my boss yells and is abusive

A reader writes:

My boss is brilliant at most parts of her job. She’s climbed the ladder in a very male-dominated industry and is a strategic thinker. However, I’ve been in my job for a year and a half, and her aggressive attitude is taking a toll on me.

Often she shouts at me (and I do mean shouts) in earshot of other people. Most recently she shouted at me for not sharing something on my personal LinkedIn. I had been busy that day and hadn’t wanted to share the event, to be honest.

When I have any issues at work, she is not a helpful mentor. For instance, I needed something from a coworker who was ignoring my pleas, in person, by email, and on the phone. I’d hoped that if I spoke to my boss, she could help me deal with it, but instead she barked out an email to me and ordered me to send it to the person. She literally hollered in my ear, “DO IT, SEND IT NOW AND CC ME IN,” while she watched me type it out her dictation of vile, aggressive language.

I’ve had to apologize to many people, including the managing director, for sending emails that I didn’t actually write because they were dictated by my boss.

I struggle to stand up for myself with her. On the few occasions I have, she has either shouted back to me and asked me if I am “not up to the stress” of my job or been extra aggressive back and ignored me for several days.

I never know what side of her I am going to see and sometimes it’s multiple sides in one day. There are times when she’ll shout at me for something that wasn’t done exactly how she wanted it, and then she’ll bring me a cupcake after lunch. It’s exhausting.

I have gone to HR and spoken to her manager, but they have told me to file a formal grievance, which I am just not able to do. We are a team of two, and practically speaking, if I file a grievance, I will have to leave.

My commute is great. My salary is good. I am a mother and I don’t have to work late often. Everyone else at work is so nice and I get on well with them. I don’t want to be the new person anywhere again, but I am in desperate need of guidance on how to deal with her. People often call her a bully behind her back and ask me how I cope, but I am concerned I am at the stage of not coping.

My husband says I have to see out another year so that I don’t look like a job hopper. I don’t want to leave but I am nearing the point where I don’t know what else to do.

There are other jobs, and you should give yourself permission to go out and find one of them.

A great commute, reasonable hours, and nice co-workers are lovely things, but they don’t make up for being routinely shouted at by your boss. Or at least, they don’t make up for it to most people. There are some people who have thick enough skins that they can work in that kind of environment, but they are decidedly in the minority, and there’s nothing wrong with you for not tolerating it well. Most people don’t do well being yelled at day after day. It’s very, very normal that you’re having trouble coping with this, because it’s not acceptable.

Yelling is abusive. Having power over you doesn’t give your boss standing to yell at you. In fact, her power over you makes this kind of abusive treatment even worse, because she’s taking advantage of the fact that your options to push back are limited.

Making this even more troubling, your boss’s own manager and HR know about the situation and aren’t intervening. They have the power to step in and insist she stop this, and they don’t need you to jump through bureaucratic hoops (“file a formal grievance”) before they’re able to do that. That means that the best avenue you had for addressing this — alerting someone over her head about what’s going on — has been cut off, because you’ve tried and they’ve essentially thrown up their hands.

If that’s not reason enough for you to leave (and it should be!), there’s also the fact that this job is surely doing you no professional favors. Working around this kind of hostility makes most people worse at their jobs — because they become fearful, which inhibits initiative, creativity, focus, and other things that help people do well at work. It also sounds unlikely that you’re getting the kind of feedback and mentoring that would help you develop professionally, or that your boss is championing your work and helping to build your reputation. So not only are you getting yelled at on the reg, but you’re also being thwarted, or perhaps outright harmed, professionally.

Your husband is right that in general it’s smart to put in at least a few years at a job so that you don’t look like a job-hopper — but that assumes that the situation is tolerable and you aren’t being abused. Plus, you’ve already been there a year-and-a-half, and it’s very likely that if you start job searching now, you’ll have been there closer to two years by the time you have an offer and are able to leave. That’s a reasonable amount of time to put in. (That said, I want to be clear that even if you’d only been there a few months, I’d still be telling you to leave. Having one short-term stay on your résumé isn’t a disaster; it’s a pattern of short-term stays that would be an issue. And sure, if you already have a spotty work history, that would change the calculations a bit — but not enough to stay in an abusive situation.)

So please, start actively working on leaving. This is not a situation that you can salvage, and you’re not a failure for not finding a way to make it work.

Meanwhile, for as long as you’re stuck there, keep in mind that this isn’t about you. It’s about your boss. People who know how to manage effectively don’t yell at employees, so she’s a dreadful manager — not to mention an unkind person. Don’t let her get into your head if you can help it — and definitely don’t let her stay in your head once you move on. You deserve to leave her behind for good.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Oh LW, my heart is breaking for you. As someone who despises change and put up with a toxic work environment for far too long, I urge you to take Alison’s advice and get out of there. Being the new person can suck, yes, but trust me when I say that your quality of life will vastly increase when you aren’t dealing with that level of abuse on a daily basis.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Yes, please! I dealt with two toxic jobs (toxic in different ways!) that really held back my progress in my career.

      Get out!

    2. Specialk9*

      Co-signed! That’s awful, OP, and you need to flee like it’s the burning pile of garbage and poop that it is.

    3. Jersey's mom*

      Yes. LW, your job sounds great, beyween the pay, the commute, the coworkers…. except your boss is shooting an arrow full of bees into your heart every day. You know this is not a situation that is sustainable. You’ve tried going to others for assistance and they’re not going to do anything.

      It’s OK now to accept that you can’t fix this and it’s time to move on. You’re not a job hopper, as Alison and many others have pointed out.

      In fact, look at it this way – you now have a lot more great professional things to list on your resume. And Aliso has given great advice in the past as to answering why you’re looking for a new job.

      Good luck, I’m sure you’ll find something better by the end if the year, and hopefully sooner!

    1. Washi*

      I felt stressed just reading this. I can’t imagine how OP copes with this every day!

  2. Oxford Comma*

    Leave. Leave now. The situation will not improve.

    So sorry you’re having to deal with this.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      It’s a good time to be looking for a job. Find a job that you like, and don’t look back.

    2. Two Time College Dropout*

      Speaking as a former hiring manager: Once someone’s been working a while, they’ll almost definitely have a short-lived job and/or some time missing on their resume. I noticed them, but I didn’t really carea about them. Life happens– People move for a spouse’s job and don’t find another right away, or they get sick/injured and can’t work for a while (or have to take care of someone who is ailing can’t take care of themselves), or they leave a job without another lined up because the job is so horrible that it’s slowly killing them, or any other number of valid reasons.

      Some people act like having a GAP ON YOUR RESUME or being a JOB HOPPER OMFG is career poison, and even though it CAN be a yellow flag for certain candidates in certain situations, it’s not the end of the world if you have a short-term job or a gap on your resume. Truly.

      1. Jean Lamb*

        And to be all sexist about it, women can often get away more with modest gaps in their job history–I live in a old-fashioned small town, and I had a *huge* gap, which I was able to explain as ‘special needs child, now lives independently’ (and later they met my son, and had no trouble understand what was going on). Plus, in today’s job market, almost nobody has clear run these days (ok, my husband had 30 years, but teachers are Like That). After 2008, very few expect perfection in job history.

  3. Mrs_Helm*

    Dear LW,
    Life is too short for this sh*t. And every day this person stresses you out is making it shorter. Get out, before it starts bleeding into other areas of your life.

  4. Been There*

    I had a similar boss at a position, at a time when I did not feel economically able to leave. But leave I did, after 4 months. That was over ten years ago, and my short duration there has never been a problem for me. Sometimes people have asked about it interviews, I’ve always said something like, “Normally I would never speak poorly of a former employer, but my supervisor would literally scream at me all day, and I was not comfortable working in that environment.” No one has ever been anything but empathetic, even in corporate law.

    1. Antilles*

      Frankly, 10 years later, I’m surprised you’re even listing it at all. Your resume is essentially a marketing document, not a blow-by-blow account of everything you’ve ever done; unless that four-month stay serves a critical purpose in establishing Skill X (unlikely if you were only there 4 months), I’d probably think you’re just fine leaving it off.
      *Obviously, assuming your industry isn’t one like finance or security where you’re required to submit to a Formal and Complete background check listing every job you’ve ever worked at.

      1. Been There*

        No, it’s not still on my resume, which is part of why it’s no longer a problem.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        I worked at Lemonade for 3 months. It wasn’t a good fit – right company, totally wrong team. So I jumped to IcedTea to work on their ArnoldPalmer project – a joint project with a different Lemonade team that I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t had that 3 month job. (IcedTea originally thought they could’ve made ArnoldPalmers without any Lemonade input at all. Silly, right?)

        20 years later, I’m back at Lemonade. Those 3 months always need explaining, but in the long run they actually helped.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This is my favorite faux job that I’ve ever seen used on this site.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Almost as good as the writer who adapted to llama training after a long career in nerf-herding!

    2. HB*

      I had a short 1-year stint in a terrible office that really messed with my mental health and confidence in myself. It took a few years to bounce back (although the next position I took was absolutely amazing). Literally no one has ever asked me about it in an interview, and I have gone on quite a few since then. Are some places possibly screening me out because of it? Maybe, but I’ll never know! I have never had to discuss or justify it at all – and I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would talk about it and navigate this issue. I think moving around in jobs is a lot more common these days!

  5. Cordoba*

    She’s unlikely to change, so it’s reasonable to see her terrible behavior as more of a force of nature than a product of human agency. That is, something you have to deal with but not something worth getting upset or hurt over.

    I recommend looking for another job starting right now, and at the same time responding to her bellowing with as close as you can manage to bored disinterest.

    After 18 months plus however long it takes you to actually move to a new position I wouldn’t be concerned about “job hopping” – especially if you have a track record of longer stays elsewhere.

    You don’t have to “stand up” to her directly if you don’t want to, a bland stare and noncommital responses will probably get the message of “I”m not afraid of you” across in a way that she won’t have anything specific to complain about.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree with this and with Manchmal’s comment, below. This is completely untenable, absolutely not ok, and OP should not have to put up with it. The job-hopping thing is completely irrelevant; this kind of abuse is never ok, regardless of the context. My heart goes out to OP.

      Since the higher ups have abdicated their responsibilities, I agree that there are three primary strategies while OP job searches (because, OP, you have to leave this job ASAP): (1) detaching and making heavy use of blank stares, (2) blandly addressing the behavior as the “rational person” in the conversation, and (3) ignoring directives that are abusive or undermine OP’s relationship with others.

      When I’m in crazy situations like this, I like to pretend that there’s an egg-shaped forcefield around me, and I imagine all the abusive craziness to be akin to an orangutan flinging its poop at people. OP, imagine all that poop (abuse) hitting the forcefield and sliding off, instead of it hitting you directly. The more you can detach from and play the role of anthropologist watching a grown adult throwing a noxious temper tantrum like a two-year-old, the easier it will be to withstand her behavior while you job search. When she’s yelling, you can even ask (if you dare), “Are you done?” or any other calm/bemused phrasing you would use when talking to a child throwing a tantrum.

      And refuse to send the emails she dictates from your account or to participate in her vile behavior. When she tries to dictate an email, give her a blank look and then say, “Yeah, I’m not going to send an email like that.” Lather, rinse, repeat for all scenarios in which she tries to conscript you into doing her dirty work. She may double up on her abuse, but remember, poop-throwing orangutan, and you have a forcefield.

      1. tangerineRose*

        When she dictates an e-mail, another option might be to start the e-mail with ” asked me to tell you” and then continue with her words in quotes.

        1. Sam.*

          I would likely do some variation of this. But if OP isn’t comfortable doing so, it sounds like the boss’s behavior is common knowledge, so I think she can take some comfort in realizing that most people in the office know exactly who that message is from, regardless of the email address that sent it.

      2. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

        I did the “are you done” thing and it totally worked. I took an internal promotion where I was cautioned by the hiring manager that the guy I’d be working with in tandem was a yeller, screamer, tantrum thrower. Could I handle that, I was asked.
        He wanted me to know what I was getting into.

        First time this asshat had his hissy fit, ( he didn’t like the financials I was presenting on his brand) , he yelled, cursed and turned purple. I crossed my arms, listened quietly, and when he sputtered out I said “are you done now? Shall I continue? “
        He never did it to me again.

        I realize this may not work on everyone but it makes most yellers realize that he/ she sounds like a 4 yr old.

    2. Sarah M*

      Seconded on the bland stare and neutral responses, OP. I’ve had your boss before, and the *one thing* that works is Grey Rocking it. (And +1,000 to job searching pronto!!) Best of luck to you.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        I’ve been surprised how quickly a calm “you’re yelling” will take the wind out somebody’s sails.

  6. Manchmal*

    Good lord. It sounds like the job is untenable because your boss’ behavior is untenable. Could getting fired actually be a good thing? (I mean, in terms of collecting unemployment, etc?) If so, I would start pushing back and I would file that grievance. She says, “I told you to post Event on your LinkedIn!”, you say, “That’s my personal LI page, and I’ve decided not to.” She says, “Write this profanity-laden email from your account!”, you say, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to write that kind of language in my own email. I can type it up for you to send from your account, though.” She says, “**yelling**”, you say, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to interact with you when you’re yelling like that. Let’s reconvene when you’ve calmed down.” This may very well get you fired, but then: unemployment. Also, having that grievance filed (and updated, as it unfolds) might go a long way toward a nice severance. And when people ask you why you left your previous job, you can tell them some of the choicer bits honestly.

    Best just to get a new job, though. Good commutes and good hours exist in other places!

    1. anonymous for this one post*


      I had a boss once that was a screamer. Could not afford to leave. Not proud of this but I screamed back. I stayed at that job till I got a better one, and meanwhile he learned to not scream at me.

      1. Nico M*

        Hey, why not be proud? Screaming BACK can be unwise but it isn’t a sin. And it worked.

      2. Amber Rose*

        As long as you’re not still screaming at people, I think that was really brave of you to fight back.

    2. Kobayashi Maru*

      Yes, this! Also, document (with date, time and duration) every incident and keep an independent copy of it. If you have a friend at work, perhaps you can speak to them about it and get them to document anything they see. Maybe they could even record an incident with their cell phone… Even if you stay, you may also want to consult RIGHT NOW with an attorney who specializes in employment law.

      1. TardyTardis*

        And keep a copy of this file *at home*. Many strange things happen to work computers.

      2. Mike*

        Once you have that other job lined up you can file the official grievance make sure all her actions are on record at the company so that when they hire your replacement they bear the responsibility of her actions more.

      3. Former HR Lady*

        THIS. So much this. I had a similar boss four or five years ago, at a teapot handle company. Let’s call her Miranda. I was working in HR at the time, and Rule #1 of HR is “Document, document, document.” Miranda never sent profanity-laden emails–or asked me to–but she did yell and was verbally abusive. She also expected me to work 60 hours a week, with no overtime pay, and to be available by phone and email 24/7 even though I wasn’t a manager and never would be. When I requested a disability accommodation for a chronic illness I have, Miranda brushed me off saying she “didn’t have time to babysit employees.” One of my doctors advised me that my work situation there was “unsustainable and bad for my health.”

        I documented everything that doctor asked me to: everything from work hours to incidents of verbal abuse to crying spells and panic attacks brought on by said incidents of verbal abuse. It got to the point where I was having three or four panic attacks a week, and crying before, after, and eventually during work.

        After the worst incident–in which I was blamed for someone else not doing their job, and guilt-tripped for wanting to take a previously-promised-and-planned holiday off, even though I’d worked the previous eight days with NO day off–I documented it all in an email to that doctor. He replied: 1) that I should quit immediately; 2) that my work environment would be unhealthy for anyone; and 3) that he would write me a letter to give to the state unemployment office saying the work environment was detrimental to my health.

        All that documentation I’d been keeping at my doctor’s request, for almost a year, came in handy when I applied for unemployment. Despite my ex-boss’s best efforts to deny everything and lie her way out of the situation, my claim was approved, even though I quit. Without another job lined up, and without notice. (And you know a work environment is bad when the HR lady does that!)

    3. AKchic*

      All of this.

      And document everything every day that happens. Keep it in a notebook, and email it to your personal account that cannot be accessed by your boss.
      Don’t worry about whether people can see you using that notebook. Let them see you documenting the treatment and abuses. Let HR see it for sure. Let them see that you are documenting their reactions and inactions to the complaints you’ve made to them. They are supposed to protect the company, but they aren’t. They are being inactive because its easier for them.

      Start job searching. You can do this.

      1. A Username*

        One caveat about the notebook: A truly toxic person will have zero hesitation using a master key to go in your office and root through your desk and workbag to find and steal the notebook, or use whatever IT tools they have available to go through your computer, email, browsing history, etc., to destroy the document.

        Make sure, whatever you use and wherever you keep it, no one has access to it.

    4. Decima Dewey*

      What damage are the emails she’s dictating to you doing to your professional reputation? People within the company may know that Yelling Boss is dictating it, but it’s going out under your name.

      Get out as soon as you can. Your husband is wrong about your having to wait.

  7. IGuessImTheCrazyCat_DogLady*

    Leave – leave as soon as possible. Trust me, I waited too long to leave my former employer who was very similar. My health suffered for it and I’m still paying for it health-wise after 4 years in a better situation. Read through some of Alison’s previous advice and you will find logical things to answer why you left the position. The amount of stress you are going through is unreal and even though you think you’re handling it your body isn’t.

    Leave before your family, your doctor and friends tell you to leave because the job is physically killing you. I am still fighting anxiety, symptoms similar to IBS and other issues that all started after 3 months in the old position. At the time, I was a single mom and afraid of being without a paycheck. Just start looking and making contacts and you will find something.

      1. EnglishBadger*

        Yes. So much yes. I also worked in a place where my boss was a screamer (also a door slammer and someone who would occasionally throw things). I developed such bad stress in my back that I had to go to a chiropractor to help me be able to lift my left arm (which had completely locked up). I also developed TMJ, which still flares up now and again. It took me a while to leave because I needed the job (I was in grad school and my loans were dependent on my full-time employment). On the flip side, it was a tremendous motivator to do well in school and get through the program as quickly as I could so I could leave that job.

        Hang in there —- but please, start looking for something else. Life is too short, and all of this stress will, believe me, bleed into your life. And it’s so not worth it for this person who is absolute monster.

  8. ExcelJedi*

    I always wondered what happened to Miss Trunchbull after she lost her teaching job….

  9. Antilles*

    I think the person who is *really* failing here is the boss’ manager. File a formal grievance? That’s just an excuse to avoid dealing with the situation.
    Because even if your office is super-bureaucratic and requires extensive documentation for firing (public sector?), it almost certainly doesn’t require documentation to at least attempt a polite “Jane, can you please step into my office for a quick chat? Here’s how you’re being a jerk and I expect you to stop” conversation. Maybe you can’t take it into any formal discipline without a written paper trail, but the fact that he’s hiding behind “file a grievance” rather than even *attempting* an informal mediation/chat is ridiculous.

    1. Anonymosity*

      Yeah. The boss sucks and so does her manager. This company is a tire fire. Run like the wind, OP.

      1. WellRed*

        Sucky boss and ineffective HR. File the grievance and prepare to move on, hopefully with severance.

      2. Julia*

        I agree. Plus, it seems like some co-workers are problematic as well, so this company is not a winner in any department. I think (and hope) that OP can find something better – or at least not worse.

    2. Bea*

      Seriously!! The first step is “bring to HRs attention” then HR frigging starts talking to people about not being screaming dbags. Then you wait. Then if there’s more, you escalate. GOING TO HR IS A FORMAL COMPLAINT. WTF.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        If ever there were an example of a workplace that is a house of evil bees, this is certainly on the list.

      2. Kobayashi Maru*

        It is odd that HR responded that way. I wonder if she can request that HR send her this direction in writing. I wouldn’t be surprised if she received push-back from them about doing that. Just thinking out loud, but she might want to send HR and the other boss an email that documents what they told her. Something like: Just to clarify, as per our conversation ____ has stated that if I do not file a formal grievance then teapot company will not take any steps to address this situation?

    3. Ama*

      Yes, somehow I suspect any formal grievance is just going to lead to an “investigation” that ends up at best giving OP’s boss a slap on the wrist. Everyone in the office knows what this woman is like and if someone was going to tell her to cool it they would have done it long before now.

      1. LQ*

        Seems like I was the only person who thought, HR was saying, “All we need is one more formal grievance from the person this is most directed at and we can finally do it.” (Not saying they, or more really the boss, shouldn’t be able to do something without it, but inaction .)

        1. Robyn*

          that is also how I took it. HR silently hoping she would file something official and start getting stuff documented on her record.

  10. SaffyTaffy*

    Look for a place with a great commute and a similar salary, and present yourself as a sane, savvy professional.
    This is not normal. You don’t deserve it.

  11. A Username*


    I’ve been in several environments like this, and I’ve honestly gotten to the point a few times where I just snapped and gave notice, then felt like an awful person for not being able to “take it” like everyone else. Obviously, something is wrong with me if I can’t work well in that environment, even if everyone else can, right?

    Leave now before it ruins you.

    1. Jan*

      This comment strikes a chord with me, and I wanted to say something. It sounds like you know this anyway, but what if it was a personal relationship or a marriage etc where you were being abused every day? Similarly in the workplace, there is no right or wrong way to cope, but the difference if that was a SO treating you like that, nobody would expect you to “just take it or you’re weak.” In fact, walking away from the abuse would be/is a sign of incredibly impressive strength because you’re showing the presence of mind to understand, “This isn’t right!” An employer is no different. You shouldn’t have to take it, and I’m glad you did walk out. I’ve done the same myself and would again. Fair play to you for not taking that shit.

      1. Mayati*

        Unfortunately, “just take it or you’re weak” is also a Thing that gets imposed on domestic abuse victims, and something a lot of people expect of themselves in those situations. It’s especially likely to come up when the abuser is female and the target is male, when the abuse is “only” emotional, or when the abuser is the sensitive cry-bully type. It’s equally fallacious in those cases. But it sounds like YOU know this anyway too :)

  12. Snark*

    My commute is great. My salary is good. I am a mother and I don’t have to work late often. Everyone else at work is so nice and I get on well with them. I don’t want to be the new person anywhere again,

    You can find another job where the commute is great, the salary is good, the work-life balance is acceptable, and the coworkers are nice AND you don’t have to deal with bonkers verbal abuse on a daily basis. Believe me, those jobs are out there. What you describe is, basically, the lowest common denominator of employment. Paying you market rate and letting you leave at 5:30 is a low, low, low bar for any job to clear, and you can be assured that most workplaces will meet these tragically minimal standards of decency. And sorry, not wanting to be the new person ever is not even a realistic goal these days; you gonna work for this woman till you retire?

    Start job hunt. Quit without notice. Be happy.

    1. Jess the Kat*

      On being the “new person”: it’s a very temporary situation that maybe lasts a couple of months to a year. After that, you’re a part of the team.

      1. SebbyGrrl*

        …… and being the new person at THIS job may have skewed your frame of reference.

        It usually gets a bit easier each time you do it.

        Imagine the worst parts of being new WITHOUT screaming boss.

  13. There is a Life Outside the Library*

    Just left this situation. It still makes me really angry at times that because of this one person (and the behavior she fostered in others, too) I had to leave my career path. I was even offered a job in another dept at the same place recently and I turned it down because of her. Even if there’s lots of reasons to stay with a job, sometimes the people are so toxic you MUST. GET. OUT.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      See, this is the situation I think of when most of the comments skew towards it being a no-brainer to leave. The OP didn’t provide her salary, years of experience, or specific industry, but if she is similar to me, with 18 yrs in a specialized, well-paid field, it’s not that easy to find something comparable. I agree that sometimes it can be so toxic that you still must make the choice to leave, even if it means leaving your field, but it definitely isn’t an easy thing for everyone to get something new.

      1. CM*

        Agreed, it’s much easier said than done to get a job where the commute, salary, and hours all work for you. But I think when your mental and physical health are affected and you have no power to change the situation and don’t see it changing on its own, it’s worth it to get out unless you are truly desperate.

      2. There is a Life Outside the Library*

        Oh, completely agreed. It took me a few years to be able to find a suitable new job where my experience is valued.

      3. Clever Alias*

        100%. Junior colleagues have moved up and out in spades. I’m stuck, because there are only so many higher-level positions to go around, and I already work for the organization that pays the best.

        Yes, money isn’t worth your health… but not being able to pay my mortgage with wiggle room would also be a significant stressor for me.

      4. Bobbin Ufgood*

        I concur — we do a lot of “you just have to quit” advice here, but if you are in a very niche job and live in a smaller city, you may have limited options. My current job is literally the only job IN THE ENTIRE STATE for which I am trained/qualified. I would have to change careers in order to change jobs without relocating out-of-state. I have major student loans and where we live is REALLY good for my spouse, so, although I absolutely *can* “just get a new job” — my expertise is in very high demand — this would mean moving away from our entire support system and forcing my spouse to rebuild their career (again — I’ve done this to them before) from scratch.

  14. a good mouse*

    The moment I realized I really needed to go to my boss about the abusive attitude of my team lead was when we both thought we were alone in a lab space and he started literally yelling, but there was actually an intern there. The intern was so uncomfortable with how Team Lead was acting that he went to his boss. His boss came to talk to me and make sure everything was okay, which made me go to my boss and stop dancing around it as “we have conflicting work philosophies” to “here is my list of incidents and also email and text message documentation of the toxic relationship.”

    I was a little worried, because Boss and Team Lead had worked together for over ten years, and Boss personally brought Team Lead into our division at work. To my boss’s infinite credit, he immediately moved me off projects with Team Lead and found interesting other work for me to do.

    1. Camellia*

      But he didn’t deal with Team Lead, did he? Just left him for the next person to have to endure…

      1. a good mouse*

        We both ended up meeting with HR about it, and after that the whole department did a whole DISC assessment/how can we better work with people of a different temperament.

        Team Lead was a micromanaging over worker (actual quote: “If you’re not eight steps ahead, you’re seven steps behind.”) who wanted things done that were effectively busy work because we knew they were going to change shortly. I don’t know if that part of his personality would ever change. And to be fair some people worked really well with him. But at least it wasn’t totally swept under the rug.

        1. Julia*

          “how can we better work with people of a different temperament”

          No no no no no. This isn’t a situation where mediation or “both sides are wrong” works, this is a “person A sucks and needs to go” kind of situation.

  15. CM*

    For a short-term workaround to the email problem, maybe the OP could add “Dictated by [Boss’ name]” to the end of those emails, or start with “Sending on behalf of [Boss’ name].”

    Also, I think a year and a half is long enough not to raise eyebrows about being a job hopper.

    1. Artemesia*

      This is better than my suggestion below; just don’t let your own name be the author of this stuff.

    2. Goya de la Mancha*

      Yup, this was my thought. No way I would “take credit” for that kind of stuff.

      1. Kobayashi Maru*

        “I was only following orders” didn’t work for the Nazis and if I was a co-worker who received an abuse laden email, it wouldn’t work with me either.

          1. Manchmal*

            Yes, comparisons to Nazis are not helpful. But this reminds me of the woman whose boss made her leave work materials on a coworker’s spouse’s grave. That woman was following orders and got fired! So it is something to consider, no?

            1. Kobayashi Maru*

              I apologize if it seemed I was trying to imply LW is a Nazi – I definitely was not – I was trying to point out the absurdity of the defense that someone else made me do it even though I am an adult and I knew it was wrong and didn’t want to do it. I framed it in an over the top way because it’s a way that works with some people and I don’t know this person and I see other approaches already covered here.

              1. Observer*

                Context MATTERS. You’re effectively expecting the OP to quit without something lined up over these emails. Now, there are some situations where that’s a reasonable moral stand to take (eg most Theranos employees who had enough knowledge to understand the fraud that was happening – because lives were literally being put at risk). But I don’t think that this is one of those situations.

                I DO think that the OP should start looking immediately though, because this WILL do damage to her.

                1. Kobayashi Maru*

                  I can truthfully say that even at risk of losing my job, I would not send profanity directed emails that appeared to be written by me to my coworkers if directed to do so by my boss. If I was fired, I would, however, hightail it down to an employment law attorney for a consultation..

                2. Julia*

                  Good for you. However, this granddaughter of a holocaust survivor gives OP permission to feel VERY differently from Nazis – no one is being killed or harmed by emails, and the entire company seems to just shrug off OP’s boss, so my sympathy lies with OP instead of them.

            2. Observer*

              Well, that LW *was* treated very unfairly by her company, which handled the situation very stupidly, so it’s not quite the same thing.

              Now, the OP’s company is not handling things well AT ALL. But, she’s already sending those awful emails. So, letting people know pretty much up front that she knows better can’t make things worse.

          1. Kobayashi Maru*

            I agree. And I think your criticism is spot on in my use of the comparison. I do wish to point out, however, (not in defense of my above post which I again agree was over the top) that Mike Goodwin, himself as stated: “By all means cite GL if you think some Nazi comparison is baseless, needlessly inflammatory or hyperbolic. But Godwin’s Law was never meant to block us from challenging the institutionalization of cruelty or the callousness of officials who claim to be just following the law.” I’ve seen the comparison used a lot lately in regard to immigration policies and I am worried (perhaps that’s why it was on my mind).

    3. CDM*

      Sneakier and possibly more effective, if you use Outlook, is to set up a delay send rule. Maybe 30 minutes, so that those type of dictated emails get held and you can delete after boss has moved on and before they get sent. Or move into your documentation file without sending.

      To avoid delaying every email you send, maybe open up the bcc field in your compose emails, and set the rule to delay send only emails where you bcc yourself.

      This works if you don’t want to confront boss directly about the dictated emails (yet).

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Except the boss expected to be CC’d on it, so she’d know it wasn’t sent.

        1. teclatrans*

          Hm. Yes, the boss is making sure the OP knows she has no out. But maybe OP could make it a 10-minute delay, and during that time send a warning email to the recipient? Not great, because the only good solution is escape, but it might sit better than apologies after the fact?

          1. Important Moi*

            A warning email is written documentation that could be interpreted as insubordination by the boss if found.

            Also, I don’t understand how a sincere apology would be bad. Your work experience may be such that you can send a warning email and still remain employed if found by the boss or you can decline to send it and quit on moral grounds. Everyone is not able to do that.

    4. Important Moi*

      This is a late submittal, so it may not be seen by many…

      I would suggest the use of “Per [insert name]” as a work around. In my experience it has addressed all the questions/comments that come up….

      – “the tone” was wrong…I typed as instructed. Please refer to [insert name]

      -“the request” was wrong…I relayed the request. Please refer to [insert name]

      -“you should not have sent that”… I typed as instructed. I relayed the request. Please refer to [insert name]

      Some people were surprised I referred them to [insert name]. Some even admitted that they were hoping I’d speak on their behalf so they wouldn’t have to speak to [insert name]. Nope.

  16. Zona the Great*

    I know myself so well now that I guarantee the first scream would be met with a louder, angrier, and far more aggressive tirade by me. I grew up with a very frightening parent who actually turned out to be a total weakling (most bullies are) and I regret to say that I developed a sharp tongue and wicked ability to cut people down with my words. And I mean cut deeply. I have never unleashed this ability on anyone since I discovered I could take down my tyrant father but I don’t know that I would be able to hold it in here.

    Has anyone ever seen a staffer stand up for herself in such a dramatic way? Would I be arrested and hauled off?

    1. En vivo*

      Maybe on the weekend thread you can give me some pointers on ‘wicked ability’ ?!? :)

    2. AKchic*

      You won’t be arrested, but depending on who you stand up to and what is said – they might take a swing at you.

    3. 2horseygirls*

      Yes, I think a FB live, or some other type of tutorial on an open weekend would be very helpful.

      And Zona, I am sorry that you had the need to develop such a skill set. ((( hug )))

    4. Bea*

      I’ve seen explosive screaming matches in my career. My beloved boss and my misfit toys crew were explosive.

      But he raised his voice once. I blinked at him calmly and he was horrified, never again get chippy in my direction.

      I know things have come to blows but that’s crew members. And they’d never hit a woman. They would just keep the screaming match going. Which is why I’m happy I’m in a more civilized location now. We don’t yell. My deal breaker when in interviews is the “I don’t work places I’m yelled at or disregard for safety.”

    5. LilySparrow*

      I did once tell a nasty boss that she had no right to talk to me that way and owed me an apology.

      It didn’t stop her being a passive-aggressive, neurotic, micromanaging crazymaker. But she did cut out the overt verbal abuse.

    6. Mayati*

      Tried it. Not aggressively, but assertively and impeccably. Got fired a little while later on a pretext. So I ostensibly “won” the argument, but it didn’t do any good…except, of course, the substantial benefit of standing up for myself and knowing I’d spoken truth to some very scary power.

      My experience has been that abusive people have a remarkable ability to avoid hearing any criticism, no matter how cutting. Hitting them where it hurts isn’t a knockout punch, it just makes them change their tactics and come back at you later. There’s no way to win these confrontations. There’s just the question of how to get out.

      My parent’s frightening too. I think you and I have a lot of the same skills. But I don’t like the person I am when I’m hurting someone else, even in self-defense. It’s not worth it. There are ways to stand up for yourself other than making a higher Intimidation roll than your bully.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I’m with you. If an abusive personality could be shamed out of their behavior, they wouldn’t be acting that way in the first place. At best, they might decide to go pick on someone weaker. And if you don’t provide a suitable target, you’re no good to them, and you’ll be gone ASAP if they have any say. Better to leave.

        Somewhere towards the end of my PhD, I made a solemn promise to myself. Once I had the degree in hand, I was enforcing a five-minute limit for abuse. You don’t like something I did? You have five minutes. Have fun. You can insult my character, my looks, my parentage, whatever. But if it’s minute six and we’re not in solutions mode yet, I will hand over my badge, flip you the bird, and moonwalk out of the building.

        I have yet to invoke this, partly due to luck, and partly because I have my antennas up now when looking for jobs. But it’s a non-trivial part of my motivation to be good at what I do. You can be polite, or I will go away and make someone else look good.

  17. Artemesia*

    I would not be emailing abusive crap dictated by this person. Next time say ‘It would probably be stronger coming directly from you; let’s email it from your account.’ When she says ‘no’ then edit it to be something you are willing to stand behind. Doesn’t solve the problem of non-response but does solve the problem of you laying down a record of abusive Emails. You can start it with ‘Harridan has asked me to contact you —-

    Hope you can get out soon and screw the (2 years in place rule)

    1. Kobayashi Maru*

      I agree! It is important that you don’t lose your personal integrity. I understand you are in a bad position and I know it can be scary to take a stand, but please stop allowing yourself to be a person who can be pushed into doing things you know are morally wrong. The ONLY control we have in life is the control of our own actions. Choosing to goose step to her inappropriate orders is still a choice you have to make. I would submit that a better choice would be to decline and stand firm. Your name is on that email and YOU sent it. Not her, even if you feel like she bullied you into it. It came from YOU.

  18. Keyboard Cowboy*

    I’m curious about something related.

    In Tech Giants, it’s pretty common for software developers (and maybe other flavors of engineer?) to escape situations like this when they arise by requesting to change teams. So my first instinct when I read this post is, switch teams within the same company, preferably to a different floor or otherwise far from the cube where Abusive Boss sits. Is this not typically an option in other industries?

    I suppose what I’m really asking is this. To an extent, software developers are software developers; writing a teapot colorization application is not all that different from writing a llama groomer scheduling application, minus a short (month or so) ramp-up time into the new codebase. Is this not the case for, for example, marketers? Is marketing teapots so drastically different from marketing llama grooming services that you could not switch easily, generally speaking? I’m wondering what fields this kind of a switch is feasible for and what fields it isn’t.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I think marketing is a bad example, although a professional services marketing coordinator is probably a lot different than a digital marketing specialist. My company’s marketers fall into the first category, and while they do social media marketing, it’s a very small part.

      “Operations” jobs are less transferable, just my opinion. Your value is more the institutional knowledge than a specific technical skill.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        (And by marketing being a bad example, I meant I thought it might be more transferable than other jobs. It is more similar to software in that some of the core technical skills, such as writing, graphic design, analytics, CRM databases, etc. may be transferable across industries.)

    2. Xarcady*

      I think the ability to switch to a different team depends on what type of position you have in your company.

      If you are one of 100 software developers, who are on 10 different teams, then, yes, you stand a good chance of being able to switch.

      If, on the other hand, you are one of three software developers, on one team, then there simply isn’t anywhere to go.

      I work in a company of 300 people. There are 6 other people who do my job. There are two teams of us. If I wanted to switch to the other team, it might be possible, but it would take either someone from that team leaving the company, or finding someone willing to switch with me and then convincing the powers that be to allow the switch. It would not be easy–in my case, because no one else really wants to work with my teammate. (Who is a great person with whom I get along well, but who is not everyone’s cup of tea.)

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      That’s how it is in my area of tech. I was hired six months ago as a llama groomer, and I’ve literally spent half a day dealing with llamas. When I arrived, the camels were desperately understaffed…and then there was a dog and pony show in town, so everyone who’d seen a pony before was put to work…

      There are separate managers responsible for llamas, camels, and ponies – I report to the llama guy. But there really isn’t much difference in the day-to-day work, and so these managers borrow each others’ staff all the time. If there was an issue between me and my manager, it would be easy to have me report to someone else.

      My perception is that, outside of tech, there’s more of a distinction between workers and management. If you’re a manager, you have a bunch of reports, and managing people is most or all of your job. A whole department might have only one manager, so if you don’t get along, too bad. But in tech, it’s normal for a mid-career person to still be doing tech stuff, while also having a few reports who they can delegate tasks to – so there can be many managers in an area. If one pairing goes bad, and it seems to be a personality mismatch rather than one person being unreasonable, there’s probably someone else who could use that junior person on their team.

  19. MRV*

    A thousand times YES to getting out of that situation! I’m actually in a similar one myself— one of my bosses constantly yells at me and belittles me in front of coworkers (including a reaming out for not giving a guest a saucer with their tea— I couldn’t find teacups or saucers so I put the tea in a mug and I was shouted at for five minutes after the meeting.) My contract ends soon, though, so I am sticking it out. If my contract weren’t ending, I’d be hightailing it.

    1. Bea*

      MY GOD ALL THESE COMMENTS FROM PPL BEING ABUSED. I want to fight every boss who is yelling at people. I dare them to try me…I’m itching to cut a scumbag down to size. They do it because they’re small petty dumpster humans who get away with it.

      These are the people I enjoy firing. I’ll be happy to slide into any weak ass HR’s chair and slide termination paperwork at these assclowns.

  20. MuseumChick*

    LW, I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I am, on a MUCH smaller scale in a similar position. I’ve been at my job a year and a half after three short term jobs (each lasted less than a year). So I made a commitment to myself that no matter what I would say in this job at least 3 year. My current boss has driven out two other people in the time I’ve been here and I know our HR department has dealt with multiple complaints about him and the way he deals with others. He doesn’t yell but has other behaviors that make working for him extremely challenging.

    I think your husband is wrong, start looking for a new position now. You don’t know for sure how long it will take you to land something new and since you have a job you can be picky about what kind of role you want next.

    I hope that we get a awesome update for you in the near future.

    1. SpaceNovice*

      +1 to this comment. Also, I’m sorry you have to deal with something similar.

  21. MicroManagered*

    This may or may not work, but it worked for me at my last job. My old boss loved to throw a good tantrum: yelling, stomping, loud sighs, stinkeye-faces… all of it. I eventually got so fed up I didn’t care anymore and that made me start addressing the behavior pretty directly. I would just say like “You’re yelling” or “Please do not treat me that way in front of our student employee again. You were stomping and yelling and it was distressing for her and me.”

    Amazingly, she would actually back down and either go away or, in rare cases, apologize. Sometimes bullies back right off when you stand up to them! (But obviously OP, *you* read the situation and see if that would work.)

  22. Bea*

    Unless you’re physically bolted into that desk, there’s no reason to ever stay in this kind of place. I’m upset that a spouse thinks a formality of not looking like a job hopper is a reason to stay somewhere that will likely kill you in the end. You’ll develop mental and physical ailments in these conditions. You are not a sharpshooter in the military protecting your country, you’re working in a business. There are many places that will be happy to have you.

    This vile creature may be a woman in a male dominated industry but so am I. No amount of triumph makes this behavior acceptable. Stop thinking she has any redeeming qualities. I’m recoiling at lumping this scumbag with those of us who got to where we are by busting ass and being a respectful human.

    1. A Username*

      You don’t know the husband’s work history or the couple’s financial situation. He may be someone whose own view is distorted because he’s spent a lot of his career having to put his head down and bite his tongue in dysfunctional workplaces, and has learned the wrong lessons from it. Or they could be in a situation where they really need her income, and he’s the worrier of the two.

      1. Bea*

        My SO has a history of volatile jobs with high stress and low respect. He encouraged me to leave when I was in a bad spot when we first met. What he can handle is different than what he wants for me.

        Also his whole issue is centered around the false fear of job hopping status. I’m not advocating quitting without something lined up but your support system needs to cheer you on. There’s no stress about bills here, it’s all centralized over mythology.

    2. KR*

      Even the snipers in the military don’t get screamed at like that. In USMC basic training when they are on the range or firing their weapon, the DIs are not around. Combat instructors are noticeably more chill and approachable than Drill Instructors. The idea is that the combat instructors need to teach you how to handle your weapon well and safely and they know that you will not ask questions and learn well when your DI (who you’re still scared of at this point in training) is there waiting for you to mess up.

  23. CaliCali*

    I see you’re the person who took my previous job.

    Honestly, it’s been four years since working for this boss, and I’m still bearing those scars. I had stress dreams. My mouth broke out in canker sores. My face broke out. I was losing weight. It just kept getting worse — and the thing was? I was one of her favorites. She LOVED me. But this was her MO, and she didn’t consider anything wrong with it. She ENJOYED making people feel bad. She considered it useful, like boot camp, where she’d tear people down and (ostensibly) build them back up. She excelled at the first part. Not the second.

  24. Environmental Compliance*

    This was a primary reason I left my last job. BossLady was yelly, exorbitantly political, and aggressive. I was constantly fielding complaints from the public about her. I was constantly getting into situations that were way, way too tense because of her behavior (and I was performing unsafe housing inspections – the last thing I need when condemning a meth house by myself is an angry homeowner). I was constantly having to defuse situations that only existed because of her immediate jump to yelling & name calling. She would flip flop back and forth too – angry, yelly, to sweet and “here’s a cookie for you”. I liked all my coworkers. I enjoyed a 3 minute commute (okay, 5 if I chose to walk). I enjoyed being able to go home for lunch. I enjoyed working with the public (if they hadn’t interacted with her first).

    I could not handle the stress & toxicity that this individual brought into my life. She had multiple public complaints against her to the board & officer. Not a thing was (obviously) done. I stayed there a little over a year and jumped ship. I couldn’t handle the constant negativity & hostility, nor the flippity floppity nature of it – I was constantly worried that today would be a yelling day. My eating habits drastically changed. I lost weight (which then started the constant comments from BossLady that obviously I was anorexic). I was getting headaches often. I felt like I was a walking hair trigger of emotions.

    It’s exhausting to deal with this. It changes you, and I finally left when I didn’t like the person I noticed I was becoming. I am in a better headspace for work, no one is yelling at me, I don’t have to justify every 15 minute change in my schedule, I am not being blamed for something I had nothing to do with….hell, I walked into my boss’s office the other day to tell him I needed to come in late later in the week because of a rescheduled farrier appointment, but I’ll stay late to make up the hour, and he laughed a little and told me not to worry about it – I’m getting my stuff done plus some and he’s not going to be concerned about an hour here or there. It was *surreal*.

    And now that I’m out, and hear more about the department outside of it…. it’s starting to have an awful reputation. I’m concerned about it even being on my resume, but I can’t take it off and have a year plus gap.

    1. 2horseygirls*

      Kudos to the boss for being flexible for farrier appointments (from a fellow horse owner ;) ).

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        He’s pretty awesome. He also takes things seriously if someone says something’s an issue and lets me run with projects. It’s so weird after Toxic Job not having to justify every tiny little thing, and being able to do things the *right* way rather than the *cheapest* way.

  25. wayward*

    Out of genuine curiosity, isn’t there a risk that an openly abusive boss like that could get surreptitiously recorded and later posted online, given how easy it is to do? Especially if the employee involved was leaving anyhow…

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It depends on your state’s laws regarding recordings, privacy, and the confidentiality of business conduct. There are several states with dual-consent requirements for recording—if OP lives/works in one of those states, they open themselves up to civil and criminal liability by posting a surreptitious recording.

      1. wayward*

        Very true, though there are sites like LiveLeak that allow things to be shared anonymously.

      2. JM in England*

        Assuming that the OP lives/works in a state without a dual-consent law, would the recording be admissable as evidence in an employment tribunal or other legal proceedings?

    2. LCL*

      Don’t go this route. The boss’ bad behavior is KNOWN by people above her, and they are doing nothing. Firing up the public outrage machine is usually a net loss, for the individuals involved and for society in general.

      1. wayward*

        Though it does seem like public reaction to a video of said boss in action might have a strange way of motivating the people above her to actually do something. As far as society in general…meh, they’ll move onto the next thing very quickly.

      2. tangerineRose*

        It also might get the LW fired and/or make it harder to get a new job. Even though in this case, the boss’s behavior is totally over the line, some hiring managers might just thing “LW is willing to record people and embarrass them without their consent”.

    3. wayward*

      To. clarify, it’s not that I’m pushing OP to actually do this. But given how ubiquitous recording devices are today, I think it’s a matter of when, rather than if, something like this will happen.

      1. A Username*

        I had a former high school teacher who got fired for this. She was verbally abusive and would go on inappropriate and discriminatory tirades in class. She had been doing this for 20 years! But now that kids these days record everything on their smartphones, someone made a recording and someone’s parents complained in tandem, and boom gone.

        The state was a two-party state and the kid violated that, but the district offices opted to punish the teacher and not the student, based on the content of the recording. So while you can run afoul of wiretapping laws, it is certainly possible not to.

    4. halmsh*

      Honestly, OP should look up consent laws in their state and record just for their own record keeping. If they don’t have one party consent laws, they should take down written records of the abuse as suggested above. A folder full of documentation, including references to internal policies around harassment/code of conduct/labor law if applicable should jumpstart OP’s HR department, or at least give her quite a good deal of leverage for severance.

      1. JM in England*

        Going slightly off-topic here, at OldJob kept a diary of a co-worker’s unacceptable behaviour towards me over roughly a six month period: at this point, attempts to resolve the situation informally both directly with the co-worker and our immediate boss had failed. Once I felt I had enough evidence, I reported the matter to the next boss up.

        Boy did this turn out to be a big mistake! Not only did GrandBoss virtually accuse me of lying and victim-blamed me, he went mad when I mentioned the diary. He said it was not my job to keep such records.

        A few months after this, a new starter in my department received and witnessed the same behaviour from co-worker and reported it. The irony is that they seemed to get believed and the same Grandboss then had a stern talk with co-worker, who was then disciplined with at least a verbal warning to my knowledge. Although it was good that co-worker was disciplined, I was slightly resentful that the new starter was believed and not me…

    5. Cordoba*

      I’d be tempted to record her tirades and then use them as the basis of a drinking game with friends. It would certainly help to take the sting out of them.

  26. Bookworm*

    I am very sympathetic, OP. Your boss reminds me of my very first higher management boss (I had a supervisor and then her) as well as some others.

    I get you. I’ve been in jobs where I told myself, the pay is good, it’s an advancement of my career, I like (at least some of) my other co-workers, should put in more time before I search, etc.

    But Alison and the others are right. She’s not going to improve. She’ll continue to make your life miserable and it will become detrimental at some point, if not already. It may be more difficult if you wait. If you are not coping (or are close to it) then that’s a huge sign to go. In the past I’d tell myself to stick it out but it’d begin to manifest in stomach aches, not sleeping well and dreading nights on *Fridays* (meaning I was a little closer to Monday).

    In the end it’s up to you but as it can take time to find a job anyway it might be good to go ahead and brush up that resume, network, let your friends know quietly that you’re looking, etc. You could conceivably be searching for the next 6 months and then have another year under your belt.

    “There are other jobs, and you should give yourself permission to go out and find one of them.” Really, this says it all, because it’s true. You may not have that great commute or vibe as well with your co-workers but there are options out there.

  27. HR Here*

    I feel for OP, having been there more than once. Yes, find a new job. I do not even care about job hopping on resumes.

    Also if you’re offending people sending her nasty emails, you’re not building a great reputation there anyway.

    I now work in HR and I can, please DO jump through their hoops (I don’t agree with the process, but I don’t want you to give the lame HR Dept. the “easy out” bc “oh well, she never filed a formal complaint.”) When you hand it in, in person, I would also tell This HR that “I work on a team of two, so I hope you will protect me from illegal retaliation for filing this.”
    Then as long as you’re there, document every single thing so you have a strong EEOC case, if you need it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not seeing any indicators of EEOC issues here, unless there are missing details. And unfortunately, it wouldn’t be illegal to retaliate against the OP unless she’s making a good faith complaint of illegal harassment or discrimination.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, I’m not seeing an EEOC angle, either. Only three states have anti-bullying laws (California if there are 50 employees, and Utah/Tennessee for public employees, only), and there’s no federal analog, yet. I’m curious to hear what HR Here is identifying as EEOC-able behavior.

  28. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    I would be worried about the impact on your health AND your professional reputation! At some point you’re going to send (or have already sent) an abusive boss-dictated email to someone who unfortunately won’t know/believe that your boss made you do it, and you’ll be the one who gets a reputation as abusive and unprofessional. The longer you stay here, the more likely this is to impact your job, especially if you’re in a small industry. Good luck, LW!

    1. Kobayashi Maru*

      So true! Plus, if it ever got to the point where she decided to sue or needed to defend herself against allegations, what do you want to bet that the abusive emails she sent will be trotted out as proof that the LW is the real problem!

    2. London Calling*

      Yes, and you bet that’s why the boss is dictating them and they are going out from OP’s mail. Come the day when someone complains, boss will be *horrified* that this is happening and won’t have read her cc copies because she has so many emails, OP is an employee she trusted, she had *no idea* OP was being so abusive…

  29. seller of teapots*

    There is lots of wisdom in this thread, so I’m just speaking to you, mom to mom:
    There are lots and lots of jobs where you don’t have to work late AND don’t have to get screamed at on a daily basis.

    I know the feeling, that something you have is the best you can get as a parent because you don’t want to travel for work/work overtime/have a long commute/fill-in-the-blank. And we get caught in shitty situations because we think what we have is sooo rare.

    But honestly, think about how often you are hanging out with your kid(s) and feeling sick or miserable or distracted or stressed out because of work? What if you could have that time back to actually *be present* with your family? You deserve THAT!

    And, hell, being the new guy and working late one day a week at a reasonable company would still be immeasurably superior to your current situation.

  30. Bea*

    Re Job Hopping Worriers

    The worst thing that’ll happen is you don’t get an interview. I’ve had to sort out some seriously spotty resumes but that’s in terms of resumes with ten plus years of four month long temp gigs.

    You won’t get nasty responses or blacklisted from ever applying there again. We’re not that invested unless your resume stands out for issues aside from the short stays, they all blend together.

    Spend the energy to try to leave now. Who knows how long the hiring process is or what openings you’ll have in 6-12 months from now. Dig in now and fight for yourself. You’re worth it. You’ll find something better, something closer or better pay, etc. Try to stop chaining yourself emotionally to these emotional black holes.

    I know the unknown is scary AF, I’m sorry you’re stricken with these fears. Fear is what allows these demon bosses so much power over you.

    I had to break the cycle and come from a family that worked at the same places for their entire work life. Thankfully both my parents worked for decent companies. However when I found myself up to my chest in freezing water of emotional abuse, I found out that it’s worth it to swim to shore instead of waiting for the life rafts to get there.

    You are strong enough. You can do it. I am devastated to see weak support systems out there. My SO was able to break the cycle this last time because I would rather take on short term struggles than to see him dying inside going to a job where they are terrible abusive jerks.

    I frigging hate bullies. I’m physically twitching over here at my desk.

    1. Windchime*

      I hate bullies, too. It took me roughly a year to recover from a bullying boss. I went from being an accomplished, well respected rock-star to someone who cried so much that I broke blood vessels in my eyes. I cried night and day, felt like my insides were always trembling, and just felt sick and scared all the time. In retrospect, I can clearly see that I should have left a good 6 months before I did but it’s so hard to see that when you’re in the middle of the situation.

      I found a good job with nice people and left. I’ve been so much happier since I left that abusive boss. Best of luck to you, OP.

      1. Bea*

        I’m truly grateful you got away from that situation and hope that you’re valued in your current role.

        I was broken down in my last job despite still killing it performance wise until my last few weeks I dialed in but thank God my new company is headed by someone who is thrilled by my experience and expertise.

        These effers can’t win. I will fight for and encourage anyone who is feeling stuck and beat down. Nobody deserves that nonsense.

      2. Kobayashi Maru*

        I really feel for you Windchime. I too had a horribly abusive boss back in the day. It was a co-worker who was promoted when my wonderful boss was promoted. My job went overnight from dream job to nightmare. A sibling advised that I immediately start job hunting but I wouldn’t listen, surely my wonderful job would become wonderful again… It did not. By the time I actually left I was disheartened, deflated and almost destroyed. This whole post has really triggered me – lots of anger and frustration. Okay, deep breath….

  31. Michelle*

    Something I’ve seen many times on this site: Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change. Start looking and get out as soon as possible. I spent four of the most miserable years of my life in a job with a horrible boss that liked to yell at people even when you didn’t do anything wrong. She was also considered “brilliant”. No amount of brilliance is worth your mental well-being.

  32. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

    First, start looking for another job- pronto.
    No one deserves to be treated like this.

    Second, in the meantime, stand up to her. Yelling back is tough but I’m the moment , stand up, say “do not scream at me” and walk away. Let her sputter, spit, yell some more. WALK AWAY FROM HER. Doesn’t matter if you cry. Walk away. Yes, you can handle the stress of the job. You are not going to be screamed at. That’s what you tell her.

    Another option is to sit down when she’s calm. Tell her you want to have a calm discussion. That her screaming and yelling is unacceptable and that her bosses have suggested you file a grievance. You of course prefer not to do that. What can she do to make sure the screaming stops. You’re going to be job searching anyway;

    This is easy for all of us to say. take my word for it, you will feel empowered. And she just may stop.

  33. Technical_Kitty*

    I have worked for a version of this person. The best way to deal with it, from my experience, is firm flat statements about what is and is not acceptable. If she shouts at you in front of people, LW, calmly but firmly ask to speak to her in her office, say “Yelling at me is not acceptable, if you have an issue talk to me like a peer.” Or say it in front of everyone, that is often a very good way of making the point that the behaviour is not acceptable. This will likely have to happen again and again. If she acts out when you stand up for yourself, then that is on her.

    Remember, you are not the problem, behaviour like that in the work place is beyound not okay.

    If you feel you cannot file a complaint or stand up to her, LW, leave. I cannot stress this enough, get out of that position. And LW, RECORD EVERYTHING. Have a written record, email her to confirm things or to follow up on combative instances. Just in case.

    1. anonmale*

      I would be very careful about the “record everything” advice. Many states have varying laws about getting consent before you record a conversation. Companies may have their own policies even if it is legal in your area.

      1. Bea*

        She’s saying record in the sense of documenting them in writing. Not audio recording.

  34. Persimmons*

    LW, look at it this way: you’re not looking for another job because of the benefits you claim this job has, despite its obvious drawbacks. But starting even just a casual job search isn’t forcing you into taking another job. You can at least see what’s out there, right?

    Maybe doing so will reinforce your belief that what you have is worth hanging onto for a bit, given your local job market. Maybe you’ll look so long that the right opportunity won’t even come along until you’ve been at the current job long enough to meet your “not a job hopper” time frame.

    Right now, all you’re accomplishing is preventing yourself from having options. That’s rarely the ideal choice.

  35. Al who is that Al*

    You have got to leave.
    Job hopper ? Even if you were, compared to the mental abuse you are suffering now it’s not worth worrying about.

    1. Run By Fruiting*

      Also, your husband doesn’t have to suffer this every single day so his opinion frankly shouldn’t count for shit here.

  36. anonmale*

    If I had to guess, I would say it’s possible that the OP is military considering the fact that you have superiors yelling at their subordinates and it is a male dominated industry. I don’t normally like to play the “guess what the OP does” game but if they are military then the yelling is not going anywhere anytime soon so I am curious how that would be handled if that were the case.

    1. Bea*

      Manufacturing. Construction. Timber. Milling. Tech. Everything is male dominated and full of egos. But if you’re history is in military, it makes sense you would think it’s the most likely option.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, my husband worked in construction and yelling is the norm. They call it ‘learning them up.’ In some ways it can make sense, as these jobs are very dangerous. But in an office? No.

    2. 2horseygirls*

      Architecture, engineering, foodservice, accounting, higher ed – pick one. It is hard to narrow it down, really.

      I had a boss sit me down while he stood over me while yelling at me from his 6’5″ height, so that was super fun. It was the only time I ever used a personal connection at work, but I went to the regional VP and said “First, I did exactly what I was told to do by ScreamingBoss in the first place. Second, my father does not speak to me this way, and he is Special Forces Airborne. How do we manage this in the future?”

      I am in a small office now, with the occasional frustration/irritation screamer, and the but-I-am-right-and-you-need-to-recognize-my-authoritah! screamer (the owners/partners). [insert eye roll]

      I listen to Jack Reacher audiobooks on a constant loop, and channel Jack when necessary. I have also decided I am not putting any energy into _____ (pick something, anything) because my opinion, feedback, and 20+ years of experience have no value.

      I started job searching as well, after my $3,000 panic attack trip to the ER a few months ago.

      FWIW, I learned recently at my father’s funeral from his buddies, that he quit the Army reserve because of a supervisor, and signed up for the Air National Guard reserve the very next day.

      OP, if my dad — who was an original bada$$ who wore his jump boots with his dress greens into his 80s — quit because of an idiotic supervisor, tell your husband you are in the best possible company ;) , and get the heck out of there!

  37. Jana*

    This is not a salvageable situation. It’s not possible to make the situation better because, ultimately, you can’t force someone to behave in a different way. I’ve worked for someone like this in the past and the amount of time I spent there (thinking that I was being too sensitive or that I just didn’t understand how the work world operated) eventually had a negative impact on my career. There are some things worth letting go of because the other aspects of the job are great, and then there are things that are not only not worth your time and energy in the present, but not worth the potential lasting negative effects on your confidence, emotional strength, and career.

  38. AMPG*

    Time for the reminder that national unemployment is currently at 3.8%. It’s not the same market it was 5 years ago, and if you’re not being treated like a human being where you are, there’s an employer out there that will. I’m so sorry you’re going through this and I wish you the best of luck in the future.

    1. Bea*

      Preach. I’d put my panda onsie on and dance on my desk if some talented folks threw me a resume at this point. We’re all hiring and nobody is looking except those still crawling out of cruddy positions. Any solid qualities get snapped up.

  39. Delta Delta*

    So, boss screams, then leaves OP a cupcake. Then a few days later, screams again. This is pretty classic right out of the cycle of violence that’s often seen in abusive relationships. The goal of the abuser is to earn enough trust to establish dominance so that abuse can happen and continue. Now, that’s not to say that people who have ordinary arguments and then apologize are necessarily abusers, but this type of cyclical behavior is pretty classic “power and control wheel” behavior.

    I recognize that’s not especially helpful. However, recognizing that it’s actually abuse and not something you’ve done wrong may be helpful in re-orienting your thoughts in helping you to move on. It would make sense to find a new position as quickly as possible and get out. It is highly disappointing that the higher-ups allow/tolerate/permit this behavior to continue because it tells Manager that her behavior is not only tolerated but desired. They are bad. Get out.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I should add that I recently left such a position. I had a peer who regularly screamed at co-workers, slammed the phone down on us, cut us off in conversations, blocked our access to the head manager (even on minute things like “hey, we need yellow post-its”). I once observed a situation where she berated a co-worker to the point of tears, and when the co-worker cried and tried to explain her side of the situation, she said, “you always get so defensive and you’re too sensitive.” She once screamed at me when I walked out the door to go to a meeting in the next building over because I was somehow supposed to know she also had a meeting and should walk together with her. (We didn’t have shared calendars. No idea how I’d know this.)

      And you know what? Manager did ZERO to fix this. Manager took the position that she got her work done and helped to generate business, and that if he interceded that she might leave for a competitor and take business with her. He said more than once that he didn’t go into management to have to manage people (which means what? In a business of 30 people, there needs to be some management…. by the manager). In the course of two years 9 people left (including me) because nobody could stand this co-worker anymore. Also, she never did any of her shenanigans to Manager or in front of him, so he sort of didn’t believe people’s complaints. As far as I know she is still screaming at people who are all actively polishing their resumes and looking for jobs.

      1. Former Employee*

        I don’t understand. This person was a co-worker, not a supervisor. Why weren’t people simply responding to this abusive behavior with: “You’re not the boss of me” and then ignoring this person?

    2. London Calling*

      *This is pretty classic right out of the cycle of violence that’s often seen in abusive relationships. The goal of the abuser is to earn enough trust to establish dominance so that abuse can happen and continue.*

      Agree 100%, whether that’s a work or personal relationship. The only answer is to run run run far away and as soon as you can, OP.

  40. loslothluin*

    You have my deepest sympathies. I’m in this situation and am trying to leave. Get out for your own sanity. It will only get worse and not better unless your boss miraculously quits and the next one isn’t a raving lunatic. You’ll be much happier in the long run if you don’t waste you’re life away at this place. As my coworker once said: I am not stressing out over a job where I can be replaced next week.

  41. Enya*

    Oy, I feel so sad for you that you’re in this horrible situation. Just reading about your boss made my blood pressure rise a bit, I can’t imagine what it’s actually like to experience her in person. I urge you to leave. This abuse will affect your physical and emotional health. The benefits aren’t worth it. Your boss is a rageaholic, abusive jerk. Get out of there!

  42. Susan K*

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t understand why you can’t file a formal grievance. Are you just afraid that she will find out you filed a formal grievance against her? How is filing a formal grievance different from going to her boss and HR? Either way, you either trust them to keep it confidential or you take the risk that she will find out you complained about her. It’s possible that they are asking you to file a formal grievance because they want it as ammunition to fire or discipline her. You can tell the manager/HR representative who want you to file a grievance that you’re concerned about retaliation and ask if they can ensure you won’t face retaliation. It’s possible that there is a company policy forbidding retaliation against employees for filing a grievance.

    It looks like you went to your manager’s boss and HR for help and they told you that they can only help if you file a formal grievance, but you won’t do what they asked. Now, yeah, this is serious enough that they *should* be doing something about it now that they know, whether or not you are willing to file a formal grievance, but there are lots of companies where people get caught up in the idea that they need paperwork, and they’re afraid to get sued (I wonder if this woman has avoided disciplinary action by threatening to sue for gender discrimination?) if they don’t have sufficient documentation. Even though it’s not a good policy to refuse to take action without a formal grievance, you might have to go along with it if you want them to do something,

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      Very good points, and really, it’s kind of hard to imagine how filing a grievance could make op’s situation any worse than it already is. To quote Dr. Phil, you can’t fall off of the floor.

  43. Same Story!*

    While reading this I was almost certain it was written about my former manager. I still think it might be. The best thing I ever did was leave that job, however, be careful to choose something you genuinely like before making the switch. I took the first decent sounding job that came my way and it set me back a bit as it wasn’t the role or industry I really wanted to be in. I ended up sticking it out for a couple years before having to look all over again. It also took me awhile to undo all the bad behavior I had learned from that manager. I stopped asking for help or admitting mistakes for fear of getting yelled at (which apparently normal managers don’t usually do…who knew!). Take your time to find the right fit and leave that all behind!

  44. eriko*

    You can not fix your boss. You can only leave.
    Repeat after me.
    You can not fix your boss. You can only leave.

    (One caveat you can get them fired but then you should leave also because none of the management will trust you)

  45. Observer*

    OP, your husband is flat out wrong that you need to be in a job for at least 2.5 years to not look like a job hopper. Beyond that your husband is also overlooking that you are going to damage your reputation if you stay too long there – especially if you can’t find some way of effectively pushing back and mitigating her behavior.

    Start looking THIS MINUTE. And remember this – you don’t necessarily need to go to a job with a long commute or where you might have to stay late more often. But as a mother, grandmother and an observer of a LOT of parents, all of that is better for your kids than the abuse you are suffering now. Make no mistake – the stress you are under IS going to affect your family, if it has not yet.

    Also, there is going to come a point where you NEED to leave or you get fired, whether or not you have something lined up. The only way to avoid being stuck like that is to start looking and finding something that should work better for you.

  46. Random Thought*

    I could have written this post myself 6 months ago. I *loved* the people I worked with, except my boss. I loved the work, the benefits, the commute, the pay. My boss was a nightmare. Everyone knew it, but because no one would file a formal complaint, HR and Grand Boss felt they were limited in what they could do to correct her (although she was receiving executive coaching and extra oversight… so they weren’t doing nothing. However, I don’t think they realized that this kind of “help” was actually making her worse).
    It was hard to leave but I finally had enough. I am so glad I did! I miss the people I worked with, but there are plenty of well-functioning offices where good people work and if you can take the time to job search properly, you can find one where you can be happy without the verbal abuse.

  47. Serafina*

    LW, please run fast and far. I stayed almost 3 years at a good job with one abusive boss – and all I got was PTSD. I didn’t know you could get PTSD from an abusive workplace until I started falling apart emotionally AFTER leaving that job. Everyone was afraid of the abuser at my old job; dozens of people left because of him, but because he was the chief moneymaker, nobody reined him in. I made great money there and some great friends – still wasn’t worth it, and 18 months since leaving, I’m still dealing with the mental health impact.

  48. Pointed Reality*

    “Please speak to me professionally.”
    “Please speak to me professionally.”
    “Please speak to me professionally.”

    You are under no obligation to accept being spoken to this way. Sure, you should definitely be looking for a better place to work (now). And while you may not change her behavior entirely, you are in control of how you accept being treated.

    I cannot even fathom ever letting someone yell and scream at me at work, but I definitely don’t suggest what I would reflexively do… (laughter) “Are you actually yelling at me? Tantrums are neither professional nor productive, ya know. Would you like me to give you a minute to simmer down?”

  49. Name Required*

    I could swear that the LW was talking about my former boss; this is what my life was like for over 3 years. I was an absolute mess when I came out of the situation and it took me over a year of working in a “normal” environment before I regained my equilibrium and had appropriate responses. So I’d advise the LW to not wait a year and get out as soon as possible.
    That said, I’d like to know how to address the issue of why you left the job when interviewing in the future? They will ask about the short length of stay (one of the reasons I stayed with my abusive boss for so long), and common knowledge says never say anything negative about your previous employers.

    1. Tangerina*

      It’s about your framing. “The culture is one that is very counter to an environment in which I perform best.” Hopefully they’ll press for an example, at this point. “I work best in an environment where respect and professionalism aren’t sacrificed even when someone makes a mistake or deadlines are approaching.”

  50. Tangerina*

    I’m sorry this lady is destroying a job you’d otherwise love.

    Start looking for a new job immediately, while you’re still in a state of mind to be discerning about your next job. Take it from someone who tried to tough out an abusive manager: you’re going to get to the point one day where you’ll take any job at all, which may land you in just as bad (or worse) a place.

  51. Elder Dog*

    I had someone I couldn’t fire who shouted to get what he wanted and got really upset and screamy. I told him I had trouble with my hearing and when he shouted, it just came out as a buzz and I couldn’t hear him.
    Took a few times, but he stopped shouting and since shouting fired his anger, that slowed down too.

  52. Polly*

    OP – I feel for you because I was in this spot 3 years ago. Daily berating, tantrums and gaslighting. I could have written this! Please get out for the sake of your family and your mental well being! It’s not you it’s HER.

  53. Lady Glitter Sparkles*

    Seriously. I felt like the LW is exactly me right now. I am in this same exact situation with my boss (female also) but it’s a small-business. I am a mother too and I have been trying to find another job but the lack of stability in my job history isn’t looking great so I know that doesn’t look great to the hiring managers. (I haven’t had a stable job since 2016) . I also know that I am not alone because my co-workers also gets the same treatment like the LW described. I hope that I will be able to find a new job soon and get out of here.

  54. Ann Perkins*

    I feel like I could’ve written this letter. My previous boss (and her boss) were awful to me. I actually tried to find another job 6 months in, but since I’d only been in my previous job for a year, I had no luck and decided to stick it out. Eventually they started treating me well, once they realized I was actually good at my job. But I lived in fear that they’d turn on me again and finally they did, in front of all of my co-workers for something I hadn’t even done.
    LW, take Alison’s advice and start looking now. It took me more than 6 months to find a new job and I can’t tell you the relief I feel having left. And she’s right–the longer you stay there, the more you internalize that negativity. I’ve been doing my best to convince myself that my current colleagues aren’t going to turn on me, but it’s really difficult.
    In the immortal words of Dawn Summers: Get out, get out, get out!!!!

  55. Cathie from Canada*

    There is an excellent thread now over at Captain Awkward right now about how to respond to jerks — basically, the advice that would transfer to this situation is this: forgive yourself for not responding perfectly earlier; develop some scripts for how you want to respond to abusive comments; and practice, practice, practice saying the scripts in advance – maybe your husband would feed lines to you and critique your responses — until you can feel more comfortable actually saying them in an emotionally charged situation.
    It has also been my experience that people who yell (ie, like my father) don’t actually mind, or even notice, when someone yells back – for them, its all just another way of conversing. My father grew up as the second youngest in a family of 8, so if he didn’t yell then nobody listened to him at all. When I finally learned to yell back – “Dad, I have my own way to make potato salad and I like it better” – he didn’t escalate, the way I had always assumed he would. Instead, he didn’t even really notice my assertiveness, just “oh, well then, lets try it your way ..”. So hard for me, so easy for him…
    In your case, your boss may believe that only a “ball-busting bitch” approach will succeed in her industry (and for her there may be some truth to that, too) so she wants you to be this way too. If you believe your approach to NOT pounding out insulting emails will still get the results she wants, then you will have to stand your ground and fight for the right to do it your way.
    In fact, “stand your ground” could well be your new mantra.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Ooof, this. I had a previous boss, when I was fresh out of college, who was aggressive and would swear (not at people, just in general) and most people found him hard to deal with. The day I snapped at him (no swears! but it wasn’t a very kind reply nor tone)…from then on it seemed he treated me more as an equal and gave me less trouble.

      So, all the stress prior to that point (and frantic worry immediately after) was totally unnecessary. (But for every person like that, there’s probably another somewhere who would blow up at you. Or at least I like to believe my discomfort was founded in more than just needless worry.)


      1. boop the first*

        Oh, a similar thing happened to me. It wasn’t even my boss (I just thought he was because of the way he acted tbh), but he kept barking confusing orders at me: “Do this work for me, now! Wait you should go back to your work. Come back and help! Why aren’t you getting your work done?” and I flipped and yelled “Well I can’t DO two things at once!”
        He gave me this amused look. After that he was too afraid to bark orders at me anymore and left me alone after that.

    2. LizM*

      Developing scripts is really good advice. Practice, and brainstorm different reactions she may have so you’re prepared for those. Roleplay different scenarios with your husband or a close friend.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Interesting about your dad the yeller. I do think that family dynamic happens and carries over into life. The more you feel unheard, the louder the voice goes! However, this isn’t often mean/ballbusting, just loud.
      With OP’s boss, it sounds just mean. The dictating of the emails is unbelievable.

  56. Kiwi*

    When I ask candidates about short stays, what I want to know is “are you difficult to work with, so you get kicked out of places?” and “are you going to get bored here and move on in a year?”

    So when you get asked, your answer needs to address those points. I’d find it persuasive if you said that you would normally have stayed at ToxicCompany longer but you started looking because your boss yells at people, and that you love the sound of MyJob because of ….

  57. Bibliovore*

    I was in a position that I couldn’t leave because they paid for my grad degree. My boss was a screamer. Never in public but in our offices. No one had lasted in my position more than 6 months. I was nervous and anxious all the time. The directors knew. HR knew. No one was of any help. I went to a therapist. Told her about my job and cried. She said that my boss’s behavior was unacceptable and we practiced statements like ” I have a background of abuse and when you raise your voice, I cannot hear or understand what you say.” I repeated that every time she raised her voice. Within a week or so, she had stopped screaming at me. I left the week my three year obligation was completed. I learned a lot. I was glad of the opportunity but not sorry to go.

  58. MissDisplaced*

    OMG! This was me a few years ago. I really feel for you. Unfortunately, your boss sucks and probably will never change. There are a few things you can do to mitigate a bully-boss, but know it will never change. Sadly, staying too long in this atmosphere will hurt your own sense of normalcy.

  59. LittleLove*

    I had a toxic boss who yelled and wanted one thing one day and something different the next. I quit my job and my health and life in general improved. No, do NOT stay if the boss is awful. It’s not worth it.

  60. BananaTanger*

    Your husband is failing you most of all. We’d like our companies to care about our well-being, and bosses shouldn’t scream. But you should expect your husband to support you in escaping an abusive situation at work which cannot be good for you, your child(re ), and and your spouse. I think you should have a heart to heart with him. Make sure he understands how brutal your situation is and explain it is no longer tenable. A good partner will support you in getting out, not tell you to suck it up for another year/month/week. I hope he realizes this and becomes your number two advocate (#1 is you).

  61. boop the first*

    I understand why defeatist attitudes exist (out of fear of worse results), but it’s disheartening to read comments that say “don’t try” or “she’ll just get a slap on the wrist if you complain to HR.”
    Doesn’t it seem like this boss NEEDS a slap on the wrist? A questioning interruption? A slow blink? It sounds like everyone just caves instantly. Which is normal behaviour, of course.
    I wouldn’t suggest screaming back, but you can reject bad behaviour without incriminating yourself. You’re afraid she’s gonna be angry and scream at you for complaining/refusing to dictate that email/leaving the conversation, but she’s already screaming at you! If you’re already dealing with the feared consequences of taking an action, do the thing! At least it would be worth the trouble.

    1. Indie*

      I agree with Alison that HR have already thrown up their hands and shown themselves untrustworthy. Of course it’s worth trying to formally complain when you have a working system; but a boss like this wouldn’t still be employed in a working system after the OPs revelation.

  62. Indie*

    Good grief, the OP is not a ‘calloused official’. She is an abused employee who does not share your particular privilege of being able to say ‘eff this job; I can afford to be sacked’. Put down the spade now please.

  63. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

    This isn’t a defence, I’m not even trying to play devil’s advocate here, but I can’t help wondering if this learned behaviour on the part of the boss (a woman trying to succeed in a man’s world) is some how translating into “this is how you mentor another woman in a man’s world”. In other words, I had to get tough to survive and I’m going to treat you as I was treated so you’ll survive.
    Whether or not this is the case, the advice is the same – run far and run fast.

  64. Judy Moyer*

    I had a boss who I think was a white supremisist with questionable tattoos. He made my life a living hell. Long story short when management did whatever he tools them to do I sought out legal and the EEOC. The EEOC is proceeding with charges. I have documents and witnesses.

    1. Cathy Gale*

      Good luck, Judy. I know how long you must have fought to get to that point. I hope you win!

  65. Cathy Gale*

    I’m a long time poster under new management – my own – and thus a new name. I just went through some of this. Hope you will read this and consider my advice seriously.

    1) Document everything that has already happened. Check your emails and ask your spouse to help you with this. Write it down at home and keep it private. Save the emails she forced you to write and print the emails to PDF.
    2) Document everything from now on. Save a copy to Google Drive or Dropbox. DO NOT forward emails you received to yourself, because in some systems that will trigger a notice to the original owner. Print the emails to PDF.
    3) When you are ready to go, file the formal grievance. IN WRITING. That means email or a letter.
    4) Let her fire you (as described above).
    4a) If you must quit, because it’s intolerable, quit. Then, you go to the unemployment people and argue for “constructive dismissal” – in other words, that anyone who went through what you went through would have quit. I received full unemployments benefits because I had proof – emails from work, emails to my friends and spouse, and I also had three friends and former coworkers who spoke by phone to the unemployment office.

    Don’t EVER let her dictate an abusive email from your account again. Before you start implementing your escape plan, go back and email the people who you were forced to send abusive email to, and write in the email that you were sorry, X dictated it from your account. Save a copy of all the apology emails.

    You mention that people are nice and you never want to be a new person at a job again. I appreciate that you are fearful and you just want a decent job. But this is not the decent job. Trust me. It’s going to get worse, not better. I hung in for three years after our bully boss took over, and like Judy above, the bully was prejudiced and made my life and especially my boss’ life a living hell.

    You know what’s worse than being called a job hopper? Having to go on blood pressure and anti-anxiety medication, having your health fall apart because of stress.

    Agree also with those who say your husband is wrong. You won’t be a job hopper if you pick more carefully. Read this blog and all its archives and you’ll get better at noticing the warning signs.

  66. Penelope*

    Ah yes. I worked for a successful female chef who was exactly like this. She had a terrible temper, blamed everyone else for her problems, and told me I “ruined” her reputation via a typo on a menu for a small party. I had just left an unhealthy relationship and it made my working relationship with her crystal clear that it was more of the same. I’d had enough abuse and decided I didn’t need any in my work as well, and so I quit. There is little reason to stay in a situation like that, because doing so will hinder your ability to see work differently than you have it, and an unhealthy environment is hard to shake after you leave it, PTSD is real and lingering.

    No job is worth abuse, stress, illness, and anxiety. Not a single one.

  67. OnMondaysWeWearBlack*

    I worked for a very similar person, and she was awful. Her technical skills were great, but she was horrible at managing people. She was very aggressive and yelled all the time; she provided no support/training and took no responsibility for her actions. If someone had an issue with her “managerial style” it was because they were “childish” or “weak” or “incompetent.”

    My only motivation to get my work done was to not get yelled at – I took no pride in anything I was doing because I absolutely dreaded being at work. I became depressed and developed mysterious health issues. My doctor ran several tests and nothing was “conclusive,” so I never got a proper diagnosis. About 3 months after I quit ToxicJob, almost all of my symptoms cleared up.

    And tell your husband that your happiness is worth more than this job. Start searching for a new one right now. Don’t let the fear of someone judging you negatively for leaving a job override your need to be in a healthy working situation. Because what you’re dealing with right now is not healthy! Get a new job, file the “formal grievance,” and put in 2 weeks’ notice. I suggest bringing in donuts the day you give your notice to celebrate your strength in being able to endure this toxic situation for so long and finally being able to leave it behind.

  68. Dust Bunny*

    Tell your husband to come work for her for awhile if he thinks this is so not a big deal.

    Seriously, get out of there. Find a new job, FILE THAT GRIEVANCE, and run for the hills.

  69. blink14*

    I had a terrible boss for years, who was extremely critical, paranoid, and a major pain in the ###. I couldn’t do anything without her approval, she questioned me constantly, talked down to me in front of others. She essentially did about 2 hours of work a day and piled on other tasks on my plate (including financial things I wasn’t supposed to be doing, nor had the knowledge to do). It took me awhile, but I figured out that the way she acted towards me was the way she acted towards everyone else, and that’s what got me through for the most part, realizing that in a way, it wasn’t personal. It was just the way she was, until about the last year or so where she became increasingly difficult to deal with.

    I worked there for about 7 years, and the final straw for me was being screamed at in front of about 50 people at an event, including 2 people from an outside organization that I had worked with the whole time I was there. Both of them immediately came over to me and said it was inappropriate, and that I had done nothing wrong (which I knew I hadn’t). The director of that organization wrote a really nice thank you letter about me to my boss, and also had a private conversation with her about what happened. Fortunately my long term job search had finally landed me an interview where I am now, but I’m sure she’s still managing her group the exact same way.

    Try to figure out of this is your boss’ management style or is it specific to you, and then determine how much you can put up with. In the meantime, I would look at transferring to another department and doing an outside job search.

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