Verbal abuse

Horrible Bosses: When your boss is a bully

July 8, 2011: 10:30 AM ET

Sometimes, a bad boss crosses the line into downright abusive behavior. Even in states where bullying isn't illegal, there are ways to protect your sanity.

By Anne Fisher, contributor

FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: A friend of mine sent me your column about five ways to cope with an autocratic boss, but I'm facing a problem with my immediate supervisor that is actually quite a bit worse. Since I started this job about two months ago (it's my first "real" job out of college), my boss has become a nightmare. He constantly snipes at everything I do, makes sarcastic remarks, and about once a week has a totally out-of-control screaming fit where he calls me, and a couple of my coworkers, names I don't even want to repeat.

Another thing I've discovered: After cutting our time short to complete assignments, which he always does at the last minute so there's no way to make up the lost time, he complains to higher-ups -- who all seem to think he walks on water -- about how "lazy" we are. I really want to succeed at this company, but I'm not sure how long I can stand it. Should I talk to the person above him, who seems like a reasonable human being? If not, what can I do? — Ulcer in the Making

Dear U.M.: Your boss sounds like a classic workplace bully, defined as someone who repeatedly inflicts on others "verbal abuse, threatening conduct, intimidation or humiliation" as well as "sabotage that prevents work from getting done" (those suddenly altered deadlines).

That definition comes from the Workplace Bullying Institute, a nonprofit research and training organization. Alas, it's not an unusual problem: About 50% of the U.S. workforce reports either having been bullied by someone at work or having witnessed someone else being mistreated, according to a survey of 4,210 American adults that WBI conducted last year. More

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