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Verbal Abuse on the Job

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    I am a small practice legal secretary for a firm of three lawyers. The job pays reasonably well and I am not in a position where I can quit my job, as equivalent employment in my area would be very difficult to find. I have been working here now for about 3 months. 2 of the lawyers are fine, but the senior partner is an abusive bully, to me and even to the other lawyers in the firm. He will give me an assignment to complete and then he will invariably end up screaming at me for my having failed to include some information that he didn’t ask for and that I couldn’t have know he wanted. He really makes me feel stupid sometimes and I have to remind myself that I didn’t do anything wrong and that I can’t read his mind if he won’t tell me what he wants. He generally likes to wait until there is at least someone else within earshot before yelling too, so he’s got an audience and so other people think I am incompetent, which I am not.

    He also loves to wait until almost the end of the day, often as he is leaving before giving me some task he knows will take hours to complete so that I have to stay late. I could go on, but basically the guy is a complete jerk and if I had any legitimate alternatives I wouldn’t stay another day. I am often in tears by the time I get home at night and I am often still seething over the day at work as I lie in bed at night. As it is though, I think I need to try to make this work for a while, but what can I do to make him back off a bit? Is it a good idea for me to confront him on his bullying or will this just make things worse? Is what he is doing against the law? At this point I would love it if he got what’s coming to him for the way he treats everyone.

  • David Johnson Says ...
    David  Johnson

    I can't give you legal advice about whether your bosses behavior is illegal. However, you should be able to talk to an attorney in your jurisdiction and get an answer.

    I urge you to begin looking for another job. Someone as abusive as he is is very likely willing to fire you for little or no reason. You need to open other options as soon as possible.

    Few people I've met can just learn to tolerate this sort of abuse. Your reactions to him suggest that he is already taking a toll on your self-esteem and distorting your perceptions. It is unlikely that anyone over hearing his abuse is going to think ill of you. He is truly looking like a jerk, and most everyone will see that.

    You can certainly attempt to be assertive, but I would need to be very careful. Be much more gentle than he is. In my experience, people like your boss won't tolerate much in the way of feedback. Bullying likely makes him feel more powerful than he feels otherwise. Don't challenge his power without a legal recourse or a willingness to walk away from your job.

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