I joined my job as an entry level programmer and my manager at the time agreed with me that I could attend college to increase my programming abilities. This would happen whilst working for him and taking on small projects to get my feet wet and my experience up.

Recently my manager quit and has been replaced by a manager who goes out of his way to bully and belittle me and others on the team. I get most of the focus of his bullying because I am the least experienced.

He expects me to have the experience of someone who has been working 10 - 20 years in the field when my experience barely stretches past one year. He frequently shouts and belittles me in my cubicle for all to hear and expects me to commit to work without even looking at it.

The shouting and bullying has gotten to the point where I am considering quitting but I hear there may be some job opportunities opening up in another department in a couple of months that I would like to stick around for.

To clarify, I am completing all of my work to the best of my abilities, but he tries to over work me and give me too little time to possibly complete it in, yet he still threatens to remove me from the development team if I don't meet his impossible standards.

I would complain to his manager but he is apparently just as bad, if not worse that my new manager.

How can I deal with being constantly bullied and belittled to the point of tears until I can move to a new job?

How can I protect myself from this without making it worse?

  • 12
    When I get assigned a manager like that I run for the exit - immediately. Transfer to another group if you can, find another employer if you can't. Java is one of the highest demand skills in the IT world, unless the city you're in is comatose you'll find work within days. Do not give this guy another hour of your life. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 2:19
  • 29
    Leave. StackExchange doesn't permit one-word comments, so I'll embellish this to say, "Find another job and leave." From what you say it seems impossible to change this manager, and indeed even if you could it probably isn't worth it. Seriously. No sarcasm at all in this comment. This is a textbook case of when to get a new job. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 3:53
  • 2
    Hopefully my edit maintained the point of this question whilst removing the large amount of text. Open to improvements.
    – user5305
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 9:35
  • workforce.com/articles/stamping-out-workplace-bullies
    – SeanC
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 16:02
  • 4
    Document his abuses, preferably via video footage. Report him within the company to HR.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 23:03

12 Answers 12


I would complain to his manager but he is apparently just as bad, if not worse that my new manager.

If this is confirmed knowledge rather than hearsay, it means that abusive behaviour is tolerated at multiple levels in this company. And that means it's a fundamentally toxic workplace.

I hear there may be some job opportunities opening up in another department in a couple of months that I would like to stick around for.

The other departments are just as likely to have a bad work atmosphere. And "I hear there may be" is not sufficient reason to tolerate a toxic workplace for months, especially since you have marketable skills.

Get out of there ASAP (Clarification: that means start looking for a different job, not quit immediately - unless it's truly intolerable).

  • 4
    You may not be wrong but I'm extremely disappointed at the high vote score here. This does not give even an ounce of thought to substantial portions of the question. My rule of thumb: the answer should at least be as long/detailed as the question.
    – Nicole
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 8:00
  • 13
    @NickC: what portions of the questions do you think I have not given thought to? And IMO that is a very bad rule. There is no significant correlation between the length of a question (which may, as in this case, include extensive explanations of the situation) and the length of a useful answer. Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 8:15
  • 4
    @MichaelBorgwardt from the original unedited question: My question is, what is the best way to deal with an abusive and bullying new manager? How can I protect myself and stand up for myself without being punished?
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 16:31
  • 4
    See this meta discussion too.
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 16:37
  • 3
    @MichaelBorgwardt are you suggesting the asker just walk out tomorrow and not even stay two weeks? Or are you suggesting stopping showing up to work? Even if this was an answer to the question, it still doesn't explain any of the important parts of how to actually effect the results. If you intend them to stay working for 2 weeks, well, that's nearly the same situation the asker's real question is anyways!
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 17:45

I would complain to his manager but he is apparently just as bad, if not worse that my new manager.

You are a programmer. It sounds like you are good at it too, given your grades and previous reviews.

You should be able to very easily get a new job if you want to in almost all areas. You have marketable skills and now have some job experience.

From your original post

My senior programmer coworkers back me up and want me to stick this out and succeed, at the very least not to give up my dream of programming, but I can't live this way.

This type of workplace is not normal. Let me say that again - this workplace environment is NOT normal and is awful.

Your manager is abusive. Do not justify any of his behavior (or let others do this). You also do not have to see it as giving up your dream of programming, if you leave.

It is likely your other team members are looking for new jobs, too.

Things I would do:

  1. Get your entire team together and talk about this. Make sure everyone is on the same page. If you are all being forced to work weekends, being verbally abused, being micromanaged, 80 hour weeks, etc, it is likely your entire team would be able to support approaching HR
  2. Document the abuse. If you have emails, this is even better.
  3. Approach HR as a group. You say you don't trust HR, but the point of this isn't necessarily to make everything better permanently, but buy you time. If you approach HR and they are even remotely competent, they will discuss this with your abusive manager. While it almost assuredly will not change him permanently, best case is he will get a stern talking to and calm down some temporarily. But first make sure to discuss with your more experienced team members in Step 1 about whether they think this would be beneficial. If HR has no leverage, then this might make things worse.
  4. Stop working 80 hour weeks, work normal weeks and search for a job with your new 40 hours a week. Don't let the urgent (your boss's demands) get in the way of what is really important (getting the hell out of there!). Your boss is already making life miserable.

All these steps are to buy you time and facilitate finding a different employer.


Main points.

  1. Talk to him in private. Tell him that if he has an issue with your work, it is to be discussed in private. Not at your cubicle, and certainly not while people are around. It's totally unprofessional, and also undermines you in work.

  2. Document everything. Have a clean plan and workload. If you feel the goals are unattainable you need to have realistic details of what can be done and when.

However your description it sounds like a constructive dismissal. If this is the case, there are legal implications depending on where you live. However no really wins when it goes the legal route, it is normally best to look for another job.

The priority is protecting your reputation in such instances. So make sure you document everything and show that if any incident has happened what was the outcome, etc.

I would also feel him out in private. For example, if something is not attainable you can discuss what training, etc you need. If the plan is to replace you, they won't even entertain this.

  • re point #1. If it was me I would also point out it could be taken as "Constructive Dismissal". But this is a dangerous comment to make, so you would need to know how they would take it if you said it. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 10:30
  • 1
    The point is that what is occurring in public, should happen in private. It isn't that it will go well, it's to stop from undermining you in public. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 13:59
  • 1
    Simon, you're not wrong that the manager should criticize in private. But enderland's point is that the kind of person this manager appears to be will completely blow up when a young inexperienced developer comes in to the manager's office to "tell him" what to do and how and where to do it. Heck, even some good managers wouldn't take that well. Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 12:37

If you want to stay there:

  • Don't play his game. Never commit to work, before estimating the effort. Argue about the dead lines. Using your inexperience as argument is valid. But don't become a naysayer, stay professional.
  • Ask your colleagues about their opinion. Probably they think the same. But be cautious, let the more experienced tell their opinion first, because evil people could use it against you. They'll become your allies and maybe try to protect you.
  • Try to get better fast. Therefore do some knowledge research during office time and thus showing engagement by doing extra hours, but not more than 5 hours a week. Doing more work will get you into a vicious circle.
  • Provide new ideas and improvements, which your manager can claim as his own. F.e. "We should do test-driven development, but you're the only one who is capable to introduce it."

2 things you can do as far as I can see:
-Talk to the others on your team, see if they feel the same way. If they do, see if they want to confront your manager as a cohesive group and lay out your frustrations in a professional and respectful manner.
-Failing the above: find another job. You're young, capable, there's no reason to put up with such misdemeanor. But I myself would start with no longer tolerating such abuses. Nobody has the right to insult you or demand crazy hours from you, nobody, and I would be inclined to tell him that.

  • 2
    1)Let him rage. I've dealt with this type before; they can't handle an adult conversation so they throw a hissy fit hoping you'll be intimidated. The clue is: don't be intimidated. There is nothing he can do to you. If he fires you, so much the better for you, then you're out of there. 2)Extra work? Just focus on the important work first and don't exceed your normal sustainable pace (no matter how fast he's jumping up and down to go faster). Btw, don't confront him alone, do it as a cohesive group. Usually has a lot more impact. Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 7:17

Not mentioned above (from what I can tell)...

Managing involves stuff like emotional intelligence, understanding the difference between adult-adult and parent-child types of communication, evaluating and measuring performance, and knowing how to 'read' a job candidate. People that do this stuff instinctually are scarce, and tend to work in very stable and financially secure organizations. As the business environment becomes more volatile, so do the managers - in short you are dealing with someone who has probably 'not made the cut' elsewhere, and probably thinks he's been dumped in a trash bin, figuratively speaking. While it may take awhile to figure out - it's probably safe to say that his pay is below industry norms, he's been asked to manage projects that are unreasonable in scope (at least for his talents) and that the resources of the organization aren't sufficient to 'cover the bases'. But he can't leave - he's got a mortgage to pay and kids to feed. In short, he's trapped.

There may also be a perspective of manager as dictator - he may have a feeling that he needs to make an example out of someone in order to be respected. As the least paid and least skilled, you're 'cheap', if you quit less harm is done than if anyone else does. Perhaps a point he's trying to make is that he is perfectly capable of firing someone, or making someone miserable if he wants to - 'don't mess with the boss'. It would sound like he doesn't understand his role, that of facilitator. Managers in organizations are there to support the people on the front lines, which means going to bat for employees rather than beating them up.

He may see that there aren't enough resources to do this, so capricious behavior 'doesn't matter'. Very often it does - your skills may not be much now, but if you're making efforts they'll improve. I have hired people to work on projects I've managed, and then discovered via reversal of fortune that I'm working for them on things they manage. This happens all the time in software.

Much of the advice offered elsewhere is 'confront' - stand up to him and don't just automatically follow his dictates. With respect to time schedules, even good bosses make bad scheduling estimates, so there is no point in committing to unrealistic times, or for saying yes to work you can't do. Overall, however, confrontation is best avoided. There are three separate strands you can follow.

First, are you gaming the situation as much as he is? Is he reading body language on your part that communicates that you think he's a tyrant or an idiot? You may be communicating non-verbally things that you wouldn't dare say. Others in your group might see things you can't. I've tended to be an introvert, sometimes this bothers people, and it isn't because I'm trying to make them mad, I just tend to hole up in my cubby. He's yelling, you're signing.

Second, every manager is engaged in the 'global war for resources'. This is an unholy alliance of labor, finance, material, and time. In short, you're working for someone that is forever out scrounging for anything he can find to carry out his duties. Some managers are AWOL - they don't understand the nature of this fight and don't play at all. Others are utterly ruthless, however such individuals are more Machiavellian than overbearing. The most pleasant, sociable, and forgiving manager you work for may be the one that can win at this game, the ones that are losing know it, and it reflects on their attitude. He's asking you to pass the ammo, and you don't have much to offer, by your own admission. He may not be able to fire you, so he simply tries to run you off. One analogy in all this is if your team were a unit in the trenches, what would you be doing? Does he or the other team members feel that you're getting in the way and can't contribute? If so, is it something you can fix?

It doesn't take much to realize from the above that real talent in management is scarce. Within that, talent in software development management is even scarcer. Someone running a business process outsourcing call center has to find people that have enough language and social skills to interact with customers on the telephone and keep them happy enough that they show up for work every day. This is a combination of scheduling flexibility, pay, working conditions, and positive reinforcement that keeps the center staffed. In comparison, software staff is not populated from lines of people wrapped around the block desperate to get anything at all. An individual in this role had a fundamental interest in it as a teenager, has some amount of formal education (perhaps running for years), and some amount of real world experience. People in this role have their share of the work required to keep somewhere between one and two billion computers doing useful things for users. The computers are often dirt cheap - a $25 Raspberry Pi is worth one hour of recently graduated developer pay. Therefore the supply of computers is expanding exponentially faster than the supply of developers. Keeping such people happy and productive is not merely a matter of air conditioning and comfortable chairs.

Most managers do not discuss resource constraints with their employees beyond a 'we can't afford that' when someone asks for a new monitor or more memory. If you're a foot soldier in this battle, you have to figure out whether you're on a winning team. This means figuring out whether the product that's going out the door is worth much to consumers. If it isn't, you are cannon fodder - someone viewed as 'disposable', as is, in effect, the entire company. This means you have to take on the perspective of the senior management and figure out what efforts are worthwhile. There is no point wasting your life on losers.

Third, facts is facts. Some of my more antagonistic relationships have been with people that were very good at what they do. My perspective is different (as anyone reading my posts notices). I would go off on conversational tangents about controversial ideas that someone wouldn't like, and they'd try to cut me down. Very patiently, I would find and present my sources - why I thought so, where the idea came from, who else follows that line of thinking. After awhile, some of these people realized I could defend my perspective from something more than 'because I said so'. If your boss is saying things that aren't so, be able to prove they're wrong. This doesn't mean creating embarrassment, it simply means being able to cite your sources, and being able to explain why a given line of thinking comes up short. This is going to mean periodic reassessments on your part, as you come to terms with things neither of you have heard of.

Getting out is good if you can. If not, project to him that you expect him to explain reasons - every step of the way.


I have never been the one to just jump a job ASAP due to such conditions. Although it could be rare, what will you do if you run into similar situations in future ? How will you handle if a future company wants to talk to your ex- manager ? Since you are a new programmer, I think this situation presents a real opportunity to learn lessons, toughen up and get more professional. If I were you, I would do these :

  1. Talk to the manager and try and understand why he behaves the way he does. Whats his side of the story. Are there specific benchmarks that you fail ? If his expectations are impossible, try and explain why you think so and be ready with realistic expectations that he can have from you. Specifically mention that you are not comfortable with the way he communicates with you and publicly humiliates you. Keep the conversation extremely professional.
  2. After the above verbal discussion, draft a mail and send it to him saying, As discussed with you...
  3. Know your rights. If there are no local laws where you are, what is the workplace policy for such behavior ? A lot of companies have the 'integrity help line'.
  4. If you notice no change in behavior over a week then approach the HR and explain the situation and the steps you have taken. If need be back it up with data and show your email exchange. Discuss what options you have and what steps the company will take. Be sure to send an email summarizing your discussions with the HR.
  5. If in another week there is still no improvement, you would have two options. Find another employer or fight it out with escalating to superiors and till the CEO can give up.Post which, of course, you will have learned this was a bad work place. Lesson learnt.

Good luck.

  • There are some people who are ALWAYS right and you are ALWAYS wrong. You can't negotiate with these people.
    – enderland
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 17:12
  • Nevertheless all people work for the company (which itself is a result of government regulations, in a way). As a professional I will always try and have a dialogue. I guess every professional's mileage varies. Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 18:33

To clarify, I am completing all of my work to the best of my abilities, but he tries to over work me and give me too little time to possibly complete it in, yet he still threatens to remove me from the development team if I don't meet his impossible standards.

There is nothing you can do here, i would say learn as much as you can. Knowledge you gain at these periods would add more value to your profile.

Always remember, no route is going to be an easy one so don't expect a safe ride always. Life is like that, accept it.

I would complain to his manager but he is apparently just as bad, if not worse that my new manager.

It will back-fire you. Don't waste time if you know that he is just as bad your current P.M

How can I deal with being constantly bullied and belittled to the point of tears until I can move to a new job? How can I protect myself from this without making it worse?

Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind. - Bruce Lee

You don't need to deal these situations in fact you need to be smarter on how to ignore and move on. Make a plan, what would it require for you get a next best job. Work on the plan.


If a manager treats you like this, there is a good possibility they will be looking for any good reason to get rid of you as well. If it is as bad as you describe, I would encourage you to find other employment on your own terms before your resume is tarnished with a involuntary termination. I would also caution though that early in a career it is easy to have the "grass is greener" view of other employers and after moving around a couple of times you may realize one of them wasn't as bad as you thought.


If you like the job other than the current situation with your boss, I would consider confronting your boss about the situation. Perhaps "confronting" is not the right word, but it's always possible that this person doesn't realize what's going on there. I'm not saying this will be an easy conversation, but it's the kind of hard conversation which you will probably have again at some time in your corporate career.

If/when you do so, make sure you frame your requests in "I" statements. This may sound a little bit corporate but a person like this, from the sounds of it, will not not not accept the outright blame for anything, even if it's obvious to the most impartial of observers that he's being a jerk to you. Say something like...

I am disturbed by [comment X] that you made towards me yesterday. Although I generally feel that I am contributing to the team to the best of my ability, comments like these erode that feeling and do not help me to improve.

Chances are, this will be greeted with dismissive behavior, but there's always the chance that a. the boss could have some kind of revelation ("oh, sorry man, I just thought it was regular old office banter and you were cool with it. I'll behave better in the future"), or b. even with a "yeah, yeah, yeah, get back to work, chucklehead" kind of reply, your boss will actually take what you said to heart and improve his behavior.

It is important that you keep a level head during this. Above all, you want to maintain your professionalism. For one thing, if this person really is the kind of sociopathic bully that you're describing them as, they probably will get their kicks by eliciting an emotional response out of you. For another, you are, in the end, in a professional environment, whether or not your supervisor behaves that way or not, and in my opinion you owe it to both yourself and to the environment as a whole to keep things that way.

It's also possible, of course, that he'll continue to bully you and will incorporate your complaint into the bullying. That's useful information as well, although it's not fun. That tells you that the situation there is truly untenable and at that point finding another gig might be a good idea.

If you do have an HR department, your boss is continuing to bully you after you confronted them about it, and you haven't left yet, go to them (perhaps when you give your two weeks' notice - I always advise, however, not to turn in a notice until you have a standing job offer elsewhere). Document to them the reasons why your are leaving, give specifics, and as before, maintain your professionalism. If you come into their office looking like you have an ax to grind or send them a nastily worded email, they will likely dismiss anything you have to say. On the other hand, if you're polite and professional, well... it's my experience that bullies don't stop at one person. If this person is being an ass to you, they've probably been an ass to others before you as well, and the chances are good that this person's file with the company is not completely empty.

In the end, this may not be enough to save your job. However, even if you have to move on (and software development is a good field to find other jobs in), you've (hopefully) done so without burning the bridges between you and your other co-workers or for that matter the HR department. And who knows, maybe a couple years from now, once you've had a little more experience under your belt, and after they've finally dealt with that problem boss, maybe you'll work for them again.


Dogs bark when they're scared.

Most of the time, people who behave the way you describe your manager have a problem: They lack self-confidence and are forced to use intimidating techniques (shouting, humiliation) to mask their problem.

This problem cannot be solved in a few days. Often, these people have built up their pseudo-authority over many years through toxic behavior. The best way to deal with them is to show them that you're not afraid of them.

Before leaving this job, it's worth trying out different options.

  • After a normal discussion with your boss, try telling him or her that you often feel humiliated in discussions with him or her. Try to avoid expressions such as "you shout, you humiliate me, etc.", but rather relate the facts to how you feel.
  • If you have meetings with others, try to recognize in front of them a point where your manager is right, or where he or she is particularly strong.

The worst thing is to put your head down and play the intimidation game.


Had this happen before.... get a new job. Don't give notice when you quit(just send an email that says 'I quit, effective X'. Record the conversations on your phone. Attach to email. Send it to lots of people at the company. If you have a manager like this, he will make sure HR flags you as do not rehire no matter what you do.


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