My new boss yells at and threatens me

I am a 33 year old man working as a Computer Programmer for a University administration office. My job changed in July when we started converting to a new computer system (Infomaker instead of mainframe SAS), and I got a new project leader then who has been abusive. He yells at me and threatens me. On Oct 14 I thought he might try hitting me when he lost his temper. I filed a complaint with HR last week and am meeting with them Tuesday to hear the results of their investigation. He is a man in his early 50’s with a lot of seniority here. We are both white, so there is no racial issue. I checked the Employee Work Rules here, and he blatantly violated these rules:

IV. Personal Actions
B. Threatening, intimidating, interfering with, or using abusive language towards others.
J. Failure to exercise good judgment, or being discourteous, in dealing with fellow employees, students or the general public.

Also, I think he may have violated this rule:
IV. A. Threatening, attempting, or doing bodily harm to another person.

I didn’t even bother complaining to the woman who is our supervisor because she is a yeller, too, although not physically threatening. She is a 55 year old Asian-American woman with a lot of seniority here. I talked with her supervisor and she said I should just “blow it off” and deal with the problem myself. I think she is being negligent.

Have any of you had work problems like this? Any advice for me?

What disgusting behaviour. Here we have a labour relations board that, if all else fails through the proper channels, you can go to. Just make sure you listen carefully to the results of the investigation and make notes. You may need them if there is backlash from your supervisor for filing the complaint. To me treating an employee, whether they are a subordinate or not in a degrading manner is such a show of cowardness and insecurity.

We are, each of us angels with only one wing;
and we can only fly by
embracing one another

As a matter of fact, my very first technical position ended because a supervisor swore at me in public. I could have cared less if he had of swore at me in his office but out in public. Well, I went back to my supervisor and his supervisor because I wanted an apology, but the old boy’s club mentality set in and no apology was forthcoming.

After a couple of weeks I asked my supervisor if there was going to an apology even a private one. He said no. I told him if I am not getting an apology I will resign. He said “You must be joking.” I resigned that day.

At my exit interview I was very forward about what had happened. I hope that it helped shake things up but I somehow doubt it.

Strangely enough reference-wise they were very honest about me (I prewarned every future interviewer in general what had happened and those that hired me always told me later that they said very nice things about me) which was my biggest concern. I think deep down they may have respected my principles to leave over this.

Of course, what I did was very risky and I hardly recommend it. It is at least equally as possible that they would have said mean and nasty things about me which would have cut my career short.

What more could you expect from somebody who lets people kick him to the head?

Curious -

There is no way you should have to stand for this. I wish you all the luck in getting it dealt with properly. Unfortunately, in a case like this, you might be better off if you were a member of some designated minority group (use term loosely) as then they might be fearful enough of the lawsuit to take action. Let’s hope they do the right thing.

One of my most basic management beliefs (it’s my company, so I get to make the rules) is in a safe, comfortable work environment. Part of this is an “absolutely no yelling” policy (unless we’re celebrating landing a new job, but that’s different). This applies to me and all that work for me. This is not just the right thing to do, but it’s good business sense – it’s hard enough to find good employees, you need to do what you can to keep them, or at least not drive them to leave.

When I worked in Fortune 500 America, however, I observed a strange phenomenon: the higher up you were, the more bad behavior you could exhibit. It was almost like a badge of honor among some – “HA! I can get away with this and you can’t, therefore I’m more powerful/important than you.” Very lame/sad. Needless to say it’s part of why I went out on my own.

Again, good luck. You’re right, they’re wrong. And keep us posted.

What I would do would depend on how much they pay me.

Course, being deaf, I wouldn’t hear them screaming.

This is not necessarily recommended, but…

i’ve never had a job where they paid me enough to care if i got fired or not, so the only time this ever happened to me, i pulled the sup into the back room, said that i had no interest in reporting him b/c it would cause undue stress to have to deal with it, but (in a stern voice) said “Don’t you EVER talk to me in that tone again!” “i’m not your child and you don’t pay near enough to take that from anyone.” he never talked to anyone like that again because he was afraid someone was gonna kick his ass, and he respected that i handled it myself. that’s the benefit of low wages.

I would rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.

We’re all here, because we’re not all there!

Now that I re-read my post, it was more along the lines of “moral support” than advice, which is what you actually asked for. So here’s my $.02-

Sadly, it may be tough for you to get satisfactory resolution to your predicament with your current employer. It’s often the case of being right, but powerless and so SOL.

Large organizations usually do what’s most expedient, not necessarily what’s right. And HR departments can be notoriously feeble – they often see their role as “maintaining the status quo/keeping us out of court”, not as being a strategic arm of the company’s success (actual HRM). If they’re actually going to do something about this guy (and perhaps his supv., too), it’s going to mean a lot of paperwork for them as well as – most likely – going up to the powers that be and justifying their recommendation, possibly against heavy institutional/management pressure (“But Mr. Yeller is one of our best producers/senior employees/vital technical whozits/president’s best golf buddy”). If they don’t have a strong leader in the HR dept. who’s willing to do this (or support others who do), you may need to give them good reason why supporting your claim is the “lesser of 2 evils” (to paraphrase their potential thinking). For this you’ll need documentation/evidence.

Did anyone see this 10/14 incident?
Can you give them a list of dates, incidents, witnesses?
Are others treated similarly? And would they be willing to say so?
Is there someone else at the University who would be interested in knowing about this – the Ombudsman? Labor Relations person? School paper? Maybe even a prof. in the psych dept. (a stretch, I know)?
Maybe the TM can help you come up with cases where this kind of situation lead to big $$ (fines, judgements) for an employer? (Anyone?)

Unless you’re fortunate to work in a place where values are placed above expediency – and a University could be better about this than just a regular old company (though not necessarily) – you’re probably going to have to redress the power balance one way or another and then play what could become a serious game of chicken. And even winning is sometimes bittersweet, as you’re then painted as a “troublemaker”.

Waiting until after Tuesday’s meeting could be too late expect them to take further action. By then they’ll have gone “on record” with their opinion and will be less inclined to change it – even if brought more evidence. (That could be perceived as admitting they were wrong or did a poor investigation.) I’d think about going to the while they’re doing the “investigation” with whatever leverage you can put together to support your case (see list above).


  1. Collect evidence/support/documentation (video?)
  2. Make your move – BOLDLY (softly with big stick)
  3. Be prepared to leave or know you’ll just have to live with it and wait it out. (Unfortunately these idiots are known to have unbelievable staying power.)
    P.S. If you decide to leave, do it in a purposeful, but not dramatic way. No yelling “I quit”, take as much time (days, weeks) as you need or can stand, get your stuff in order, clean out your desk and your computer, maybe even get another job lined up first, and do an exit interview with HR so they know why you’re going. (State facts, be careful not to sound whiny, or they’ll just write you off as “disgruntled”.)

Sorry to be such a cynic. But these are hard-learned lessons. Again, best of luck.

You are younger, stronger and faster. Beat the shit out of him.

I had a new boss like that once, too. He started screaming at me one day, and I just turned around and walked away. He demanded to know where I was going, and I calmly replied, “If you want to sit down and calmly and quietly explain to me what my discrepancy is like a sane, rational adult, I’ll be more than happy to listen to you. However, if you’re going to stand there and scream at me like a spoiled two-year old child who needs to go sit in the corner for throwing a temper tantrum, I’m not going to listen to it. This is a police station, not a day-care center.”

He just about went apopleptic, but when he started bellowing again, I just shrugged and left. I ended up in the chief’s office about a half-hour later, and we went through the whole thing again. The chief suggested that I be just a tad more respectful and to the sergeant that he change his management techniques. Things changed for a little while, but the sergeant drifted back into his old tricks quite quickly. He left the department after about eight months, because it got to the point where ever time he entered the room, everybody within visual sight of him started to whistle the theme song to “The Andy Griffith Show”, complete with snapping fingers. He finally asked somebody why, and the guy grinned and said, “Ever hear of a dude named Barney Fife?” This set the sarge off on a screaming rampage again, but he’d totally lost any and all respect from every officer in the department, and nobody was going to listen to him any more. The chief told us to knock the “Andy Griffith” business off, but it continued nevertheless, and finally the chief started to put pressure on the sarge to depart, which he eventually did. (What were they going to do, suspend 35 officers for insubordination? Yeah, right.) They replaced him with a fairly young guy from Jamaica, who was just as nice and polite as you could ask for, although he took a little bit of ribbing at the start, too, because before he learned our names, he just called everybody “mon”. A wonderful guy. He’s still there, in fact.

There isn’t a lot you can do. When the boss finds you went to H/R he can make your life miserable. Very few of us are model workers and usually after a complaint to H/R up come the write ups and poof you’re gone. I mean any manager worth his salt knows how to get someone to quit.

Do yourself a favor look for a job where you can be happy.

Not so sure this is much help, but this is what I do if anyone comes in my art dept. and so much as raises a voice or says anything in a remotely disrespectful tone. I pick up my exacto knife, look them straight in the eyes while I listen to their rampage, turn and hurl the blade with surgical precision at a blowup poster of an irate individual that I have mounted on a cork wall. I then turn to them and say. Do you really want to piss me off? …then smile when they stutter out a no and say… then please leave, as your attitude disturbs my creativity.

(thanks BurnMe your words of wisdom)

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing, does the painter do good
things.” --Edgar Degas

Something similar happened to me once except that I was a manager and the person screaming at me in public was a manager too. I filed a written complaint with HR and I also called a lawyer. HR “investigated” and suppossedly he was chastised. The lawyer I talked to said basically that there was nothing legally that I could do about normal, run of the mill verbal harassment. If I had been a woman and some of his screaming would have been sexist, then I would have had some legal recourse. I feel that my complaint ended up hurting me more than it did him. Boat rockers have a hard lot in life. Sadly, my advice is either take it or find a new job.

I’m with Fantastic – life’s too short. Take control of the situation while you have the chance, and look for another job.

Looking for work when you have a job is just a pain – being driven to quit suddenly or getting fired is a disaster.


Pickman’s Model, your story made me smile. Actually it made me snicker diabolically. It’s good to know Barney is gone.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

Purple, your solution is actually a very bad idea. Most people don’t react well to being threatened with a weapon.

In a yelling argument, if I saw someone pick up a sharp object, I’d assume they were planning to use it on me. Making a fast movement (as if to attack with the knife) would earn somebody a very messily broken nose.

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

Document everything.

Well, I’ve had success with two ways, but the success depends on knowing the person’s mindset.

If he knows he’s wrong, well, I hate to say Yell back though that has worked for me. It’s the whole bullies will back down when you stand up to them scenario. And you thought you were through with that when you graduated high school! (Well, this is a university… :))

If he doesn’t, you reply calmly and politely along the lines of I would be happy to discuss this with you in a lower tone of voice, and if the two of us can’t come to an understanding let’s both go to (insert his Boss’s name here) and see what we can do to mutually resolve this situation Note: The word mutually reminds him that his boss will blame whatever the trouble was on him as manager, not you. Look around after this statement and visibly note witnesses to his display. Should be the end of that.

Of course, as a programmer, unless he has your same skills you can always say: Fine, you show me how you would like me to do it. Here’s the keyboard. End of discussion :slight_smile:

Aura, I guess I need to give you a clearer picture here. I am a graphic designer and am often seen with a sharp object in my hand whether someone is shouting angrily at me or not. So they don’t usually assume I have it in my hands as a weapon. Not many HAVE seen how accurate I can throw it though, and for some reason, when I turn and throw it at the wall, (usually in the opposite direction they are standing) it always quiets them long enough for me to smile politely and let them know that their rudeness is neither tolerated nor is it constructive. I have to also say the general reaction is an apoligy and then a conversation about how I learned to do that. Not once has anyone ever gotten violent, they are more embarrased at the fact they were acting unprofessional. It also might help to know that I am a very tiny woman who most people don’t see as being much a threat. If anything they are stunned because it is so unexpected. I hope this clears up your worries. I did think adding all this to the first post a bit tedious.

“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing, does the painter do good
things.” --Edgar Degas

I had my meeting with HR and a Union Rep this morning. The results are mixed, as expected. HR talked with my abusive bosses, Dave and Nancy. The bosses say they “raise their voices” but don’t yell, and Dave denies being physically threatening to me. So, HR talked with some of my co-workers and got conflicting stories from them. Some of them say Yes, the bosses do yell and are abusive, some of them say they aren’t. Basically, some of my co-workers are afraid to speak up.

My one boss, Dave, says he did over-react to me on Oc 14 and will apologize for that. However, I think he is putting it too mildly. HR said they do think Dave broke the work rules when he lost his temper, and they will ask his boss, Nancy, what disciplinary action to take. However, I don’t expect much discipline from Nancy, since she is a yeller, too. I said I would like a written apology from Dave admitting he lost his temper, and assuring me he won’t do that again. We will see what happens.

Anyway, I feel I have accomplished something by going to a third-party (HR and the Union). I think my bosses know they are in hot-water and will be afraid to continue this abusive treatment. Hopefully, it won’t happen again. If it does, then I feel I am prepared because HR, the Union, and upper management have all been alerted to the past incidents. I don’t expect they will tolerate another incident.

Thank-you everyone on this thread for your helpful postings and advice.

Don’t be expecting any promotions anytime in the next decade…boat-rockers are rarely rewarded.