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How to make someone miserable at work

Horrible boss
More than 20 years ago, I worked in an office with mostly female co-workers. Our male boss had a nasty, gruff manner and gave all of us lousy performance reviews. We could never do anything to meet his expectations. Every suggestion made at a staff meeting became an invitation for him to call us moronic. I grew to disdain this man.

Before long, most of my co-worker friends bolted. I had little work experience so it wasn't as easy for me to jump ship. But I was lonely and miserable so I didn't the unthinkable  --- I quit without another job lined up. Not my proudest moment! 

Today, I read a story in the Washington Post that reminded me of those dark days. It's titled: How to completely, utterly destroy an employee’s work life.

Teresa Amabile,director of research at Harvard Business School and Steven Kramer, a developmental psychologist and researcher, are coauthors of The Progress Principle. They have studied what makes people happy and engaged at work and what makes them miserable.

"What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work. Many leaders, from team managers to CEOs, are already surprisingly expert at smothering employee engagement."

They give five steps to making an employee miserable:

Step 1: Never allow pride of accomplishment.  (At every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference)

Step 2: Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. (Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them.)

Step 3: Give yourself some credit. (Truly believe that employees are doing just fine  and that “bad morale” is due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics.

Step 4: Kill the messengers.  ( if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back)

Readers, have you ever been in a workplace where the boss or manager has completely and utterly destroyed your work life? Did it force you do to something as drastic as I did? Do you have any advice for others beyond -- quit your job?


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This is exactly what my boss has been doing to me. At the begining of the year I began to get physical anxiety at work, headaches and skin problems. The middle of my forehead looks like a crinkled piece of paper. I look ten years older. I couldn´t leave the job as I feared a bad reference and my confidence was so shattered I couldn´t imagin being able to do anything else. I still can´t. I have been lost and depressed and I feel completely alone. I still have not done anything to improve my situation as I can´t seem to get myself out of the depression. The biggest mistake I have made is thinking that I was strong enough to deal with this as it led me to the above. The other mistake I have made is thinking that my boss will be a reasonable man if I was to be open with him. You can not, by any means, be open with such a person. It just makes you more vulnerbale. I wish I had left the job earlier and avoided all this.


My situation caused me to come close to a nervous breakdown and I am still at my present employment becasue I can not quit I am now 18 months away from retirement, but it has not been an easy journey these last 21 years, first I want you to know that I am from the coal mining country of Eastern KY, which seems to be a problem with some higher ups in a company in the city away from the hills of KY, I have no earthly idea why they hired me at times, I do know that I work very very hard and I have ideas and I struggle with identity, don't get me wrong I am very proud of what I have accomplished and, but I had a vice President to say to me why didn't I go and find a position in New York, that people in New York accept everyone, I wanted to say why am I not accepted here, but nothing would come out of my mouth. Then one time a Trustee came in to visit our building and the same Vice President which is a minister as well asked the Trustee to tell me about his Sailboat that I probably had never seen one, my heart dropped. Then the same VP I found out kept my raises down for five years to the point that the next person that came into HR brought me up to the rest of the co-workers at my grade which was a total of $5000.00....this VP and Minister is the one that hired me because of my credential and computer background. Other things have happened over the years to me, but the most disturbing and the thing that sent me to the doctors office is that another Co-worker in another department began to bully me, I have been to counseling over this, I have talked to an attorney, I have sought help by talking to a minister and have went to Human Resources which I will never do again because by the time they finished with me I felt like I was the bad guy and done things wrong, I had my job threatened and I was made to hold hands with the person that bullied me and stepped on me and pushed me in to a doorway and caused bruses to my body and started tales in the work place on me, so I decided to avoid this person and stay in my cubicle and eat away from the cafe in the building and just totally avoid her, I was told I could not do that, and that if I did not do what they told me I would have to leave my job, I am so close to retirement that I am still putting up with the bullyihng, I have taken most all of my sick time and vacation time to keep from losing my mind, on top of this co-worker, I put up with a Manager that puts degrades me when I ask a simple question or try to give an idea, the other day it was over the word Roster that I used for the names and addresses of our Field Staff, he said I should use list and he is the boss and I used the word List but he got his dictionary out and sat it on his lay to prove to me that there was a difference between roster and list and he did it so loudly it was embarrassing that everyone could hear him, it is not only over the words used, when I had to go before HR because of the Co-worker she had her manager there , but my manager refused to attend the meeting, which hurt. Things are still going on with the co-worker and I wish I could get it to stop but the only way is to leave this Church and like I said I have 18 months to go and I am counting. It hurts to the very core. I was taught if you had nothing good to say about a person to not say anthing at all. This co-worker keeps blaming me for things that I have not done and it scares me because I can see she is trying to get me fired... but this is the reason I have to stay in my seat and not bring any attention to myself.

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