Workplace Bullying

Any advice on what to do about a supervisor bullying an employee?


  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Can you give some details/specifics on the bullying? Is it a one-time occurance or a constant thing? Are you positive it's "bullying" or is the employee perceiving regular/normal work related issues to be the supervisor picking on them?
  • "Bullying" covers a lot of ground.


    This could be anything from assault to retaliation to constructive discharge or an overly sensitive employee.


    We need a lot more background information to be able to help.

  • Yes, specifics would really help. However, if you are receiving complaints--even from just one employee--the situation ought to be investigated. It could be that there's nothing to it, or as others have suggested, it could be that it's an employee crying "bully" when the supervisor just expects them to competently perfrom their job.

    On the flip side, however, even if there is just one person complaining, it could be that others who are also being bullied are afraid to say anything.

     I checked for the topic and found a news article (free) on the topic, which includes a section on what HR can/should do to investigate complaints: 

  • The supervisor is overseeing salespeople and is constantly yelling insults and swearing at them.  He changes objectives constantly without communicating them and then when his sales person doesn't do what it is he expects them to do because they don't know that the objective has changed, he publicly humiliates them by attacking their intellect and telling the rep's clients that the person "must be on something and has no clue what is going on".  He invites other members of the group to point out flaws in the sales rep and schedules meetings excluding him, but then chastises the rep for not attending.

    The bigger issue is that there is no one to escalate this to since the manager is the top executive.  I am trying to help a dear friend deal with the situation since he seems to be at his wits-end...he loves his job and his clients and industry, but his supervisor is just too much.

    My take was that my friend should go find a new position where the work environment is less toxic, but there has to be some way to cope in the short-term.

  • The fact that the source of the issue is the "top executive" is a problem.  When you say "top executive" do you mean CEO or do you mean the top sales executive?  If it's the top sales executive,  HR is still a good route because they can address this person's problem with the CEO.  If the person is the CEO, you can always take it to the board if there is one.  If there is no open door policy that gives you a place to go to talk about problems with this person, then you could also go directly to the EEOC if this person is picking on any particular group or groups on the basis of a protected property.

    I recall not too long ago when a company got into trouble for spanking real estate agents with for sale signage.  A lot hinges on the nature of the insults and swear words being used and whether or not anybody is being singled out.  A boss who calls everyone an idiot and asks co-workers to join him in calling different people idiots in turn isn't really violating any laws even if he or she is a jerk who's trying to paint everyone else stupid to cover for his or her communication inadequacies.

    Can you say if any person or category of persons is being singled out?  Can you elaborate on the swear words and insults?  Can you discuss the supervisors relationship to the CEO role and whether or not there is a BoD?

  • Unfortunately the case sited was overturned by the appeals court due to a technicality.  But the lesson here is that the company went bankrupt defending itself in court and in settlements.  So whether or not employment is at will this sort of lawsuit can cripple a company not only finically but its reputation as well.   <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

    An appeals court has overturned a $1.5 million verdict awarded to a woman who was spanked in front of co-workers in what her employer called a camaraderie-building exercise.

    A jury in 2006 had ruled that Janet Orlando had suffered sexual harassment and sexual battery when she was paddled on the rear end at home security company Alarm One Inc. The jury punished the company with a $1 million punitive damage award.

    But on Monday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeal overturned that verdict, ruling that the jury had been given improper instructions. In particular, the jury wasn't instructed that one vital element of proving that sexual harassment occurred is showing the action was directed at a woman because of her gender.

    Lawyers for Alarm One, an Anaheim-based, 300-employee company, said the spankings were not discriminatory because they were given to both male and female workers and that Orlando and others willingly took part.

    Orlando's attorney, Nicholas "Butch" Wagner, vowed to take the case to trial again.

    "We may get more this time," Wagner said.

    But K. Poncho Baker, the attorney who defended the company at trial in 2006, said because the company has since gone into bankruptcy and that its insurance was exhausted battling Orlando's claim and settling with three other co-workers, there may be little left to recover.

    "Good luck retrying this one," Baker said.

    Orlando quit the company in 2004, less than a year after she was hired at the Fresno office, saying she was humiliated during the company's team-building practices.

    Employees were paddled with rival companies' yard signs as part of a contest that pitted sales teams against each other. The winners poked fun at the losers, throwing pies at them, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and swatting their buttocks.

    The company has since abandoned the practice.

    Bakersfield Californian 1/16/08 


  • Thanks for the update, Pam

    "We cannot afford to win another one like that." -- attributed to various people

  • Excellent post Pam. It would seem to me that you need a really good harassment policy that encompasses the use of slurs, offensive phrases,etc. and make it applicable to all- top executive or not. Some training will help as well which I really don't think many organizations spend enough time doing. I agree that HR is the first step and a well documented investigation should occur.





    HR Manager 


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