1 in 3 adults admit to have been bullied by a boss.  According to USA Today:

One in three adults has experienced workplace bullying, according to surveys conducted earlier this year by research firm Zogby International for the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). Nearly three-fourths of bullying is from the top down, according to a 2007 study.

 Some tyrannical managers scream and send out scathing e-mails. But often, an oppressor uses a more subtle — and easily covered — collection of behaviors. These actions could include purposely leaving a worker out of communications so they can’t do their job well, mocking someone during meetings and spreading malicious gossip about their target, says Catherine Mattice, a workplace consultant who specializes in this issue.

 The acts may seem trivial, but as they build up over time, the ramifications can be monumental.

 Bullied workers often feel anxious and depressed, can’t sleep and are at increased risk for ailments such as hypertension. Some employees feel so overwhelmed, they just can’t see a way out. “Sometimes, unfortunately, suicide is the result,” Mattice says.

 Do people just accept bullying more from a boss?  Do they fear retaliation to the point of being fired?  Why are people more willing to put up with it? 

 Apparently there is little that can be done about bullying on the job.  The concept of bullying on the job lies is fairly uncharted waters:

On an academic level, workplace bullying has become a popular research topic, says Stanford Engineering School management professor and Good Boss, Bad Boss author Robert Sutton. But on a broader scale, there is still much to be learned about this topic.

 “Workplace bullying is kind of this new concept; it’s like sexual harassment before Anita Hill,” Mattice says. “One of the biggest problems is that it is under the radar.”

 A big issue is that bullying is difficult to define. Is a demanding boss a bully or a perfectionist? Is a manager who says inappropriate things malicious or just tactless? “That’s one of the difficult things to grapple with,” says Joseph O’Keefe, a senior counsel at law firm Proskauer. “When does it rise above just being a mean boss and reach the level of bullying?”

 As a general guideline, bullying occurs when a manager has an ongoing pattern of intimidating or demeaning behavior that can affect an employee’s health.

 “We’ve all had bosses who are rough around the edges, and sometimes you just have to deal with it,” says Tom Davenport, a senior consultant at human resources consultancy Towers Watson. “But it’s one thing to have an assertive boss, and it’s another to have one that makes you feel sick — psychologically, physically and emotionally sick.”

Virginia will be a testing ground for bullying on the job. Can on the job bullying be linked to suicide and will companies and institutions be held responsible for deaths?   Perhaps this is an area for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli:

 Since bullying is such an amorphous act, department managers and human resource executives often have to examine claims of it on an individual basis. Officials at the University of Virginia had to undertake this task earlier this year.

 On July 30, Kevin Morrissey, managing editor at the University of Virginia literary magazine Virginia Quarterly Review, shot himself. Morrissey’s sister, Maria Morrissey, says that after his death, she learned that her brother was treated harshly by VQR editor Ted Genoways.

 Genoways’ attorney, Lloyd Snook, says the editor was not a bully to Morrissey or anyone else in the office.

 Following Morrissey’s death, the university commissioned an audit of the magazine’s finances and management practices. The Oct. 20 report says that while Genoways’ ability to supervise his staff in accordance with university policies “is questionable,” complaints against him didn’t raise any red flags.

 “There were reports through the years of the editor not being courteous or respectful with some contributors and colleagues, as well as problems with certain employees, but none ever seemed to rise to the level of a serious, ongoing concern,” the report said.

 In a formal response to the audit, Snook said that Genoways “has never been told of any specific complaint that any of his staff has had. There was never any personnel action taken against Ted.”

 Even with the release of the internal report, there are still many questions swirling — and not many publically known answers — about the situation at VQR.

When would the State of Virginia become responsible for the death of someone who was bullied by one of its supervisors?    When would any company be held responsible?  When we think about how much of a person’s self esteem  can be affected by a bully boss, it seems obvious that a company has a responsiblity to weed out bad bosses.  How is this any different than being beaten up on the playground?  Adults generally spend one third of their day at work. 

How many people can think of situations where they were bullied on the job or know of someone who was bullied on the job?   Do certain bosses stand out more than others?  My favorite recollection of a bully boss used the method of ‘divide and conquor’ to rule.  He sucked up to one person while denigrating another employee to that person.  He then went to the other person and did the same thing.  It was bullying.  You did what he wanted so you weren’t his next victim, even though you were anyway.  How many other people have been victimized by yelling, screaming, temper tantrums, name calling and being interrupted and talked over?   Are these examples of on the job bullying? 

On the job bullying might just be the next of focus.  On the other hand, it might also be put on the back burner.  Too many people fear losing a job to complain.  A crappy boss might be better than having no boss at all.  Perhaps once the economy improves, bosses will be held more accountable.  Meanwhile, who has a bad bully boss story for us?


37 Thoughts to “1 in 3 Admit to Being Bullied by a Boss”

  1. What a pile of BS.

    Yet another, non-randomized, “survey” in lieu of an honest, properly designed, research instrument.

    This whole “bullying” buzz is a contrivance. If you go back about two years, the media started to create stories bullies in the school yard, then bullying teens, then cyber-bullying, and now workplace bullying.

    How they have missed doing a filler story on, bullying bulls, is astonishing.

    This all has a similar smell to all the “hostile workplace” and “harassment” stories that preceded the wave of litigation on those same subjects. Is all the hype intended to set-up a new profit center for law firms, that is based on, anti-bullying laws?

    In all seriousness, if you want to create another layer of law intended to prevent bosses from making subordinates “feel stressed” the only response from corporate America, will be to shove even more jobs off-shore to less litigious lands, like Communist China.

    So, when you hear your boss screaming, keep in mind that such noise confirms that you are at work and therefore, still have a job…at least until he screams, “You’re fired!” but up until then, just enjoy being among, the employed.

  2. Sorry, I just can’t blow off that people can be mistreated by others. I don’t think bullying is just another buzz word. I think it is a condition of society that people are finally attempting to deal with.

  3. Bendigeidfran

    Without repeating all of the details of the past that have been discussed here and on other blogs, but ignored by Corey Stewart and the BOCS, and Melissa Peacor and the County Government; the Prince William County Government is one of the worst abusers in the region.

    A refresher – multiple women harassed in the Planning Office substantiated with independent documentation, but swept under the rug by Stewart, Peacor and HR. A woman in Public Works suffering from breast cancer ridiculed and mocked by staff because of wearing a wig during her chemo treatment, among many other abuses she suffered. Existence of at least two tapes of hearings with Peacor attacking victims to cover up for senior managers.

    Moreover, Del. Scott Lingamfelter wrote Stewart at least twice trying to get action from him on behalf of one of the PWC victims, only to be given the middle finger.

    Among many other abuses, independent, recent documentation of Ray Utz violating County HR policies by bad-mounting his former employees/victims to prospective employers, only to be swept under the rug by Stewart, Peacor, and the HR Director.

    And on, and on, and on. If you want to see unchecked bullying and harassment that is covered up to protect senior bureaucrats and politicians, look no further than the McCoart Building. Prince William County is a cesspool (BOCS and senior management) that needs draining next November.

    Abundant documentation of all of this and more has been complied. Moon knows how to contact me and I will be glad to work with candidates opposing Stewart who also support cleaning house in senior County management. Peacor and the rest will be held accountable.

  4. e

    just another example of the chickification of our society

    1. @e

      Society was meant to be chickified.

  5. e

    that would be nice if the whole world were heading in that direction. what is going to happen to us when we are confronted by a society that encourages its young boys to rip off the heads of live baby chicks to toughen them up and fortify their manhood?

    1. The boys can buy big cars to take the place of ripping the heads of chicks. That is unacceptable.

  6. marinm

    This thread makes me chuckle. I can already see a federal law giving each employee a ‘stress card’ that they can wave in front of their boss whenever they’re overtaxed or can’t deal with the situation at hand.

    Department of Love, Good Feelings, Hope, and Workplace Equality. Staffed with 32,000 federales to ‘monitor’ government and corporate compliance with the happy happy joy joy directives of the Minister of No Hurt Feelings.

  7. Emma

    @J. Tyler Ballance The only way I can reconcile your denial of bullying as a problem in the corporate world is that A) you are self-employed or B) you yourself are a bully. I’ve witnessed it, and I’ve experienced it firsthand to the point that I had to look for another job. Been there, done that, burned the t-shirt.

    @e “Chickification?” Perhaps you are right. Women are fair game because when they do complain, it then becomes evidence to the good ole boys that they just can’t handle the world of work the way guys do, so women stay silent.

    And sometimes women in charge can be the worst bullies of all. Or they conveniently overlook or even tolerate bullying done by their subordinate friends.

  8. @Lafayette
    Good lord, Laf! That’s pretty bad. Don’t you just want to give those people the finger?

    I’ve had some pretty bad, bullying bosses who did all the things the article describes. Thank GOD I am not in that position now!

  9. This was not meant to be a funny thread. People are bullied all the time on the job. Sadly, most people aren’t in the position to quit, at least not on the spot.

    Lafayette has been the only person who has shared. That does not mean it hasn’t happened. I have seen or heard about it happening to both men and women. Maybe people are just embarrassed and don’t want to admit that they were bullied.

    Bullying at work doesn’t have to be by a boss. It also doesn’t have to be hands on kind of bullying. It can be laughing at a person as described above, it can be mimicking, it can be telling a co-worker what to do all the time, or it can be tattling mistruths to the boss, just to name a few examples.

    If it hasn’t ever happened to you or to anyone you know…you might want to look at why.
    Lafayette, too bad you didn’t punch her and weren’t in the position to walk out.

    I believe bosses know about other bully employees also.

  10. Pinko, share your worst example please.

  11. Emma, that was one excellent post. Thank you. You covered a lot of territory on that one. And yes, women can be the worse bullies of all. I am thinking of one as we speak. Finally, after year, she was removed from her position. Some have not. Some still rule on.

  12. marinm


    I tend to think of those people (#17) as afraid of their own job security and looking to make someone else look bad.

    Crab mentality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_mentality

    A good boss can spot a tattle tale and keep that person in check OR understand the difference between a tattler and a person with a good ethical and moral compass.

    Problem is we don’t hire good bosses anymore – I blame it on societal pressures to hire lesser qualified persons that represent a needed demographic and on supervisors and managers at all levels accepting low quality work instead of dealing with the hassle of terminating a problem employee.

    I think we’ve all had our share of terrible supervisors, managers, co-workers and employees. But, thinking that there is somehow some new epidemic of workplace bullying? lol. No.

  13. Juturna

    Anywhere you have a hierarchy you have the opportunity of bullying. Hierarchies in the workplace are accepted but can go bad. Hierarchies on the playground are usually only mean.

    Regarding Melissa Peacor and Roy Utz, they are not elected officials – she is an employee. Frankly, I’ve seen so much about them and the Planning situation I’ve concluded there is a disgruntled former employee spewing garbage. Apparently you’re wrong now, you were wrong then, move on.

    I detest censoring but I’ve seen enough of that particular issues to last me a lifetime – isn’t there a policy about attacking citizens on this blog? Or would that just be the right thing to do, which is expected of people in a civilized society.

  14. Gainesville Resident

    There’s plenty of it in the workplace and it doesn’t even have to come from a supervisor. I recently had a situation where I was in a customer setting (in front of soldiers at an army base) where someone from another division of my company decided to say negative things about me and my division in front of the soldiers. I took the professional route and didn’t respond, although I reported these events to my management who saw to it that this person was talked to about it by his superiors when he returned to the office.

    A few examples (over a 3 week period):

    One afternoon the soldiers overheated the system by turning off the air conditioner while I went to lunch. This made one of the computers inoperable and I had to swap it out with another computer which was a lot of work (physical in nature – very cramped working environment and moving a heavy computer out of a rack is very difficult). The soldiers and the person from my company (who is the instructor of the class) left for the day and I stayed to fix the problem. Actually, the coworker went and played golf that afternoon, not that it matters. I fixed the problem later in the afternoon and went home. The following morning the coworker from the other division proceeded to tell the soldiers the following fictional story (none of which happened): “I called Fred this morning at 7 AM and was surprised to find he was sound asleep at the hotel! I asked him if the problems had been fixed. He said not to worry – he would fix it when he got in – he decided to take the rest of the day off yesterday!” Why he said all that I have no idea.

    Another incident was caused by the fact I would purposely take lunch at a different time than everyone else – to avoid having to secure the system since it has sensitive cryptographic equipment in it that if unattended must be locked up. I would eat lunch pretty quickly and return. One day early on when I did that, one of the soldiers said something to the effect “You’re back already?” I said yes, I’m quick! This coworker from another division said “You’re quick in bed too, you don’t last very long!” The bad thing about this was it was in earshot of a female soldier, and I was somewhat worried about being caught up in some kind of sexual harrassment lawsuit. In any event, it made my company look very bad in my opinion. Of course, I immediately reported that incident to my management.

    This was only 2 of perhaps 10 or more strange comments this guy made during the 3 weeks we were together in front of the customer. It was getting to the point I was going to work each day anticipating some kind of nutty comment from him in front of the customer. I stayed professional and didn’t respond even when he basically denigrated the work my division performed claiming his division would have been able to do it better (they aren’t engineering, they are just training and documentation). Altogether, it put me in a difficult position in front of the customer, and it more or less was a form of bullying in my opinion. Some of it I believe was because he was trying to make the soldiers believe I worked for him, or was junior to him in some way.

  15. Cato the Elder

    You guys need to read some Victor Santoro. 🙂

  16. Red Dawn

    Piss poor management can be worse than bullying in the line of protocol. If it’s bullying, it has the chance of being proved. Poor management take on a whole new life and EGO of it’s own….. 😉

  17. Red Dawn

    The above sounds like a fortune cookie!! LOL! 😉

  18. Elena

    I know how frustrating PWC county can be, but honestly, the buck stops at the BOCS and there is just a real lack of leadership there. However, on the blog, we try to leave county employess ,who are not elected officials, out of the conversation, at least in very specific terms. I know I am especially frustrated with the Park Authority, but once again, the BOCS has enough power to control their eff ups and yet does not. Please, we would appreciate it if you would not call out, by name, any county employees. @Bendigeidfran

  19. GR, that dude sounds like a real jerk. That is yet another form of bullying, and by someone you don’t even know. –making someone look foolish to enhance one’s self. geez.

    RD- you are right…harder to prove.

  20. Juturna

    Thanks Elena, you were far more gracious than I. I see it as a fairness issue.

  21. @Moon-howler
    You know, MH, I don’t know that I want to go into specifics except to say it happened in a pseudo-academic setting a couple of times more than 5 years ago.

    Academia is interesting, especially when the setting isn’t as academic as the higher ups would like people to believe. Undercuts, ostracism, sarcasm, intellectual one-upmanship, public put-downs are all part of the game. Add rumor spreading and and being cut out of communication flow and you have the makings for a really fun job…NOT.

    Ironically, these same places have the highest turnover even among management. Bullies bully, but then they get bullied as well, which makes for a crappy work atmosphere, never mind substandard education for the students who pay hoards of money to attend.

  22. X-nay on the double “and” above by the way. 🙂

  23. Bendigeidfran


    There are many, many disgruntled employees. Elena is correct that the buck stops with the BOCS, and that there is a real lack of leadership there. I agree also that rank-and-file County employees should not be mentioned by name.

    However, the senior County employees serve at the pleasure of the BOCS. The BOCS has the direct power to vote on the County Executive, but has strong influence over and can compel changes in other senior positions, such as the Director and Division Chiefs. In particular, the Chief of an office such as Long-Range Planning, which has tremendous influence over development in the County, holds that job only as long the BOCS wants him/her there. It’s a very political job and if the incumbent is serving the interests of those who hold sway on the BOCS, and their political backers, they will be forgiven a multitude of sins.

    The HR department is thoroughly corrupt. In the face of independent documentation, they have swept numerous incidents under the rug and covered for the interests of the BOCS and senior management.

    If Juturna had all of the facts and knew the implications of what has been going on, largely in the careers of women who have suffered in that place, she would see the situation very differently.

    Ask yourself another question. There is widespread agreement among posters on Moonhowlings that Corey Stewart has not served the interests of the citizens of Prince William County well. Why would you want to defend a County Executive that Stewart had to fight hard to get approved, and the senior people she chooses? Senior management is a reflection of who controls the BOCS.

  24. No one is defending anyone. It is just our policy that county employees not be generically be targets. Why? Those folks have a boss. Empoyees must do what they are told to do and they have no way to defend themselves. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    Are there bad county employees? Sure. Complain to their bosses early and often. There are also other local blogs that don’t share our sense of fairness. The bottom line is, we don’t really know who people using monikers are or how much they know or don’t know.

    Elected folks are a whole different matter. They can come here and defend themselves. Naturally we don’t want lies about people printed here.

    Our guidelines can be found along the top tabs, far right hand side.

    One man’s demon might be another’s best friend. Are there exceptions? Of course. If Chief Deane or Dr. Walts has a policy you don’t like, of course that can be discussed.

  25. Bendigeidfran

    I’ve been around Prince William County long enough to remember what the then Gang of Five on the BOCS (some of the same people there today) did to County Executive Bern Ewert back around 1999. Ewert had the gall to defy the developer lobby and challenge what had been their unbridled control of the Board of Supervisors – perhaps not the smartest political move on his part. Long story short – the developer-controlled BOCS rode Bern out of town on a rail and hired Craig Gerhart to do their bidding. Gerhart had Peacor as his Deputy. After Rick Lawson retired as Planning Director, Gerhart hired Steve Griffin as Planning Director. One of Griffin’s tasks was to clean out the Planning Office of any staffers who thought like Bern Ewert.

    Corey Stewart was elected on a platform of conservation and controlling development, and cleaning out senior management, including Gerhart and Peacor. Corey, however, did one of the most blatant Anakin to Darth Vader transformations I have ever seen. As his political ambitions and increasing reliance on developer money drove him, he became a tool of the development lobby also. Gerhart left amidst the OIT scandal. Rather than bring in new leadership as he had promised his supporters, Corey fought other members of the BOCS to get Peacor hired.

    I can hear Emperor Palpatine saying as he pats Corey Vader on the back, “You have served your master well.”

  26. Same guidelines go for the City. The Park doesn’t come up much on here but I would include them also. School board employees from all three municipalities are included too.

  27. Juturna

    Some serious allegations there Bennie – although considering that you’ve generalized the Human Resources Department (each and every employee) and called each and every employee corrupt – I maintain my conclusion of ‘disgruntled employee’.

    “Senior management is a reflection of who controls the BOCS.” ???????????????

    “One of Griffin’s tasks was to clean out the Planning Office of any staffers who thought like Bern Ewert”. Thought????!!!!!

    I will agree that the facts have not been presented. Just allegations and generalities.

  28. Bendigeidfran


    “One of Griffin’s tasks was to clean out the Planning Office of any staffers who thought like Bern Ewert”. Thought????!!!!!

    The current Chief of Long-Range Planning told employees that the way to succeed in that office was to take the same positions as and think like he and the Planning Director. That’s a quote from people to whom he said that.

    No room to differ or offer professional differences of opinion are allowed.

    When Stewart and company were gutting the update of the Environment Chapter of the Comp Plan, Planning staff at first resisted and stuck to the original recommendations that were developed from the citizen and community meetings. I had a fleeting moment of respect for them. However, the following week they showed that they had no ability to resist, failed to stand up to Stewart as they should have, and were again assimilated.

  29. Bendigeidfran


    By the way, I have tremendous respect for the vast majority of County employees in all departments. I have known many, many of them for years. I did not say “each and every employee” in HR, or any other part of the County Government. My concern is with senior management and its subservience to the special interests that govern the BOCS.

  30. Bendigeidfran


    As a PWC taxpayer, senior management works for me as much as they do Corey Stewart and the special interests that back him. I expect them them to stand up for me and my interests, but am inevitably disappointed.

  31. @Bendigeidfran

    I suppose we could make the same argument about General Petraus. In reality, our tax dollars pay the salary but they don’t answer to us for raises or evaluation. That would put any person in a lose/lose position since none of us can be all things to all people.

  32. At least one can quit a civilian job. God help you if you have a bully superior in the military…..

  33. Bendigeidfran


    Moon, there’s some truth to that. However, the military is a somewhat different beast. It has a rigid chain of command based on carrying out orders from above. Professional organizations function best when differing points of view are heard and the best interests of the most constituents are addressed, rather than just a small group of influential special interests.

    I should also point out that I am not a disgruntled employee (current or former). I had an association with the County government about a decade ago; before Griffin or Utz was hired, or Peacor was promoted. That’s why I remember well what happened to Bern Ewert and why I still have friends in the County Government. I have no personal connection with the County Government now. I do, however, know many disgruntled County employees, have heard their stories first-hand, and seen voluminous documentation regarding what’s been going on.

  34. Juturna

    “The HR department is thoroughly corrupt.” I must have missed the disclaimer.

    Raking county employees over the coals is tiresome. County employees have not been added where needed. Technology is almost non existant. Working as a public servant state, federal local one makes (or did) makes the decision that they will work for a lower salary but have better benefits. So while private industry can offer middle management folks bonuses, incentive pay and such governent employees just focused on the benefits. Now that benefits have been destroyed by both private and government actions and the recession government employees with benefits are suddenly better off….

    That said, I’ve worked in both the public sector and the private sector for over 10 years each – it’s certainly easier to fire the slackards in private industry. Again, I didn’t mind those Christmas bonuses but when I took a $20k hit in salary to go government it was because of the benefits and that was in the best interest of my family.

    My negative reaction to attacking specific county employees with sweeping generalities and with clearly second, third hand information was maybe overstated but boy if citizens are permitted to be attacked here that is fundamentally wrong.

  35. Juturna, we try to keep that at a minimum.

    To all,

    I know county policy on ‘talking back’ whether it is on a blog or a letter to the editor. You don’t do it.

    If I had a problem with a county employee, everyone has a boss. If it is someone high enough up, then the boss is the BOCS. That givens the complaintant 2 people to fire off letters to, daily if necessary. Encourage others who have first hand knowledge to do the same. Those kinds of direct complaints to get results. Don’t expect to hear how someone was disciplined. You won’t. It is a matter of confidentiality.

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