If you’ve ever been the victim of a bullying boss, you know how detrimental the experience can be to your self-esteem, and ultimately your work quality and productivity. Bullying bosses may scream, write negative performance reports about their employees simply to make them look bad, or hound their employees about minor errors—all in an effort to humiliate and use their authority to boost their egos.
There are many reasons why a boss may bully: for example, some bosses may be terribly insecure, others have impossibly high standards, and some simply haven’t been socialized properly. Sadly, some just enjoy bullying. In fact, according to recent research, bullies’ brains are wired differently so that when they see a victim in pain, it triggers the part of their brain associated with pleasure. But worker abuse is a major problem, with 37% of American adults reporting bullying at work at one point or another in their career. Workers’ rights advocates have campaigned for years to get states to enact laws against bullying bosses—and they may just get their wish soon.
The New York state senate recently passed a bill that would let workers sue for physical, psychological, or economic harm due to abusive treatment on the job. Of course, some employers oppose the bill, arguing that it would lead to frivolous lawsuits and put them at greater risk for nothing more than having high standards—particularly during a time of economic downturn. However, the bill, known as the New York Healthy Work Place Bill, was specifically crafted to cover only the most malicious bullying: the bill requires that wrongful conduct be done with “malice”, and in most cases, occur multiple times. The New York state assembly is expected to take up the bill next year, and at least 16 other states are considering similar bills to help protect bullied workers.