smart employee's don't just bring their educational qualifications and work experience to a job, they bring their emotional smarts. At any job, know the chain of command from your Supervisor to their Supervisor to the top of the rung. Join company committee's such as health and safety, and the communications committee. It's far easier to get support from company personnel if your seen as a team player right from the beginning.

Let the small stuff slide

Companies, bosses and supervisors are under tremendous pressure with this recession. Tempers are short and often flare, sometime in our direction. Singled out at a meeting because your sales quota was down? Had an order barked at you that should have been completed by a co-worker? Blamed because the photocopier ran out of ink and it wasn't your job to fix it? All are annoying and may fall into the category of minor verbal and emotional abuse. The trick is to know when to let the small stuff slide, help fix the problem (even if it wasn't your mess) and move on. The key is to remember that we work to live, not live to work.

Coping with outright abuse (a personal account)

I've experienced emotional abuse by bosses. The first time I experienced emotional abuse on the job was when I suffered a slip and fall accident at one of my first office jobs. I did the proactive thing, reported it to my supervisor and the personnel officer who were initially sympathetic. I did not involve co-workers, and when asked about my injuries which were minor, I simply stated, 'I'm recovering just fine thank you'. Should this have turned into an abusive situation, absolutely not. What happenned next, was awful.

My accident was reported to the head company. This particular company was under an umberella group. The head company felt they had to report this accident to the local Health and Safety (Government) Board. A month or two goes by and as far as I know the incident is forgotten. I was given several days off with full pay, and re-compensed for the gas money I spent to see the Doctor.

The local Health and Safety Board ordered the company to build a ramp with handrails, and fined them for negligence. They even went as far as to say the company's negligence caused my injury. I didn't learn this until later when the bullying on the job began.

What suprised me was that this Health and Safety board never saw me and certainly never had a conversation with me. They did see the medical report indicating I had suffered some minor nerve damage in a wrist and a mild concussion, but that was it.

Further outright abuse and an epiphany!

The company decided to single me out. First of all I was yelled at by a Supervisor from a Department I didn't even interact with. Next, my Supervisor began changing my shifts around, and then laughing at me in front of other office staff when I came in at the wrong time. Staff from other departments began leaving nasty messages on my telephone extension, wondering where their paperwork was, when it had been assigned to another data processor.

Immediate co-workers were initially sympathetic and told me to ignore it. I approached my Supervisor and again the Personnel Manager and was told what was happenning to me was indeed inappropriate. The Supervisor who yelled at mewas given a verbal warning and stayed away from me after that, and my immediate Supervisor stopped playing around with my shifts. Funnily enought, the Health and Safety rulings were never brought up when I complained about this man.

I left a short time later after I got a better job. A couple of weeks into my new employment, I discovered my vacation pay was being witheld by my former employer. I telephoned the Personnel Manager to ask him to send it. He insisted I come in and get it although he wouldn't state why. Puzzled, I returned to the place of my prior employment only to be given the cold shoulder by Reception and asked to wait in like a delivery person. My former Supervisor wouldn't even look my way as I walked to the personnel office.

I was given my cheque, and a rather awful second reference by a very embarrassed Personnel officer. Written by my former Supervisor, it stated, that in short I had been an emotional wreck to work with, even though the prior recommendation had been glowing. Dumbfounded I confronted my ex-Supervisor who was working with three former co-workers, two of which ignored me. This Supervisor actually said he had had to 'Revise his opinion of me'. I stood there for a minute and then I realized, building the new ramp, railings and other modifications, had cost Supervisors there annual bonus!

How I handled the emotional abuse

I smiled, then I pointed out that he was a foolish, childish man, whose obvious lack of ambition had prevented him from progressing any further up the corporate ladder. Then I took his reference, shredded it in front of him, and threw it over his head. 'That's me being emotional', I said.

I certainly got everyone's attention, then I took it a step further. I picked up his pen, signed my name on the back of my vacation pay cheque and said, 'You need this money far more than I do. If you didn't need it so badly you wouldn't lie on references, and tell my former co-workers not to talk to me, in your attempt to re-write my employment history. I now may have to take you to the Human Rights Commission', and then I walked out.

A week later my brand new vacation cheque came in the mail, along with a third glowing reference, and a promise of future employment should I ever ask. I had to laugh, and I never did go to the Human Rights Commission, I was exceling in my new job and just didn't care. But they did.

A final note

I did nothing wrong at this place of employment, and while it was an entry level position this was when I was in my early 20's, just starting out and in need of all the references I could get. I've never been emotionally abused like that again, and I think standing up for myself at that stage in my career served me well for future situations.

What we need to do is be informed employee's, we need to practice professionalism, complain if we get hurt and follow company protocol. Not gossiping and getting on with your job if you are well enough to do so, like I was go along way. If the abuse continues theres often little else to do than fight a losing battle or work somewhere else.

Not all Supervisor to employee abuse situations end as well as minde did. We have whistle blower laws, legislation and human rights office's to protect us, but they should be a last option. Confronting an abusive boss is rarely effective, documenting the incident, listing who was there and then leaving it on their desk with a copy going to their Supervisor and their Supervisor is often the only way to go. Using a little humor to defuse a tense situation can work wonders, and make silly Supervisors and abusive bosses re-think their ridiculas behaviour.


Abuse, Abuse At Work, Abuse From Managers, Abuse On The Job, Abusive Bosses, Abusive Working Conditions, Employment Abuse, Management To Employee Abuse, Unsafe Working Conditions, Verbal Abuse, Verbal Abuse At Work

Meet the author

author avatar Melissa Dawn
I have been writing ever since I can remember, and currently focus my attention on articles, how to guides and e-books. Check out my group e-book at

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author avatar sgkeat
8th Feb 2011 (#)

It's important to know your rights. And as long as your conscience is clear, don't worry. Live free.

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author avatar Carol
8th Feb 2011 (#)

Good article, many thanks

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author avatar Retired
9th Feb 2011 (#)

good article. something else, always ask questions.

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author avatar Retired
9th Feb 2011 (#)

Good article...You acted very professional to this will go far for how you handled this.

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author avatar LOVERME
10th Feb 2011 (#)

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copy paste on every comment you see
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all for allllllllllllll

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author avatar sasikrishna
12th Feb 2011 (#)

A different information..

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author avatar traffic backlink
12th Feb 2011 (#)

you did great, handling those kind of situation

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author avatar Martin King
16th Feb 2011 (#)

Well done for handling it but you should never be in that situation, thanks for sharing

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author avatar Denise O
22nd Feb 2011 (#)

I feel you handled everything just fine. I like the info you have laid out, just a good read.
Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar Bye video
10th Aug 2011 (#)

How to Handle an Epiphany

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author avatar Serials King
16th Aug 2011 (#)

you did great, handling those kind of situation

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