Do I Have To Obey A Bully Boss?

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An AOL Jobs reader asks:

I have a friend who is yelled at and harassed at work, he is a special ed. aide, and the person harassing is the Principal. The aide has a supervisor who is fine. My friend wants to know if he is being treated badly, does he have to obey the principal? The principal is new and he doesn't have the power to hire/fire.


Can you ignore a bully at work, even if they're the boss? Do you have to obey the boss if they're a bully?

Short answer, no you can't ignore the boss. Yes, you have to obey the boss, even if they're a bully. Even if you think they can't fire you, I bet they can convince someone else to give you the ax if you're insubordinate. So, what can you do short of insubordination? Here are some ways you can try to help yourself if you're being plagued by a bully:Go over their head: If the boss who is bullying you can't actually fire you, then report their behavior to the person in charge. If there's a board or committee that hires and fires, you may have to go to them. However, there's a risk in going over a bully's head. You aren't legally protected against retaliation for reporting a bully, so they could easily take the boss's side and get rid of you.

Report for yourself and others: If this person is a bully to others as well as you, then you may be protected against retaliation if you report on behalf of yourself and others. If you're engaging in concerted activity with co-workers, you are likely protected (assuming you aren't a supervisor and NLRB has jurisdiction over your employer) under the National Labor Relations Act, which says: "Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." If you're retaliated against, you can file a Charge Against Employer with the National Labor Relations Board.

Look for discrimination or other protected status: Workplace bullies are like playground bullies. They target the weak and the different. That means they frequently break the law. Check out my article 5 Ways Your Workplace Bully May Be Breaking The Law to figure out if you're in a protected category. If you think you are, then my article 7 Ways to Protect Yourself If Your Boss Is A Bully will help you report it in a way that's legally protected.


If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.
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