This year the Employment Law Alliance, a San Francisco clearinghouse for employment and labor lawyers, conducted a survey of employees across the country, and 44% said they had worked for an abusive supervisor. Another poll this year, conducted by Wayne Hochwarter, a business professor at Florida State University, discovered that workers who thought their bosses were abusive reported higher rates of depression, migraines and sleep disorders than those who judged their supervisors reasonable.
Linda Viloria counts herself among the abused. The San Francisco resident developed high blood pressure after she started working for a boss who yelled at her, she claimed.
"Employees need some sort of protection against this type of issue," she said.
OK, what's reasonable?
Lars Dalgaard has an idea. The chief executive of San Mateo, Calif., software firm SuccessFactors had an awakening a few years ago at another company when he reduced a staffer to tears with his abrasive manner. Thus was born the Rules of Engagement, posted throughout the office. "I will not BCC (blind copy) anyone and never talk negatively and destructively behind someone's back," goes one rule.
The rules are a "terrific recruiting tool," said Stacy Epstein, spokeswoman for SuccessFactors. "It's amazing how in an interview so many people will say, 'Gosh, I really want to work in this environment.' "
In most cases, there are no posted rules, and job seekers are on their own. Asher Adelman, who earned his master's in business administration at UC Irvine, thought he had it made when he went to work for an Israeli software company. As it turned out, his boss was prone to cursing and throwing things. So the annoyed 33-year-old launched www.ebosswatch.com "to level the playing field."
Its motto: "Nobody should have to work with a jerk."