In a recent issue of Cosmo we featured examples of bully bosses, and we had masses of emails from readers whose lives had been made a misery by such behaviour. As a result, we commissioned a survey, in which more than half of you told us you’d suffered bullying at work but had been too scared to speak up.

Eroding confidence

Amber*, 26, a PR executive from Kent, knows how traumatic work can be when you’re being bullied. «Many people get ‘Sunday dread’, but the intense fear and panic I experienced in my last job was unbearable,» she says. «It started in 2010. I’d just landed my first job in PR, and initially my boss seemed friendly and supportive. But, a month into the job, she screamed at me in front of other staff for not making a (non-urgent) call. Shaken and embarrassed, I tried to forget about it, but ater that her mood swings escalated; she frequently told me I wasn’t cut out for media and that I was terrible at my job. Once she’d planted these seeds of doubt, I started to worry that I was rubbish.

«She was on my back constantly, emailing me 24/7 and expecting a reply. Because it was my first ‘proper’ job, I wondered if I was being too sensitive, and I felt grateful for having a permanent position. I didn’t dare report her as it was such a small company and I didn’t know who to talk to.

«But it kept escalating. It felt like I was living on a knife edge.

«Then, after a particularly bad week, I broke down in front of her. She told me to pull myself together, but I knew I couldn’t go on much longer. I went to the doctor and was signed off with stress for two months, but I never went back. No job is worth risking your health over.

«I managed to get another job in PR and, despite feeling overwhelmingly anxious on my first day, it couldn’t have been more different from my last office. I wish I’d been brave enough to report what was going on.»

A climate of fear

Author and researcher into workplace bullying, Anne-Marie Quigg, says, «When a company is under pressure — profits are reduced, restructuring is taking place or redundancies are being talked about — everyone feels the strain, and in those Ik circumstances conflict and bullying are more likely to occur. Recent evidence indicates we’re experiencing I a climate of fear -people are afraid of losing their jobs and often end up working longer hours.» And the consequences of bullying can be serious: a survey found 16% of workers had suffered health-related problems as a result of bullying. But the good news is you can do something about it: see below for Anne-Marie’s beat-the-bullies advice.


My appraisal is coming up and I’ve been told not to ask about pay rises. But isn’t that what they’re about? How do I impress? Maria, 29, Sussex

Karren says: First, don’t panic. If you work closely with your boss, what you hear shouldn’t be a shock — unless their communication skills are terrible. Preparation is key, so write down what you’ve excelled at and what you’d like help with. Appraisals go two ways — they offer feedback on your work, but they’re also a chance to set out your own goals. Be prepared with answers to possible tricky questions. Instead of bringing up pay rises, you could point out, ‘This year, I’ve generated X money’ or, ‘I’ve brought in new ideas that have resulted in ABC’. Only ask for a promotion if you genuinely want more responsibility. Afterwards, you’ll be given a form with yearly targets — but don’t be afraid to book in another appraisal before the next is due.

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