I've been working for a large company that I got the job through by my school's co-op office. Sometimes my manager can be nice, but often times I feel like he’s mistreats me and acts in a way that is inappropriate. I had taken action to remedy this, and it got better for a while, but now it’s happening again.

I’ve complained to my school’s co-op office about the way my boss speaks to me, and the coordinator said “sometimes you have to work with people you don’t like”. How do you respond to that (for example you could say that about any bully)? I’ve complained to my boss’s manager who told me that my boss grew up in a very different culture. I don't think he realizes how serious the problem is.

I understand there's a fine line between firm management and bullying. How can one be certain they’re being bullied? Is it bullying if it’s unintentional? I fear going to work because I’ll have to talk to him and he is very unpleasant to talk to. He seems to always be mad at me and speak to me in a rude tone. Though some of the things he does I find offensive, like telling me to act mature, they may not really be bullying. The fact that each time I speak with him 2 things like this happen (and involve shouting) it is a problem. Most people know he is difficult to work with and the one other person who saw him spoke to me told me he speaks very offensively. If it's not bullying, then what do you call it?

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    If he's singling you out constantly, making critical personal comments, trying to humiliate you in front of others or talking about you in a derogatory manner to colleges this is more along the lines of trying to bully you. If however he tends to adopt a brusque manner with in general he may just be very busy/pressured and not have the patience for what he sees as a baby sitting exercise.
    – Dustybin80
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 10:11
  • This may be a duplicate of workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/49159/…
    – jwsc
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 10:40
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    Welcome to the world of work! Many people will encounter a bad manager in their career, sounds like you've found one in your first job. Don't take it personally, it won't last forever.
    – MattP
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 12:20
  • I get you are frustrated but you have asked flavors of this on this account and a prior account. What is the purpose to define a workplace bully or what to call it? Deal with specific issues. You already have an open act mature post.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 13:35
  • @MattP I find your point important to address. Actually I've had bad managers before and I regret doing nothing about it. In the past I see clearly now that they're behaviour warranted contact with HR. This question is, where is the line between bad manager and harassment. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 21:10

3 Answers 3


Tricky situation but you are by no means powerless here. You can take charge of the situation and potentially improve it.

  1. Whatever happens, stay professional. Regardless of other people getting emotional, you need to stay calm, collected, constructive and communicate to the point at hand. Your emotions need to stay out of it for a bit. Never say a single negative word about your boss!!
  2. Clearly communicate to your boss the behavior that you are unhappy as constructively as possible. "I feel uncomfortable if you yell it me. I think we could communicate more effectively in a regular tone of voice ". "I'm uncomfortable if you criticize me in from front of others. I really appreciate your feedback but it would be way more productive if we could do in private" . "please don't make jokes about my race/gender/passport/education, etc.". Do this in a private meeting. Then send a follow up e-mail that says exactly the same thing "as discussed today". Clearly date it and keep a copy.
  3. Keep a detailed written record going forward. Make a note whenever your manager goes against your ask. Write down date, occasion and as much detail as you can.
  4. Keep also a record of how your boss is behaving towards other people and how other people behave towards you. If he/she never yells at anyone else, write this down as well.
  5. Do this for a few weeks. Study you records and see if there are any clear trends and themes in there. If he yells at everyone, but yelling is unusual in the company, than it's a behavioral issue on his side. If you are the only one getting yelled at, this may indeed be bullying. If there is only one incident in three weeks and in happens to everyone, than you may be overthinking this.
  6. If there is a friendly or neutral person, that you trust, review the data with them. A second pair of eyes is really helpful here.
  7. If the data clearly shows signs of bullying or a significant behavioral problem go to your manager's boss and to HR. A well documented paper trail is a huge red flag and they are unlikely to ignore it since the next person you might talk to is a lawyer. However, you would never ever even hint at taken legal actions, but frame the discussion as "here is what's happening", "here is what I tried", "it's not working and I need the situation to change, how do you suggest we proceed here?"
  8. Depending on your relationship with your boss at the time, you may chose to go to him first and review the data with him. This is dicey since in all likelihood she/he will perceive that as a threat (which it is). This makes only sense if there is strong indication that the behavior is largely unintentional and that he/she would change once being aware of it.

Granted this may not make a you lot of friends but since this is a co-op this is probably not the end of the world and if the prevalent company culture is bad (for you), then why would you care? Who knows, perhaps if you can show that you handle the situation way more professionally and constructively than your boss, you might gain some respect and friends as well.

While this currently is a stressful situation, it's actually a great learning opportunity if you are willing to put the effort into it. Conflict is a part of work life and learning to effectively handle it is a great skill to have. "you just need to put with it" is utter non-sense. There are always things you can do. It's your life and you are in charge.

  • Good advice. I don't think I'll make many enemies this way as most people already know he's kind of a jerk. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 21:18
  • Very complete answer. Not shure about number 6 and 8 though. Showing it to a colleague (even a good friend) may do more harm than good.
    – jwsc
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 6:24

I agree to Vietnhi that learning to handle unpleasant managers or coworkers is something you have to learn. Grow a thick skin, that will help you in the future.

Also, try to remain professional under all circumstances and try to handle problems with coworkers yourself. It won't help you if you run to HR for everything.

That said, yelling in an workplace is not appropriate. Period. This is something you can try to change. If your manager (or anyone) yells at you, remain calm and say in a quiet but firm tone "This is a workplace. You do not need to yell at me". See this question for further reference.

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    "That said, yelling in an workplace is not appropriate. Period" that's just it! There's other ways to behave inappropriate at the work place, but people seem to always have yelling in mind when someone says something about inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. Do you agree, something can still be bullying if there's no yelling or belittling in front of other's? (I work alone so no one can see this). Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 21:13
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    Agreed. I've been fortunate enough to not have worked for a yeller in my 20 years in the workforce, but I have worked at a place where the manager of one of the other departments was often yelling at his subordinates. It's embarrassing, it completely makes you lose respect for them as a manager and as a person. Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 1:29
  • @SomeCallMeSam: sure bullying can be done without yelling. Especially if someone talks behind your back or tries to block you from working productively. But that's harder to differentiate.
    – jwsc
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 6:19
  • @jwsc then you missed the whole point of the question as it was , how to differentiate Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 10:36

I’ve complained to my school’s co-op office about the way my boss speaks to me, and the coordinator said “sometimes you have to work with people you don’t like”. How do you respond to that?

Well, you haven't learned to work with people you don't like. In other words, you haven't learned a damn thing.

I’ve complained to my boss’s manager who told me that my boss grew up in a very different culture. How do you respond to that?

He is telling you not to take it personally, which you shouldn't. If someone yells at me and I don't care, what does it matter? You adjust. You put his rants on "ignore"

I fear going to work because I’ll have to talk to him and he makes me feel bad.

That's what you get when you let this sort of thing get to your head. Don't. As long as he doesn't assault you, who cares?

Don't expect much help from your coop office, they put you there and they were only to happy to find a place to park you there. Whether you are happy where you are, that's of no concern to them. Your unhappiness doesn't keep them awake at night.

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    I disagree that the coop office shouldn't be expected to help. The coop office has a strong interest in students having valuable experiences in their coop opportunities, as this may have a strong impact on the value of their education and, therefore, whether or not the school is viewed as a good school. Therefore, they need to understand this student's experience so they can decide if they should continue working to place students with this business or sever the relationship. Writing up how the manager's behavior helps or hinders learning could be valuable to the people at the coop office. Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 0:39
  • @EthelEvans There is the ideal, and then there is the reality. You're quoting from the ideal - That's useless in the OP's case. Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 2:41
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    On the contrary - understanding why the coop office should care lets you speak from their perspective. Pointing out the risk (and CCing the coordinator's manager) can be a powerful tool for engagement. (Edited to remove unnecessary harshness, with apologies) Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 3:10
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    "Well, you haven't learned to work with people you don't like" I think this is a really bad attitude and is counterproductive. While it may be true at times you have to work with someone you don't like, using it in response to raising a problem is just trying to avoid solving the issue by whitewashing it. It's a real cop out. If someone refuses to work with someone they don't like THEN it's a different situation. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 5:42
  • There's a difference between "people you don't like" and "people who abuse you". You have to work with people you don't like, but you do what you can to stop people abusing you.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 10:11

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