Don't suffer in silence


My boss has been bulling me for some time. I've been belittled in front of other employees and family-members. I've been told that I can't take a break in an eight hour day because she's not paying me to take lunch. I've been told that I'll get fired if I cash my paycheck before noon on payday and that if I don't fill out paper work correctly when people come in and out of the facility that I will go to jail.

I'm sick of getting blamed for everything that goes wrong and I can't see what else I can do except leave. I've been forced out because of this - what do i do to get this resolved? She doesn't deserve to be a boss - she doesn't know how to handle it.

Shawna, Florida

Matt Witheridge's Answer:

Thanks for the email. I am very sorry to hear about the situation you have been dealing with. There is absolutely no reason to justify the lack of dignity at work you have experienced. It is inhumane, unnecessary and illegal.

In the first instance I would like to clarify some of the threats that have been levelled at you. Firstly, you should be entitled to a break if you are working an eight hour day. Every state has different regulations for this, so you may have to check to see what the rules are for your state. Secondly the claim that you will serve a jail term for not filling in the paperwork properly is also nonsense. In the rare case that there were any criminal proceedings brought because of a filing error, it would be the organisation who would be ultimately liable and not yourself.

In any case of bullying and harassment I would urge you to check to see whether your organisation has a bullying and harassment policy and if it did, utilise it and make a formal complaint against your line manager. However, in reading your email it sounds as if you might be working for a small, perhaps family owned business. These are notoriously poor for having adequate procedures for making such a complaint. In many cases, rather than helping your situation, making the complaint can often make things worse. Nevertheless, you should still file a complaint so there is a formal record of the bullying you are receiving.

From the amount of abuse it appears you have suffered, I am glad to hear that you are leaving. In the majority of situations, especially in bigger more diverse organisations, I would really urge people to use the grievance procedures, both informal and formal as it will give them breathing space. Even if you think it will be a pointless exercise in terms of resolving anything internally, it is a must.

Nevertheless, in some situations it really is better to make a clean break. You do not deserve to be treated like this at work and prolonged exposure to this sort of intimidating behaviour will have dire consequences on your physical and mental health. The most important thing to consider throughout all of this is your quality of life.

What can you do to resolve this? It really depends on what you would like to see happen. It seems from your email that you are planning on leaving (or have already left) this job. You can file a complaint at The Better Business Bureau. You may even wish to take your employer to court.

It is also important to point out the pitfalls of such a route. Taking a case can be a very expensive process with no guarantee of success. On top of this it often takes many months to conclude and forces the complainant to constantly relive their experiences. The whole process is often extremely stressful and does not give the complainant a chance to move on, which is vital.

In the worst case scenarios, cases can drag on for years with numerous appeals and can leave the complainant considerably worse off both financially and in terms of mental stability. This is why it is vital to seek expert advice before advancing on such a journey.

To anyone who is currently experiencing a case of bullying and harassment the most important thing to do is to get support. Seek this support from friends, family and colleagues and especially your Union if you are a member. Suffering in silence is the worst thing possible.

For free objective and confidential advice in the U.K phone the Andrea Adams Trust's National Workplace Bullying Helpline or go online and visit us at for information on Ban Bullying at Work Day which is 7th November 2007.


About our Expert

Matt Witheridge
Matt Witheridge

Matt Witheridge is the Operations Manager for the Andrea Adams Trust, the world's first charity dedicated to tackling workplace bullying. He has been campaigning for businesses to employ effective policies for dealing with workplace bullying for the last eight years.

Older Comments

I am being bullied by three coworkers at my place of work. One of them does it subtly by using the silent treatment whenever I ask her a question, she ignores me, doesn't answer, sometimes she corrects the emails I send to staff without telling me anything about it. When I open my email account, I see the corrections she has made. Another incident was when she was teaching me how to train new employees, she never really explained how to do it, she just told me it was really easy, and all I had to do was read from the power point presentation. At one time, when I asked her for assistance, she simply dismissed me in front of the group by saying that she was too busy preparing other points. I had to come up with the best answer I could think of based on my own experience. She displays a passive aggresive behaviour, and is extremely moody; by that I mean sometimes she talks to people, and sometimes she ignores them. The other coworker is more open about her bullying, she dismisses my ideas, opinions or thoughts, she is patronizing, and although we have been in the manager's office trying to solve our issues, she still tries to intimidate me with her words and attitude. The other one is a receptionist who constantly sends me emails that are very disrespectful and condescending, she has a superior attitude. I have kept some of these emails for proof of inappropriate behaviour. I'm at the point right now where I won't tolerate it anymore, and presently, I'm in the process of putting a workshop together on Conflict Resolution for coworkers. However, I don't feel very confident about it knowing that these people belittle me and try to put me down constantly. The upper manager is helping me and supporting me with the workshop, but I'm not sure how these other people are going to react. I have sent everyone an email announcing the upcoming workshop, and welcoming any feedback. What advice can you give me? Thanks very much.