Friday, January 25, 2013


     Someone  I know very well is giving serious thought to quitting her job, due to her consistently, inexplicably hostile supervisor.

     The way I hear it, this guy likes to react to her innocently-meant words as though they were a threat or a challenge.  And then comes on all aggrieved when my friend who he's going off on tries to explain that no offense was intended.

     Example: the other day, this fellow mentioned to her in a telephone conversation that she'd have to come in five or six hours early, a few days hence.  Well, she's stuck with a union contract, and it requires a certain minimum lead time for mandatory schedule changes and his "have to" was uttered significantly after that.  So she pointed out the shift change would have to be voluntary, with the usual agreement that it didn't set precedent, and said she'd come in.  Alas, her boss went ballistic, exclaiming, "Your co-workers are enthusiastic to see a project through to completion."  And no matter how she tried to explain, that was that, the conversation was over.

     ...And at the office, she's told he asked for volunteers.  H'mmm, how about that. 

     The kicker is, her boss has known about the early-start day for weeks.  He had not imparted that information to his underlings.

     Later that day, when my poor fool of a friend tried to explain, again, about the  issue with short-notice mandatory sked changes being a contractual problem, she was told to shut up, spend more time listening and less time speaking to her supervisor in a condescending manner.

     Her attempts to resolve the matter with higher-ups were met with platitudes and amusement.  She tells me this has been going on for years.  It's not quite open harassment, just goading.  She's got a childhood history of being bullied and reacts badly to this kind of thing, becoming depressed and avoidant, gets stomach problems, and so on.

     She'd really like to quit.  It's clear her employer doesn't want to do anything about the goading supervisor and she's concerned about the long-term health impact (her digestive issues have been getting worse and worse).  But she's got family in town and house payments to make, and the job does pay pretty good money, more than she could make elsewhere; she can't afford to give up that job.

     I think she's just stuck.   It's unfortunate, but we can't all afford to "go Galt," no matter how bad things are.


Anonymous said...

I feel for her. Back before HIPAA, I worked at a company where one of the employees had a kid who had cancer. He could not change jobs and keep his insurance for his kid. His boss, who was a four-starred asshole, abused that guy horribly and stated to others that he could because "what's he gonna do, quit?"

I would not have been surprised if the employee had shown up one day with a shotgun and killed his boss. (I'd have voted for acquittal.)

Alan said...

No one ever said, "Man, I'm sure glad I ruined my health at that job. Look at all the money I made and didn't get to enjoy!"

Will Brown said...


Being a union shop steward in a right-to-work state myself, I have to wonder why, if your friend is employed under a union-negotiated labor agreement, she isn't involving her union representation to help deal with this abuse? Having a steward tell the supervisor "naughty naughty" won't do anything positive, but filing formal grievances - and working to take them to arbitration (here in Texas each such complaint costs the company ~$7k regardless who "wins"; Indiana is also part of the USA so the government mandated cost should be about the same). That supervisor's name appearing as the cause of a few of those corporate un-budgeted costs will result in a significant change of tone and behavior once the dent in the bottom line shows up at the end of the financial quarter.

And that's just the routine response such abuse attracts. :)

The stewards would have to investigate to make certain all was as claimed by her (just basic due diligence - the union puts up an equal amount to take a complaint to arbitration too), but from what you relate, if even 1 witness will corroborate events, this supervisor is toast (and the company may be out significant cash if a NLRB penalty is imposed by the .gov).

It's all good fun to go "Nah! Nah! Union Thug!" until a little counter-thuggery is called for. :)

My best wishes to your friend, and tell her from your resident (in comments) union thug that she wants to accumulate as much medical documentation about her deteriorating condition as she can arrange for. It's truly amazing how HR drones will fold like a wet towel when confronted with a pile of paperwork they can't refute.

Lupis42 said...

How are your laws WRT recording conversations?

Lupis42 said...


Anonymous said...

As a management thug I agree with Will Brown. Your paying dues so let your union rep fight your battle.

Piss poor planing on their part is not her problem. A HR complaint makes the corporate types twitchy about future lawsuits.


Roberta X said...

I'll share that advice with my friend -- I don't know how pro-active her union local is.

perlhaqr said...

Mad sympathy. As someone who was bullied unrelentingly through elementary / mid / high school, I too react poorly to it.

I second Will and Lupis. Get the union involved if possible, and if it's a one-party state, record some of these hostile conversations. If the boss' boss won't do anything about it, HR might. Especially if presented with audio recordings that would make excellent fare in a lawsuit. I believe the magic phrase here would be "hostile work environment".

Ruth said...

Ditto the above advice about going to the union. Hubby works for a union shop, and unless the union is seriously lame they WILL investigate, and that WILL cost the company money. A supervisor who does it all the time isn't going to last long. Especially if she can find someone else who's had the same thing happen to back her up.

The Freeholder said...

Not a union fan at all, but she's paying her dues and is a member. They need to step up--isn't this what they're supposed to be for?

Drang said...

Magic words: "Hostile Work Environment."

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to know that this happens, though not surprised: just as politics attracts the stupid and corrupt, management seems to attract the clueless and cruel.

I'd suggest, as others have done, getting the union involved. Hey, make those hoodlums earn at least some of the money they're taking from employee checks.

Don said...

She really needs a way out. If it's going the way she describes, it's not going to get better.

A few years ago, I worked in the same organization as my wife. A supervisor there was notorious for running people out. When she was put over my group, there were dark mutterings, but everyone decided to stick it out. I should have gotten out during that year, but I didn't.
Then another supervisor came in (it was one of those fun jobs where you have two bosses with different priorities) and made it clear, literally in the first meeting, that she didn't much care for me personally. I should have taken that as a sign, but I was afraid to leave and decided I could make it work.
I made it through one more year with those two before they found enough reason to get rid of me on their terms instead of mine. My coworkers were supportive and expressed puzzlement, but there was nothing they could do. I was told my replacement lasted two months into his annual contract, but I don't know beyond that.

My wife continued there, although they pushed her around and forced her to move to buildings and into jobs she didn't want. Frankly, she was better at her job than I ever was (or am now) and she was able to make it work. But they moved that same supervisor into her building, and life got crazy and dramatic again.

We both should have left when I was being harassed.
Failing that, we both should have left when I was pushed out.
Failing that, we should have made plans to get her out ASAP.
Failing that, we should have gotten her out when that supervisor moved into her building and got weird again.

Instead, she hung on, hoping things would get better, as she got more and more unhappy--and then they found a way to get rid of her, again, on their terms instead of hers.

It's not worth it. Life's too short and your career is too big a chunk of it.

PA State Cop said...

Sorry, I'll be the monster in the room. Grevience, Union or complaint to EO/EEO for hostile Work environment. Time to go Nuclear.

Cincinnatus said...

Roberta, as mentioned above, your friend needs to use the union contract to her benefit. The supervisor's harrassment must be reported through the union as a grievance - but expressed as though the supervisor was harassing her specifically in reaction to her invocation of contractual rights.

That's makes his harassment a contractual violation.

Cincinnatus said...

BTW, those people who use "hostile work environment" to refer to situations where a supervisor is a bully are wrong.

"Hostile work environment" refers to sexual harassment issues, not a bullying boss.

Woodman said...

""Hostile work environment" refers to sexual harassment issues, not a bullying boss."

And is overused so much that actual hostile environments get pooh-poohed as sour grapes or oversensitivity.

She's taking the hard step of stating the contract guidelines, she just needs to talk to her steward and see what can be done.

This is the part where I decided unions were pretty much crap. My ex-wife went through some similar issues, but the supervisor was also union, and in the same union. Since he had seniority there as well the union burned and buried her. Eventually it got bad enough that he spent the rest of his contract promoted to a non-teaching job and spending his time directing school buses in the parking lot and staring at the walls in his new office.

Anonymous said...

As has been mentioned, "Hostile Workplace" has nothing to do with a$$hole bosses.

You can take on a bully. There are a large number of things you can do. You may lose. If you lose, there will be repercussions. If you win, there will almost certainly be repercussions, too.

You will find out that a corporation does not like to be attacked, even if the attack is justified. If a honeybee stings someone defending the hive, it may hurt or even kill whatever is attacking the hive. It will almost certainly hurt the bee.

Pick up a copy of Harvey McKay's book on corporate bullying, best I've ever read. "Sharkproof. Get the job you want, keep the job you love." Amazon has used copies starting at under $2. He warns, though, that actions have consequences even for the innocent fighting for their rights.

And for all of you that think all bosses are jerks, you ought to try BEING a manager and find out what senior management, owners and board members can get away with. It gets WORSE as you move up, not better.

Another clueless and cruel corporate manager.