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Question:  “I work for a boss who is physically abusive. He’s never touched me, but I’ve seen him snap other female employees with rubber bands, leaving a bruise. He likes to punch the male employees and hit them in the head. He says he’s just “playing around.” “Barbara,” the owner of our small company, works closely with this man and relies on him a lot. However, she has no idea about his abusive behavior. I’ve started documenting his actions, but I don’t know how to tell Barbara. — Fearful

Marie’s Answer: There’s absolutely nothing “playful” about your sadistic boss. Take the following steps to put a stop to his cruelty:

•    This guy is not only an employee relations nightmare, but also a tremendous legal liability.  For both these reasons, Barbara definitely needs to be told about his vicious behavior without further delay.  

•    When you meet with Barbara, provide a detailed, factual description of the abusive conduct.  And don’t go alone.  If several employees tell the same story, she is more likely to believe it.

•    Ask Barbara to direct your boss to immediately cease all physical contact with employees.  Advise her that legally his actions could be considered battery and that if it continues, charges could be filed against him.

•    If your boss touches anyone else, that person should inform him that this behavior is not acceptable, and then tell Barbara about the violation.

If your owner fails to address the problem, start looking for another job. You don’t want to work for anyone who tolerates this type of abuse.  

For suggestions on dealing with other challenging managers, see Five Types of Difficult Bosses.

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