November 3rd, 2010

Bullying costs employers good workers

By Marcia Heroux Pounds, South Florida Sun Sentinel, November 3, 2010

After a workplace bullying experience that left him physically sick, Brad Grinde quit his job as a South Florida executive and became a teacher. Grinde, 53, says he spent three years being told by a boss that he was “stupid” and “didn’t know how to manage people.”

“Why did I put up with that? I didn’t know what I was going through,” says Grinde, who was always a top performer and didn’t understand until changing careers that he had been the target of a workplace bully. That’s common says Gary Namie, who operates the Workplace Bullying Institute with his wife, Ruth, once the victim of an office bully. “The person doesn’t know they’re being bullied. They just accept it – ‘it’s just more of the same.’ We rationalize it,” Namie says.

It’s often when the victim becomes ill and goes to the family doctor that the physician tells the victim to leave the job, he says. Physical signs of stress can include nausea, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure and chest pain.

At some companies, bullying “becomes a management strategy,” Namie says. “It’s seen as motivational. Or, the bully is the friend of the executive.” Employees know that “if they dare to raise a fuss, they’ll be retaliated against.”

Stress during the economic recession has only made the office climate more ripe for bullying.

Thirty-five percent of adult Americans say they have experienced bullying in the workplace, first hand according to surveys conducted this year by Zogby International for the Workplace Bullying Institute. The surveys defined workplace bullying as “repeated, health harming abusive conduct committed by bosses and co-workers” and “repeated mistreatment, including sabotage by others, verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation and humilitation.

Of the bullies, 62 percent are male and 38 percent are female, according to the Institute survey. Nearly 60 percent of the bully targets are women.

Namie says people rationalize workplace bullying like they once did domestic violence: “If it was so bad, he should have left.”

He says it’s important that workers who are targets of office bullies don’t suffer in silence. “

Learn to tell people about it and learn to ask for help. But don’t ask for help in an emotional way. Make a fiscal argument: ‘This is so costly. Why tolerate the turnover and the absenteeism?’ ”

If you have to leave, you’ve put the responsibility on your employer, he says. “At least you leave with your mental health intact.”

E. Carol Webster, a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, says her recommendation to someone who is being bullied at work usually is to leave the job. “In certain cultures, it’s entrenched. People are walking around yelling and screaming,” she says.

Workers facing an office bully might try saying, “I don’t appreciate that tone of voice or the way you’re talking to me,” Webster says.

But in today’s volatile office environment, she would advise workers who feel they are targets of bullies to complain directly to human resources or the company’s Employee Assistance Program.

Employees in a bullying environment usually get worn down mentally and physically, she says. “It shuts the employee down, makes them feel paralyzed and fully empowers the bully,” Webster says.

Workers often don’t speak up. “I see a lot of shaming. Professional people feel humiliated they have to go through that and don’t seem to be able to do anything about it,” she says.

One place to start is by filing a complaint, which also is a wise legal move. While there are no laws against bullying, it often falls within other legal action such as harassment or discrimination charges, says Suzanne Bogdan, a partner with the law firm of Fisher & Phillips in Fort Lauderdale.

Employers need to be proactive in counseling and disciplining workplace bullies, she says. Many don’t, because the bullies at the office “are often your top performers.”

But she tells employers, “If they don’t get it — and a lot of people at that level don’t — and if you don’t get rid of them and there’s a claim, you’re going to have a problem.”

A company facing a harassment or discrimination charge might argue that the bully involved “wasn’t mean to women, he was mean to everyone,” she says. But, “in this day and age, a lot of times, judges won’t dismiss those claims.” Employers don’t want these cases to go to a jury, she says, because jurors will likely put themselves in the victim’s shoes and rule for the worker.

When the behavior is repeated and outrageous, there could be a legal claim of “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Bogdan says. An example might be a bully who relentlessly picks on a co-worker with a medical or mental impairment by calling the person ugly names.

Grinde has put his bullying experience behind him and is now a teacher at a local middle school. He can now recognize the early warning signs of bullying, which helps him guide students.


My mistake was staying in the industry when I should have moved on,” he says. Even though his pay was higher as a manager, “it wasn’t worth the psychological stress.”


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  1. Kachina says:

    As a former target of workplace bullying, I can definitely say from experience that there is no incentive that would entice me back to that kind of environment. You have absolutely everything to lose there. Once you recognize where you are, the only survival strategy is an exit strategy. Make a lot of noise on the way down and out.

    • elisabeth tucker says:

      I totally agree. the sad thing is, that the bullies are still there, and most companies see you as a chronic complainer when you report it and tell you to just deal with it.

      • Nicole says:

        I know, that is “SAD” because, there was someone that made a comment that I was imagining what happend to me at my old job. I have doctors letters stateing that my stress was from going threw a divorce and work related. I have been suffering finacialy and now still trying to get my life back, which I can’t like I used to have. I am working a on call job and not garanteed hours and I am a single mom at that.

  2. Suzie says:

    In most cases, going to human resources would probably be a logical step. However, in my situation, my former principal rose to BE the Human Resources Supt. and continued his harrassment with greater powers. After over 30 yrs. of teaching, and a year of night terrors, involuntary tears that caused me to turn away from my students, out of control diabetes with dangerously low day/night blood sugar counts, panic attacks, and therapy during it all…..I had to leave teaching last year. I’m waiting to recovery emotionally before I sue and in the meantime am trying to find a job in this economy. Life really sucks right now.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      In transportation of goods, damaged goods are the responsibility of the transporter, but damaged people are not the responsibility of the employer.

      Let’s assume that certain illnesses and the employability of ex-employees are the responsibility of the employer. The employer can always go to court and prove that he is not responsible.

      The employee came to the employer healthy and employable. He should leave in the same condition. If he doesn’t, the employer should be deemed responsible unless he can prove he isn’t.

    • Gaby says:

      Suzie you should be proud of yourself by getting out of that situation. Stay positive and good things will come your way!!

  3. Mike says:

    I love how it says “nearly 60% of bully targets are women” to paint a picture of men bullying women. So.. NEARLY 60 means somewhere in the 50’s… which is roughly half. Plus I think a woman is more likely to notice being bullied and report it… so can we just call it proportionally appropriate? Seriously, why put the spin on it?

  4. DDM says:

    I have been and continue to be bullied in my present job. My boss considers his managerial style as “Mainstream Private Sector” Where leading by intimidation is a valid means of leadership, where it is not uncommon to this person saying that he would promote people so that he can fire them should anyone stand up his abusive behavior. It has got so bad for me that my Doctor has asked me to find a new job, but as the article says, these are hard times and jobs where I can earn enough just to keep a roof over my family’s head are scarce. Therefore, I have had to take medication just to function and keep the daily anxiety at bay. Needless to say, my overall quality of life has suffered and my family offering to give up all sorts of things just so that I would leave my job and search for a job that is not so caustic to my physical and emotional health.

  5. Yvonne says:

    Bullying at work is a lifetime behavior similar to domestic violence, sexual harrassment, and rape. Bullying is a form of psychological and emotional rape because of its intrusive and violational nature.

    I was bullied while working at a law firm by attorneys and staff. The same folk who helped politicians and lobbyists enact laws in my state. Thus, in essence, my state government bullied me, too.

    I was physically and inappropriatly touched, bruised, constant brunt of profanity, vehicle damaged, threats to cause harm against myself, pets, and private property. I reported not once, not twice, not thrice, yet exactly four occassions and was either told that “some people are more colorful than others” or a shoulder shrug.

    Going to HR made the situation for myself and gave the bullies license to escalate their tactics. I prayed and held on and when they let me go, I walked out with only a shrug and not a word.

  6. Katie Arnold says:

    I have been employee for 15 years with my employer. I walked into a very toxic work-place environment with the bullying turning towards myself after inviting co-worker to my home. I didn’t know how to handle emotions and bringing them home to my family. My then husband did not know how to support me through that difficult time, I was divorced within five years, which was very devastating to go through. Once I discovered that I was truley a target which was last week it was immediately brought to attention of my manager (who I admire) but she is too new to the management team to have voice. The bully is another manager. I have taken off three days to deal with my anxiety and to try to overcome some of the stress. I must return to work on Monday, due to finances. I am showing up late every day, but I am under doctors care for health reasons. Just today I was diagoned with severe work depression. I have confronted my bully in a joking manner by telling her that I was immitating her while talking with a co-worker by interrupting their conversation. The bullying has been turned up full force with the aide of other staff members. While the top manager supporting her. I am member of union, my rep seems to want to help, but only time will tell. I am prepared to report to HR if I continue to see behavior upon my return to work. Reading others stories encourages me to write mine. I live a quiet life, but I have been blessed with a life that is causing others to be jealous and hateful. I am not equipped with education that my bully and half the others in my department have. Only wish I did, my divorce granted me the family home, that I feel stuck in, because of bubble market. I am cashing in stock on yearly basis (part of settement from ex) to maintain what was only suppose to be until the time my daughters graduated. What people see isnt’ always what is gold. I’ve been passed up for promotions, projects, and often feel confused and worthless. I am constantly praying for a voice to speak up. I hate that another life change may be right around the corner.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      Sometimes success goes to a manager’s head. He forgets that he puts his pants on the same way as everyone else and he loves his own “brilliant” ideas and hates his employees’ “stupid” ideas.

      He can be degrading and pompous.

      Unfortunately, if you exposing him, he will start a war. The best solution is to find a different job in the company and apply for it.

      Go to HR about the new job everyday. When they ask why you are so persistant, tell them that your doctor told you to make a change.

      Do not say anything more just be persistent.

      Either they will find you a new job or make an investigation without your involvement.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I am currently the target of 2 workplace bullies… and have been for some time now. Unfortunately, they are two of the four owners of my company.
    I have been screamed at, ripped apart over things that have nothing to with work. One of the latest was in reference to my respectfully questioning a corporate jelly bean game and its’ fairness. I ended up with an owner’s finger in my face screaming that it was ‘bullsh*t’ and if I didn’t like it I could find another job.
    I am a reliable, knowledgable employee.
    There are never any complaints about my quality or quantity of work. I am a licensed insurance agent and am the agency’s claims administrator. At any one time I have 800-1000 active claims and lawsuits that I’m working with. The stress level is high to begin with, but when an owner reduces me to tears for an entire day so I have to keep my office door closed so as to not upset the agency applecart, I’m being bullied.
    It must be something in my personality as I have been bullied by bosses before as well as all through school.
    There is no one higher up that I can go to. The owner’s are my bosses and there is no one between them and me. All four owners present a united front to employees. I find myself wishing they would fire me or lay me off. However, they are probably smart enough not to out of fear of a harassment suit – even though I wouldn’t do that.
    I plan to stand up to them when it happens again. My partner and I have discussed this and if it gets me fired, there’s always unemployment and the opportunity to pursue a new career that would love.

    • Jay Jacobus says:


      Can you talk to the other two owners? They may let you work off site and report through them. That would put you out of contact with the bullies.

      Another approach is to suggest that you set up your own business and work as a subcontractor.

      Your work load seems enormous and impressive. Are you sure that you have to stay where you are? Other insurance agencies might be happy to have you. Also the Insurance companies that you work with could be another source of jobs.

      Good luck.

    • Dana says:

      Jennifer, if they are CONSTANTLY bullying you like this, I don’t understand why you don’t raise a lawsuit against them. You don’t necessarily have to get fired or laid off to do so as you are being harassed by your employers. Take a look at Title VII – you have every right to fight back. Bring up your Civil Rights and stand up to those assholes. They shouldn’t be able to continue bullying you just because they think you won’t do anything about it – prove them wrong!

      • Dr. Gary Namie says:

        Lawsuits are rarely the answer. In only 1 in 5 bullying situations is the conduct even close to meeting the discrimination laws criteria. Then, when someone does file a lawsuit and it gets to trial (a small percentage of those filed), the win rate for Civil Rights cases is only 15%. And lawsuits are expensive and emotionally re-traumatizing. It’s easy to say and very difficult to do. Listen to the advice from a successful plaintiff (who won $875,000) in our audio section. From the front page, search for So You Want to Sue.

  8. Emilia says:

    I ran across this article when I was online searching for a new job. I have known for some time that I have been targeted. About 99% of who gets targeted is me. My bully is someone who is younger than my oldest child. Even as I am being picked on I still try to help him. It is in my nature to go on. I quit when I want and do not let anyone force me too. I know the economy is in the hole and it is not easy to find something else and the next job could be just the same or it will get that way as the newness wears off. I try to hang on to wait for the bully to leave as I feel I can be a better person for my fellow co-workers that are rooting for me. But, I have been threatened with that I could be held back because of “attitude” as that is all they have on me. I care about my job and the people I work with and I have even been told by HR that I care about my job to much. My health has been affected more than any other job I worked at. About a month ago I had a scare and thought I was having a heart attack. This came on just a couple days after being chewed out by my boss. I did not tell anyone except my mother. Even though I have been chewed out again for something that was not my doing, the previous symptoms did not come back. I really feel for the people that I have read about and I hope all of you find some hope or help in what you are going thru. I know this website should be posted at every workplace, if enough people knew about it and knew there was some form of help I believe this abuse could eventually stop and work would actually get done. As the veteran over acheiver I would no longer be in the middle of everyones petty fights and get back to what I love doing the most. Hang in there and keep your chin up.

  9. Juanita says:

    It started about two years ago, I was called into my boss office, because of several complaints that were made. I was wrongly accused of things that were untrue. I was shocked and felt like resigning right then and there. I explained to my boss that I have worked many years with the company and I have proven myself to be a good employee and I felt my credibility and my job was being put on the line. She would not tell me of whom the complaint came from, but that it was her job to act on the it. I realized that the nature complaints was more of personal matter rather then a work related issue and had nothing to do with my work performance or would it have affected the operation of the business. Let me explain, aside from my job on my days off, I do voluntary work for a non profit organization helping disadvantage individuals (homeless and persons with disabilities). I have done this for over 17 years and became a member of the board 5 years ago. I am well respected in the community for my involvement with my voluntary work. This was known as I included on my application 15 years ago. I started thinking that maybe it was my boss was the making the complaint. Maybe she is trying to weave me out of the company or maybe she had someone in mind to take over my job. Because she mentioned that the complaint came from a coworker, I started feeling a bit insecure around all my coworkers; maybe one of them did not like me. Because of that I cannot talk or trust anyone including my boss. A coworker mentioned to me that supervisors’ were given notepads and told to monitor me. I do not want to accuse or assume that it could be any one coworker, because I get along well with everyone. This situation has cause me a lot of stress and I now take medications for high blood pressure. I recently had major surgery was out of work for over 6 weeks. I work for a medical organization and you would think that my employer would be understanding about my health. I did not get even get flowers or even a get well card from my work. Two coworkers sent me a balloons to cheer me up. I do not want any future confrontation with my boss. I have decided and it has been obvious that I have tp distance myself from my coworkers, forget about “Teamwork”. That complaint was meant to place blame on something that I have no control of because of it’s of personal nature. I cannot afford to quit working or find another job as I have a child away in college and my job pays well with has excellent benefits. I feel paranoid and have anxiety attacks. I do like my job but I start feeling ill when I think about going to work. It is starting to take a toll on my mind and soul. I feel that my boss did not handle this situation well because her approach has only made me have an ill and negative feeling. Since these accusations,I no longer attend company gatherings or any of my coworker’s parties. I keep to myself, eat lunch by myself away from the office (in my car). Why would someone try to jeopardize my job? What am I suppose to do if someone I work with just does not like me? Does my boss expect me to step down from my position to satisfy the disgruntled coworker? I inquired on a visit to H.R. about other advancement opportunities and it was brought to her attention on my evaluation. My boss mentioned to me that there are no available opportunities at this time. I informed her that I was interested in advancement opportunities if any should become available and left it at that. I felt that the evaluation was very positive, but was changed two weeks later to reflect the complaint, therefore I did not get a raise. I Again I felt victimized and humiliated. I have worked for this company for almost 15 years. I have started preparing resumes, but in the meantime I go to work,”to work and that’s it”. What have I learned from this is never talk about yourself or family to coworkers or bosses. The less they know about your personal life the better.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      It is not clear whether your boss is your accuser or your prosecutor. Either role is inappropriate.

      It seems to me that you need an advocate who will take your position.

      Normally your advocate will be your boss but in this case that is not true. Your advocate can find out how serious the charges are and how the company will react in the future.

      Now, you are left in limbo without any indication of what you should do.

      If there is a person senior to you that you can go to for advice and help, you should do that.

  10. Marilyn says:

    I am broken,. I am scared. I have low self worth. I am mad. August the 11th 2010 I was happy but sick. I had suffered a form of mild stroke on June the 24th 2010 from stress of the job and the Corporate bullying. I was fired on August the 12th 2010 and lost my insurance. I was a workaholic, and would not give up under any circumstances to keep my job, so I became more sick. I have gone without a job before, and it is no fun. The worst part is the way the company treated me. I privately spoken in person the owner of the company and asked for a short medical leave to get well, and he agreed to it. He told me he did not want to loose me that I was a great employee and he would make sure I had the time off with insurance. He instructed me to call HR to fill out the proper forms, and when I spoke to the Rep. she told me I was going to be greatly missed. I responded by saying I did not understand. She then asked me to wait for another phone call to make sure everyone was on the same page. At 4:00 8/12/2010 my Regional Manger walked into my office and the phone rang. I was connected to the COO, the Head of HR by conference call and my Regional Mgr was present. The COO preceded to say that the company could not afford to put theirs employees on medical leave and therefore I was terminated. I asked to speak with the owner and was told no.
    I went on to file for unemployment which took two months, but the story to my story is I was grossly abused by this company, and I am now nowhere. I am LOST.
    They never had an issue with my performance as a Manager , and I was never given a verbal or written notice of dissatisfaction.
    I can’t begin to tell you the pain I am in for the way this ended. I tried to go to an interview but broke down the night before, with such anxiety that I was paralyzed. I don’t know how to become whole again and to work in a field that I have loved so much for the past 30 years.
    Can someone tell me I am a valuable person?

  11. Pigbitin Mad says:

    One thing you can do is to report the bullying behavior on sites like Glass Door. Create a fake Gmail name and account and go to town. As long as what you say is true I doubt you are breaking the law. It’s the only way to get back at these companies. (And you can boycott their products too). You can also report age discrimination and other things there. Even if I have a particularly crazy or bullshit interview where they ask questions like “What Animal Are You.” I report it there.

    • Jay Jacobus says:

      A person cannot fight injustice without some power behind them. There is no power in the anti-bullying movement. There is power in the courts but they are not on our side. There is power in the press but you need to get noticed. There is power in the legislature and the executive branch, but they have not yet been convinced. There is power in large work groups, but I don’t know of any. There is very little power on the internet.

      • Pigbitin Mad says:

        I’m not so sure about that. Corporate America seems plenty damn worried if they are looking at people’s Facebook accounts. I don’t use my real name for anything on the internet. Of course if the bullying is bad I might wait until I am gone for a few months to let it fly. But my personal feeling is i don’t care if I have to wait 20 years. If people know that the place in question is a horrible place to work, they are going to have a recruitment problem. And people will not want to buy from them either. Only thing is, it is has to be relentless and posted everywhere.

  12. Jay Jacobus says:

    All anti-bullying efforts are under the radar except for a few well published suicides.

    The internet gives people a chance to vent but does not deter any bully.

    The bully’s motivation is control so that he can get what he wants without any costs. Is the bully’s deterent embarassment on the internet?

    The threat of jail time would be more effective.

    • LB says:

      It’s interesting that there aren’t many pro-bullying websites…and why would there be?

      Bullies have a dirty little secret and they aren’t about to share it.

      Early on in my bullying experience, I made a formal complaint, and the response was,
      “You are being too sensitive, they are just blowing off steam”

      Until bullies are legally punished for their crimes, bullying will continue unabated.

      Sociopaths take advantage of every opportunity that benefits them, once the opportunity disappears, they use something else, that is their existence, consumption.

      I often wonder if bullies recognize each other?

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