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Supervisor yells and belittles employees

Dear Office-Politics,

I have a problem with my supervisor. She often yells at employees, belittles them in front of other employees, talks down to us and is very rude. I allowed her to treat me this way until recently that I spoke up for myself when she yelled at me in front of another employee. I simply told her that she did not need to speak to me like that and not to be rude to me.

So far, I’ve been the only one to stand up for myself and I’ve also taken my complaint to HR. I feel that to have more of an impact that more people would need to complain. What can we do about how she treats us?


franke james

Dear Bullied-No-Longer

I had a strong sense of deja vu reading your letter. When I was fresh out of college, I was hired by a wealthy, society lady who ran a consulting company. On my first day, I observed that she yelled at everyone around her. Except me. All the employees cowered in fear of her. I took one look around, and figured that I was in the honeymoon phase. In a split second, I came to the conclusion that it was just a matter of time before I would be yelled at too. I didn’t have to think twice. I quit that very day. And when I gave her the bad news, she yelled at me and screamed the old chestnut, “You’ll never work in this town again!” Happily, she was very wrong.

The Hot Potato
So let’s get back to your situation. Good for you for standing up to the bully, and for reporting her abusive behavior to HR. I agree with you that more complaints would be more effective. Each new complaint will raise the stakes that HR needs to take action, before it sullies your company’s reputation. Once a complaint is put in writing it becomes a ‘hot potato’ that must be dealt with. If it is ignored it can be dredged up later as an example of mismanagement — providing damaging evidence for a legal action against the company.

You can take pride in the fact that you are setting a great example for your coworkers. Thinking defensively, you should keep careful note of her abusive behavior — and encourage your coworkers to do the same. You have taken a risk by standing up for yourself, but in my view you are doing all the right things. Know that the writing is on the wall for your Boss. If she doesn’t improve her behavior, she will face legal action down the road.

If HR does not take prompt action, you may need to make the tough decision whether to leave. This is never easy, and I don’t know your personal circumstances. But in my mind, life is too short and too precious, to work under an abusive Boss. Save your documentation — in the event that you do leave, you may want to seek advice from a lawyer on what your rights are.

Good luck with this. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Let us know how things work out.


Franke James, MFA
Inventor, The Office-Politics® Game
Editor & Founder of OfficePolitics.com


Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of OfficePolitics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.

Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.

  1. One Answer to “Supervisor yells and belittles employees”

  2. I work for a hospital for 8 years. The administration has changed hands over the past two years and the theme of the company appears to be abuse the employees and make up reules as they go. We have been given extra workload almost knowingly that we can’t complete. The bosses do nto help out and yell at employees. The empoyee moral is very bad and noone cares. What can we do?

    By Colleen Kelly on May 23, 2008

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