Workplace Q&A: Part 9

Q: My boss is a bully. What should I do?

“My boss is a bully. He hones in on the most vulnerable people in our group and then picks on them. So far I’ve escaped his attention because nothing really noteworthy has happened in my life. Still, I’m totally stressed out. If I get sick, he’ll make fun of my illness. If I have a problem with my child, he’ll tell me I’m a bad mother. If there’s a death in my family, he’ll say I’m next in line for the grave. Whatever happens, he’ll tease me about it and throw it back in my face. I’m not sure I’ll be able to take his abuse. What should I do?”

A: Look for another job.

If you stay, it can only end up badly. Everyone will eventually get sick, have family difficulties, or encounter problems with his appearance, and you’re right that you are no exception. When that happens, you won’t need the extra stress of being teased and bullied about it.

Do not share with anyone your plans to do a job search. When you are interviewing for your new job, do not talk about your bad boss. Focus on the benefits of the new position and why it is a perfect opportunity for you.

Q: Can my co-worker use company-licensed software for his own personal business?

“My co-worker is running software that has been licensed by our company. He uses the software not only for work, but also for his own personal business projects. When I asked him about it, he said that the software license is in his name, and that there’s no extra cost to the company if he uses the software for his own business, too. Can he do this?”

A: No.

Your company may have put your co-worker’s name on the licensing agreement as an authorized user. But that does not mean he can use the software for his own business. In fact, he is probably violating the terms of the licensing agreement as well as your company’s own internal policy on the use of corporate resources.


Q: My boss found some embarrassing things in my desk. What should I do?

“I am a secretary. Last week, when I was absent from work, my manager needed some forms to fill out for reimbursement. So he went through my desk looking for them. Although I had nothing illegal in my desk, there were some personal things that were, well, embarrassing. Now I feel really uncomfortable interacting with my manager. What can I do?”

A: Try to forget about what happened.

I’m assuming that your manager in fact had a timely need for the reimbursement forms and that he knew you kept them in your desk. In that case, he is allowed to look for them. As a general rule, any property in the office is fair game for a search if there is a business reason. Your boss’ search does not seem like an abuse of management power.

I suggest that you try to forget what happened. My guess is that your manager has already forgotten about it. There are very few things that most people haven’t seen at one time or another.

Copyright © 2013–2014 Johanna Harris

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post contains numerous questions describing common recurring problems in the workplace. The circumstances described in these questions, including the names of characters and business firms, are fictitious.

About the Author: Johanna Harris has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC. Her new book, USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace (i Book, Kindle, Amazon Paperback), is intended to help you learn enough about labor law and personnel practices so that you don’t get derailed from the career track you should be on.


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