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Friday, May 11, 2007

Bully Boss

Hello Evil.

I have been the target of my bully boss for about a year and a half now, and am at my wits end. She and I worked as peers for a year and a half, at which time we both applied for a supervisory position. She got the job, I didn't. No hard feelings on my end, as I knew this would most likely be the case because she had been at the
company far longer than I, and had delveloped close relationships with management. My application was a career move. Since then, she has been my superior, and has done everything she can to make my work life a living hell. She has confronted me in front of my peers and privately, attacked me personally via e-mail and verbally (about things that have nothing to do with my performance), she meets with my clients (I am in sales) privately without inviting me or telling me about it, reprimands me for helping my peers, etc.

I have brought my complaints to her supervisors, and to HR, to no avail. The perception has been that I am "sour grapes" because I didn't get the job. Never mind that my complaints were not personal, and that I had well documented evidence of her behavior. I also have a spotless performance record. My last meeting with the VP of the company lasted all of three minutes, in which he didn't ask me anything about my complaints or the problems I was having - but merely told me I needed to find a way to resolve my "personal issues", and to ask me if I felt I
was unable to work with her (translation: did I need to be fired).

I have been in my career field for almost eight years, and have been very successful up to this point. A non-compete is standard practice in my industry, and I would either have to wait out my non-compete or move over 500 miles away to get a job in the same career field. I am not able to do either. I requested to be released from my non-compete, and my request was denied without any inquiry into why I wanted to be
released.

I need advise as to what to do. I have begun having stress related health issues, and my family life is suffering due to the problems I am having at work. My performance (and therefore income, as I am a commissioned employee) is suffering as well. I cannot remain in this position much longer. I am considering violating my non-compete, and challenging any legal action they bring citing a hostile work
environment. I appreciate any advice you can give.


It sounds as if you are in a pickle. Undoubtedly they do think you have sour grapes. Especially your direct supervisor--she probably believes that you are trying to undermine her so she perceives your neutral actions as hostile.

You can attempt to negotiate with the manager--could you be transferred to a different manager or territory? Of course, from what you've written, it sounds like you've already tried that option. If HR is asking if you want to be fired, the answer may be yes.

Do you have a copy of your non-compete agreement? Hopefully you do. The first thing you want to find out is if the non-compete applies in an involuntary termination. Some of them do. (Although as a side note, you can negotiate non-competes and you should never sign one that is enforceable in the case of an involuntary termination.)

If yours does not have that restriction you may want to sit down with a labor and employment lawyer and explain that you believe your company is trying to force a constructive Discharge.

This is where companies make it so intolerable to work there, that you have no choice but to quit. If so, then you can effectively argue that your termination was involuntary and therefore your non-compete is not in effect.

Just so you know, a hostile work environment has a specific definition that pertains to sexual, racial or other protected group harrassment. This doesn't fall into that category. But, constructive discharge should be your magic words.

Good luck and I hope you can get out of your non-compete.

Sincerely,

Evil HR Lady

4 comments:

Mike Doughty said...

The Evil HR Lady is giving you excellent advice. You need to leave this employer (sounds like a good place to get away from), as soon as reasonably practicable. Take your non-compete and get to a lawyer. Take copies of all those emails with you.

she said: said...

Okay - Mr Snarkolepsy has all sorts of weird data. This is what he says:

In some states - like California - there is something called a right to work clause. This makes non-competes unenforceable.

But of course you should see a lawyer before listening to anyone on the Internet.

But that is where I would start.. finding out if your state has some similar clause, then run right to a lawyer.

Wally Bock said...

Take a look at Bob Sutton's web site, Work Matters (http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/). Bob's most recent book is The No Asshole Rule and the site deals with issues related to bully bosses.

Judith said...

Here's a case that made the news. Two employees in Texas were recently awarded $250,000 in damages after a supervisor continually yelled at them, put his head down and "charged at them like a bull," and made an employee wear a sign that said "I quit."