Workplace Bullying


One of our employees is complaining that they are being bullied by a senior manager. What do we do or how should I coach the employee to handle the situation?


Unfortunately, there is no law protecting an employee against bullying, UNLESS it turns into a hostile work environment protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, and various other pieces of legislation. This would be the case, for example, if the senior manager is ONLY bullying female employees.

Bullying comes in many different forms – yelling, screaming, or using profanity, to more subtle manipulation or sabotaging of someone’s work. Like harassment, employees are encouraged to address the inappropriateness or uncomfortable feeling created by the behavior with the individual doing the bullying, of course maintaining their own level of professionalism. If that is ineffective and nothing changes, employees need to go to Human Resources.

HR then needs to decide if the culture is one to handle the situation directly with the manager or work with the manager’s boss to address. While this area has little legal support, some experts do recommend investigation of bullying complaints, if nothing else, to support a position of zero tolerance and promoting a positive work environment.

Unfortunately, bullying, even verbal yelling and/or abuse, will result in low morale for the employee and everyone else exposed to the bullying, which ultimately impacts productivity. It can cause stellar employees to leave for a better work environment. And, it could lead to a lawsuit for hostile work environment.

If the manager isn’t willing to change, your organization needs to decide to either take action or allow the situation play out and deal with the consequences.

During this week spotlighting “Freedom from Workplace Bullies”, let your employees know you support efforts to create a bully-free workplace.

Did you know that most employees leave their jobs because of their managers, not their employers? Are you having difficulties in your company that stem from employee-manager related issues? Strategic HR has years of experience in managing employment relations and coaching employees, and managers, on how to resolve conflicts. Visit our Employee Relations page to learn how we can help you resolve some of your toughest ER problems.