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Coping with a Toxic Boss – “ELLERY THE YELLER”

Surviving the Toxic Workplace, by Linnda DurreBy Linnda Durre, Ph.D., Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace – Protect Yourself Against Co-workers Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day published by McGraw Hill, February 19, 2010.

As a business and corporate consultant and psychotherapist, I’ve analyzed, worked with, and consulted with many difficult bosses over the years.  In order to cope and deal with them, you need to know why they act the way they do and how best to deal with them, in order to earn their respect, get things accomplished, change negative situations to positive ones, and preserve your sanity.

In my column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss, whether male or female. And remember – all of these toxic bosses in all of my columns can be of either gender.  Toxicity does not discriminate according to the sexes. The previous ones include: Dick the Dictator, Bashia the Backstabber, Sewell the Sexual Harasser, Carl the Control Freak, Paula the Passive Aggressive, Clayton the Clueless, Greta the Gossip, Susie the Sugar Coater, Ian the Idea Stealer, Al the Alcoholic, Nancy the Narcissist, Donald the Deal Maker, Vernon the Verbal Attacker, Bobby the Boss’s Relative, Cynthia the Silent Treatment Torturer, Phil the Philanderer, Ned the Negligent, Sal the Slave Driver, Porter the Political Soap Boxer, Michael the Micromanager, Wade the One Upper, Betty the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, and Dan the Detail Boss.

SITUATION

Ellery the Yeller screams, hollers, and intimidates.  He has temper tantrums so forceful that the veins on his neck and forehead bulge, his face gets red, and you think he’s going to die of cardiac arrest or a stroke.  He looks and acts like the Incredible Hulk when he explodes in rage, except he doesn’t turn green.  I’ve known and read about employees who have gotten slapped, shoved, pushed, kicked, punched, and knocked down. 

He sometimes throws objects like cell phones, paper weights, tape dispensers, and even scissors at you.  These projectiles and his physical attacks can be painful, dangerous and even deadly.  You can receive concussions, lacerations, bruises, and broken bones.  He is so ungallant and maniacal that his rage is unleashed on women as well as men.  If Ellery is a woman, these physical attacks can also occur.  He can wound more than your pride and ego. You could get killed by Ellery.

Sometimes his yelling is so loud that you can hear it through the walls, down the hall, or even through the telephone as he screams at the co-worker next to you.  Ellery may humiliate you by yelling at you in front of other co-workers, complete strangers, or your family.   If your children or wife comes to the office for a visit, Ellery is so clueless, rude, and hotheaded that he doesn’t care who’s standing there to hear you being verbally eviscerated. 

Ellery’s attacks are unpredictable and have no warning – it can happen as you’re arriving in the morning, leaving the office at 5 PM, boarding an elevator, or walking down the stairs.  He is so determined to tell you that you’ve made a mistake that he’ll track you down when you’re in a stall in the bathroom as he continues his tirade.  No matter where, when, or how, his inappropriate, volatile behavior resembles an unhinged mad man.   

You hate and fear going to work.  You’re living in constant fear, getting migraines, neck and back aches, and you believe you have developed an ulcer because of the stress.  You may be nauseous, dashing to the bathroom to vomit, and popping antacids just to not hurl your breakfast or lunch every day.

Ellery has created a hostile work environment and that is illegal.  Something must be done about it and fast, or you could and others could get seriously hurt or even killed.

EXPLANATION

Ellery shares a great deal of personality traits with the other office tyrants I previously wrote about– Dick the Dictator, Carl the Control Freak, and Vernon the Verbal Attacker – with the additional “bonus” of high decibel screaming and throwing things, so please read those columns as well to give you more insight and techniques to cope.

These four men (and women can be exactly the same) all have strong needs to control, to be in power, and to be right.  Your assignments must be done perfectly, quickly, and finished at once.  He wanted it yesterday.  He feels the same way Carrie Fisher, one of my favorite authors, quipped, “Immediate gratification is not fast enough.”

He has the combined characteristics of a Type A personality and an explosive personality.  It’s his way or the highway.  He’s got a short fuse and unfortunately there are times when the pin is pulled on his grenade and he detonates, duck and cover! 

There’s a possibility that Ellery might also have a borderline personality disorder, and he may be  innately terrified of abandonment and disappointment.  He goes on rants and tirades when he feels let down, betrayed, and disappointed, becoming furious in the process.  Ultimately can become dangerous  and full of rage when someone doesn’t do what he demands or doesn’t live up to his impossible and unrealistic expectations. 

Initially when he first meets you or when you were first hired, he may initially idealize you – complimenting you and telling you that you’re wonderful – and then when you make one small mistake, you become his scapegoat and he demonizes you, spewing curse words and negative epithets at you like you were the devil incarnate. 

Ellery might even be bi-polar, with pronounced mood swings and erratic behavior – going from frenzied manic episodes to periods of great despair and even suicidal depths.  If so, he needs medication, psychological treatment, and even possible hospitalization to stabilize his emotions.

He may have had parents or previous bosses who were yellers and screamers, so he thinks this is normal and acceptable behavior.  It is not.  He may have gotten away with this at other jobs where this behavior was tolerated and even encouraged.  According to the law, he has created a hostile work environment, which is illegal.  

SOLUTION

Regardless of his diagnosis and the origins of his rage, you need to act fast to save your sanity and to protect your body from attacks.  The situation is best handled by reporting him to HR immediately before you or someone else gets hurt, maimed, or killed.

Scissors, paperweights, or any heavy projectile missile whipped from Ellery’s wicked arm like a Roger Clemens fast ball could put your or someone else’s eye out or break bones.  Take photos immediately of any physical abuse and the weapon he used in the act.  This will be helpful with HR, in the courtroom if you sue, and with the police when you report it.

You and everyone in the office deserve to be treated fairly and with respect and spoken to in a clear, calm manner, but Ellery won’t and can’t do that with people.  He needs to attend group therapy, classes, and individual therapy to deal with his serious anger management with a qualified, licensed, and experienced psychotherapist.  He might need medication from a psychiatrist or strong herbal remedies from a holistic practitioner for his anxiety and rage.  Ellery sounds like he might be the Bobby Knight of the office. 

The physical danger you would put yourself in by confronting him directly or even gently discussing things with him could be perilous given his unpredictable outbursts. Protect yourself and do it through Human Resources.  Accurately describe – with date, time, and place and in graphic detail – each of Ellery’s outbursts.  If you have any tape recordings of Ellery yelling at you on your voice mail, that is probably admissible evidence in court and/or you can give it to HR. 

Check with your attorney on all of these suggestions in my column.

Since his yelling is verbal abuse and an auditory offense which can turn into a physical infraction, you have to capture all of it on audio and/or video tape so you can have it as evidence.  If  he leaves a message on your voice mail, that also can be submitted as proof.  Make copies of all of these tapes and put one in your safety deposit box.  Submit these to HR and even to Ellery’s boss. 

If you are sitting at your desk and you can see him or hear him yelling at someone, you might want to video and/or audio tape it since it’s going over shared airspace and would probably be admissible in court or to HR as well. Check with your attorney. 

If he’s yelling at you and you can secretly switch on your tape recorder or video camera, you will have the proof you need.  Check with your attorney and other legal experts that you can do this.

If you and/or your attorney write HR a letter, you probably should threaten them with legal action, citing that this is an indication of a hostile work environment, which violates the law, or they might ignore the entire situation.  Make sure the letter is cc’d to Ellery’s boss, the legal department, and other higher ups in the company. 

When you go to HR, you may want to share my theories about Ellery’s mental status that I wrote about in the above section entitled “Explanations.”  There may be other complaints about him that might have been reported and then swept under the rug.  Bring pressure on HR to have this dealt with effectively and immediately before someone gets maimed or killed.

If HR does nothing, you have several options – sue the company, citing mental and emotional distress, hostile work environment, as well as assault and battery if you were attacked physically.  You can also call the police and press charges if that happens.  Ellery will not want a criminal offense charge such as assault, battery, or assault with a deadly weapon to be filed against him, yet that is what you can and probably should do to stop him. Take photos of the bruises or lacerations as proof and bring them with you to the police and to your attorney.  Always keep a digital camera, tape recorder, and small video camera in your desk or use your cell phone camera to document this verbal and/or physical abuse.

Remember, if your co-workers need the job and live in fear, they may not back you up with the police or in court.  You may be on your own.  On the other hand, they may be waiting for someone to rise up and take a stand against this bully.   They will sigh with relief to have you take the initiative in getting this situation handled. They may make excellent witnesses at HR and/or in court for you and your case.  If Ellery has worked at other companies, you may find additional witnesses there who will document his behavior and you may be able to use them in your law suit.  

If HR still does nothing, your options are to transfer to a different department with a new and better boss, quit and get a new job, or start your own company.   

This is a challenging situation and I hope these tips will help you in dealing with Ellery the Yeller.  Good luck!

—Linnda Durré, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, national speaker, and columnist. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask The Family Therapist” on America’s Health Network, which was associated with Mayo Clinic and aired from Universal Orlando. She is the author of “Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day” (2010 – McGraw-Hill). The book’s website is: www.survivingthetoxicworkplace.com

She has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Daytime, Good Morning America, Canada AM, and The O’Reilly Factor (twice), and the national and/or local news on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS, Fox and CW.  She has written for Forbes, CareerBuilder, Monster, A&U Magazine, Orlando Business Journal, and American Cities Business Journals. For more information about her consulting or speaking, contact her at Linnda.Durre@gmail.com and 407-739-8620.

 

Coping with a Toxic Boss – “ELLERY THE YELLER”
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6 Responses to “Coping with a Toxic Boss – “ELLERY THE YELLER””

  1. disbelief2 says:

    CONTINUED…. WHEN I TOLD HIM VERY POLITELY THAT —YES— ALL OF THIS DID IN FACT HAPPEN….

    I informed him that one of the women intervened during one accosting and said to the two bullies “Oh come on, get off her!”

    The psychiatrist said “WELL WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?” I asked him to repeat his question…. he said “WHAT DOES OH COME ON, GET OFF HER MEAN?” I was shocked at his question and told him that she was trying to help me as I was being bullying right in front of her. I told him it meant get off her or to rephrase, leave her alone.

    HE THEN TOLD ME THAT “KNOW IT DOESN’T” and that I was paranoid and that it did not happen. When I say this, I want you to know that he did not hardly disquise his intentions. This hired psychiatrist seemed to be there to discount anything that I might say and to play mind games with me while I am in a fragile state.

    I was shocked and told him that he should go ahead and give the company the accessment that they were paying him for because I was not interesting in being further abused. He did not care what I said and it was bizarre. Just him and I in a small office room.

    I left in tears and disbelief. He gave the employer a diagnosis of something with paranoia in it. I sent a letter to HR w/confirmation telling them of this abusive encounter and they did not respond and have since been cold and crass and never has talked with me about what happened.

    They sent me a letter telling me I’d have to go back to him for a return to work assessment. I protested and they said I must or face termination.

    I wen to the appt and took a witness who sat in the waiting area. It was even worse this time. I was still very calmly polite and rational, I let him start in again. I detailed how he’d treated me before and asked if the company had told him that I protested seeing him again but was forced. He ignored. He told me that the meds I was given were wrong. Zoloft and seraquil which also has the added benefit of helping me sleep, but was prescribed to offset the zoloft and help anxiety and depression. I was told by all of the other psych and therapists that no med will erase what happened but these are best available to assist. Since is not chemical, but trauma instead.

    This company hired psych told me that all other 3psychs and 2 counselors that I’d seen during the years of this escalated harassment were wrong. Meds wrong and the PTSD diagnosis was wrong. He kept ignoring the indecent voyeurism and would not even talk about it???? but told me that I was treated with the wrong meds for it. He then stated that PTSD occurs ONLY WHEN NEAR DEATH INCIDENT HAPPENS. HE COULD NOT OFFER AN OPINION OF WHAT THE CORRECT DIAGNOSIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN BECAUSE HE DID NOT WANT TO EVEN DISCUSS OR ACKNOWLEGE WHAT HAPPENED..ANY OF IT. I asked him if he was married, and he said yes. I then asked him to ask his wife how she might feel if she were told be a male sup that he’d watched her in restroom stall an unknown number of times. I asked about if he knew anything about workplace bullying or harassment/toxicity or he’d ever experienced it. He said yes he himself had. I said then you should know how I feel having gone through this and then in the end this event.

    I asked if the company had told him that the eeoc came in and of all of the charges they were investigating. He said that the company told him that they found nothing. No cause in ANY OF IT. He said this multiple times and I asked him clearly to clarify. He told me that I “HAVE AN UNREALISTIC BELIEVE THAT MY CO-WORKERS ARE OUT TO GET ME” and that it is UNREALISTIC AND UNWARRENTED. He then stated that he was giving me the same diagnosis and taking out the word paranoia. He said he was taking that out of it but said I have an UNREALISTIC BELIEVE THAT MY CO WORKERS ARE OUT TO GET ME.

    I was shocked. The company knows I have been harassed and all the while this perverted man has videotaped me in the restroom. He would walk by and say “you two are trouble” to the harassers. Women in office know that it is toxic and have witnessed. During a short mock meeting where HR talked about being kind to co workers, one of the harassers became hostile and said ” IF IT WERE DONE TO ME, I WOULD NOT TATTLE” openly during the meeting and one woman who is friendly with her interjected and said to me “JUST LET THEM HANDLE IT” She was upse that they were still harassing me and HR/mgmt never did “HANDLE IT”.

    The lady that I regretfully mentioned intervened saying “oh come on, get off here” was then promptly sent for a random drug test RIGHT after the EEOC meeting and she stood in office and said “I’D BETTER NOT SAY ANYTHING ELSE, THEY’RE GONNA HAVE DOGS AT MY DESK” I was mortified. I did not want to involve anyone so I’d carried it alone for all of that time. They would come and hug me and send me support notes, but would side with the bullies in public. After hearing that I left in Dec. I was having racing heart that had been going on for years and I’d not mentioned all symptoms to Dr until it was found by Dr. I had to wear heart monitor LIFEWATCH.

    MY QUESTION IS WHAT SHOULD I DO. I KNOW THAT THE COMPANY IS INTENTIONALLY EMOTIONALLY ASSAULTING AND ALLOWING ASSAULT OF ME BUT WHAT DO I DO.

    THEY ALLOWED A VERY TANGEABLE THREAT TO BE PUT IN THE COMPANY BULLETIN THAT IS SENT VIA EMAIL TO EVERYONE. THE MESSAGES SEEMED TO NARARATE THE ORDEAL.

    FIRST IT READ – ONE SHOULD NOT BE MORE AGREEABLE THEN ONE CAN AFFORD

    Folks would always say that I was too nice and they would have long ago had it out with the bullies.

    one of the last posts in the quote section was RIGHT after the eeoc fact finding.

    STATEMENTS MADE TO CATCH EVERYONE MAY CATCH NO ONE.

    This is what was in the company newsletter quote section. I opened it and nearly fell over. They are emotionally assaulting me.

    I AUDIO TAPED THE LAST MEETING WITH THAT DR. I WAS NOT GOING TO HAVE HIM FURTHER PSYCHOLOGICALLY ASSAULT ME AND HAVE NO ONE BELIEVE ME. —– I RECORDED IT AND HAVE LET FRIENDS AND FAMILY HEAR——-

    MY COMPANY KNOWS I DID BECAUSE I WAS CALM BUT VERY DISTRAUGHT WHEN I CAME FROM THAT BACK ROOM. HE SHUT THE DOOR BEHIND ME NEARLY KICKING ME OUT. I WAS CALM BUT EMOTIONAL. I PULLED THE RECORDER FROM MY OPEN PURSE AND HIT PLAY. IT IS ALL ON THERE THE ENTIRE THING. I DISREGARDED THAT THE RECEPTIONISTS THAT WERE THERE WERE WITNESSING. I TOLD MY WITNESS/SUPPORT THAT HE WAS WORSE THAN BEFORE AND THAT HE WAS CLEARLY GIVING A PAID OPINION AND ABUSIVE IN NOT WANTING TO DISCUSS WHAT HAPPENED AND SAYING THAT THE COMPANY TOLD HIM THAT THERE WAS NO CAUSE FOUND IN ANYTHING. I’D EVEN THIS TIME BROUGHT WITH ME MY FILES AND HAD ALL EEOC PAPERS AND SUCH. HE DID NOT WANT TO SEE THEM AND TOLD ME THAT I COULD HAVE DOCTORED THEM UP.

    I KNOW THAT THE RECEPTIONISTS TOLD HIM THAT I HAD HIM ON RECORDING AFTER WE LEFT THE WAITING ROOM. I AM SO IN COMPLETE DISBELIEF OF ALL OF THIS THAT I AM DECLINING. I DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO. I NEED HELP. SICK PAY RAN OUT AND I DONT WANT TO GO BACK. I CANT EVEN PASS THE STREET THE COMPANY IS ON WITHOUT A NEAR PANIC ATTACK. IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?

    WHO SHOULD I GIVE THE RECORDING TO? DOES IT EVEN MATTER THAT THE COMPANY IS HAVING A PAID PSYCHIATRIST TO BEHAVE THIS WAY FOR THEM?

    I AM SURE THAT THE COMPANY KNOWS ABOUT THE RECORDING AS THEY HAVE NOT EVEN CALLED ME AND IT HAS BEEN MORE THAN TWO WEEKS SINCE THE ABUSIVE APPOINTMENT. I GET NO PAY AND HAVE NO INCOME WITH 3 CHILDREN. IT HAS BEEN ABOUT 4 WEEKS NO PAY. MORTGAGE AND MORE. I HAVE SURVIVED ON CREDIT.

    I WANT TO FIGHT. THIS WAS DONE TO ME AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT.

    JUST BEFORE I LEFT IN DEC THERE WAS ANOTHER NEAR ALTERCATION GOING ON IN THE DEPT NEXT DOOR. WE WERE SITTING ABOUT 9 OF US IN OFFICE AND IT WAS QUIET. WE HEARD “GET AWAY FROM ME, I’M TIRED OF IT! YOU MAKE MY WORKING IMPOSSIBLE. YOUR SO HOSTILE” THE OTHER EMPLOYEES WERE STANDING IN CUBICAL LOOKING AND SENDING INSTANT MESSAGES BACK AND FORTH ASKING WHAT WAS GOING ON.

    IT WAS A CO WORKER THAT IS ALSO MILD MANNERED LIKE MYSELF BEING ACCOSTED BY A WELL KNOWN BULLY.

    I UNDERSTAND THAT OTHERS HAVE PROBLEMS, BUT PAY IS GOOD AND NOBODY WILL COME FORWARD.

    I LEFT UNDER TERRIBLE STRESS RIGHT AFTER THAT IN DEC.

    WHAT SHOULD I DO???? I DONT THINK I CAN WORK ANYWHERE ELSE. I AM GOING THROUGH SOMETHING THAT I CANT HANDLE EMOTIONALLY. I TOLD THE HR AND SUP OF MY LIMITED RELATIONSHIPS IN MY LIFE AND I AM EARLY 30’S WITH HAVING ONLY TWO RELATIONSHIPS EVER. I AM SICK AT THIS MAN HAVING BEEN WATCHING ME. I AM SICK AT ALL THAT HAS HAPPENED.

    WHAT DO I DO????????? I DONT EVEN LIKE TO LEAVE MY HOUSE, MY YOUNGEST STAYS WITH RELATIVES ALOT FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND WHEN HERE IS HIS DAD MONITORS HIS JV. I DO TOO, BUT I SLEEP ALOT DURING THE DAY AND DONT WANT HIM TO SEE ME DEPRESSED.

  2. disbelief2 says:

    I HADNT EVEN READ ALL THE WAY THROUGH YOUR ARTICLE TO SEE THE RECORDING SUGGESTION. I HAVE JUST BEEN MONTIORING THIS WORKPLACE HARASSMENT EPIDEMIC SINCE I MYSELF HAVE BEEN ENDURING IT IN DISBELIEF.

    THAT IS SO ODD THAT YOU RECCOMENDED THAT.

    I JUST DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THE RECORDING THAT I HAVE. I DONT WANT TO TELL MY COMPANY, THEY WILL HUSH ME. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND HOW THEY COVERED IT, AND NOW WHAT MY FAMILY AND I HAVE SUFFERED.

    I AM FINDING THAT THEY HAVE NO ETHICS AND WERE EVEN RECENTLY IN THE NEW FOR THEIR ETHICS. THEY HAVE NONE, AND ARE ABUSIVE AND WILL LIE AND STEAM ROLL OVER A GOOD EMPLOYEE.

    I HAD ONLY A GREAT RECORD BEFORE I CAME FORWARD ABOUT THE CLIMATE OF THE TOXICITY AND HARASSMENT. I HAVE MOUNDS OF ACCOLADES THAT I HAVE IN MY PERSONAL RECORD. I HAVE KEPT EVERYTHING.ALL CERTIFICATES, PERFECT ATTENDANCE EMPLOYEE AWARDS PERFORMANCE ACCOLADES ALL OF IT. I WAS KNOWN AS THE “GOOD EMPLOYEE” PRIVATELY I WAS A NERVOUS WRECK EVERY DAY FOR YEAR AND ……….. WITH GOOD CAUSE AND THEY KNOW IT. ALL OF IT HAPPENED.

  3. […] Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, Sandy the Snob, Blaine the Blamer, Winnie the Whiner, and Eric the […]

  4. […] the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, Sandy the Snob, Blaine the Blamer, Winnie the Whiner, Eric the Erratic, Hy the Hider, Christine […]

  5. […] the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, Sandy the Snob, Blaine the Blamer, Winnie the Whiner, Eric the Erratic, Hy the Hider, Christine […]

  6. […] the Battle Axe, Phoebe the Phony, Peter the Pig, Bill the Big Picture Boss, Dan the Detail Boss, Ellery the Yeller, Sandy the Snob, Blaine the Blamer, Winnie the Whiner, Eric the Erratic, Hy the Hider, Christine […]

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