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Psychological Abuse in the Workplace Leads to Rules of Engagement

Psychological Abuse in the Workplace Leads to Rules of Engagement

When I get up in the morning, my goal for The People Group is to help organizations create work cultures where employees feel safe to be productive, innovative, healthy and profitable.

The good news: There is no lack of potential clients who need help.

The bad news: Our nation is filled with company cultures mired in political infighting with out-of-control, jerk bosses and uncivilized behavior where employees leave the office each day anxious, depressed and beaten down.

There is no question in my mind why the family unit is in danger, and the health of the American worker is likely at its worst in recent history.

Why am I so passionate about the creation of great workplaces?  Why do I consistently admonish business owners and executives to treat employees with trust and respect? It is related to my unfortunate encounter with a sadistic, cruel and bully boss who routinely yelled, screamed, cursed and threw temper tantrums.

When he didn’t get his way, or I expressed opinions that upset his tiny world view, he would go ballistic. He was like an evil two-year-old baby inside a fifty-year-old body.

This workplace psychopath was also known for heavy consumption of alcohol, and would regularly drunk dial employees at home to ferociously complain about their latest manufactured failure.

Unfortunately, without knowledge and information about workplace bully behavior, I allowed the son of Satan to affect me personally, which ultimately resulted in detrimental costs to my health. At the time, I didn’t realize targets of bullies are typically bright, successful and well-respected individuals.

I thought there must have been something wrong with me to be treated in this manner. Sadness, darkness and pain eventually took over my life and caused unbelievable torture.  The mental anguish eventually led to a number of physical conditions that were costly to me personally and financially.

So, back to my question of why I am so passionate about the topic of work culture and creating great workplaces.  No one should be subjected to the hurt and shame of a workplace psychopath. I do not want anyone to experience what I experienced.

Workplace bullies should not be allowed to continue their goal of destroying their subordinates and coworkers.  Rather than focusing on organizational success, bullies focus on personal survival by torturing their fellow employees.  This reasoning only makes sense if you are a psychopath.

How do you know a bully boss has crossed the line?  How do you determine the jerk is simply having a bad day or is a certified bully?

The following list of injurious behaviors, called “The Dirty Dozen” and published by the McKinsey Quarterly, will help you identify enemies in your midst.

The Dirty Dozen

  1. Personal insults
  2. Invading coworker’s personal territory
  3. Uninvited physical contact
  4. Threats and intimidation, verbal and nonverbal
  5. Sarcastic jokes and teasing used as insult delivery systems
  6. Withering e-mails
  7. Status slaps intended to humiliate victims
  8. Public shaming or status degradation rituals
  9. Rude interruptions
  10. Two-faced attacks
  11. Dirty looks
  12. Treating people as if they were invisible

Kevin Kennemer is founder of The People Group based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kevin is driven by his passion for company owners and their need to earn a profit, employees' desire for a positive and fulfilling work experience, and the community that benefits when both groups do well.


  1. JW 15 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your personal and unfortunate tragic experience with us. The leadership and courage that you continue to demonstrate on this mission is nothing short of inspirational.

    Your honesty and authenticity is affirming for so many and deeply appreciated.

    Thank you for being a positive example of HR Leaders committed to ethics, integrity and respect of the profession.

    • Kevin 15 years ago

      Hello Whitewwjd, thank you for your very kind comments. It is difficult to share personal experiences but it is my hope it will help others facing difficult workplace issues and also serve to shed light on a dark, hurtful aspect of the American workplace. I have found great workplaces are far less likely to allow psychological abuse to continue. Thanks again.


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