Bullied, Literally, To Death

at least i'm not a bully
Image by *nimil* via Flickr

Here’s a story to chill your blood — a boss whose bullying drove an employee to suicide:

The suicide of the managing editor at an Ellies-winning literary magazine late last month has sparked an investigation into alleged bullying by its editor — and is putting the publication’s long-term future in serious doubt.

Kevin Morrissey, the 52-year-old managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, took his own life on July 30. According to his family and several VQR staffers, in the weeks leading up to his death, Morrissey (pictured, right) had been subjected to bullying by his boss, 38-year-old editor-in-chief Ted Genoways (pictured, left).

“It was a toxic environment for Kevin,” VQR Web editor Waldo Jaquith told NBC News. “Ted’s treatment of Kevin during the last few weeks of his life was just egregious.”

And Genoways’ treatment of Kevin on the day of his death appeared to push Morrissey over the edge.

Shortly before 10 a.m. on July 30, Genoways sent an e-mail to Morrissey “accusing him of jeopardizing the life of a writer,” according to one account reported by The Hook, a local newsweekly. At 11:30 a.m., Morrissey called 911 to report a shooting near a coal tower in Charlottesville, Virginia. When police arrived, they found Morrissey dead, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

None of this surprises me at all. I’ve met some of the most toxic, brutal people in my life in journalism — all of them in positions of power:

The female trade magazine editor who routinely shouted abuse at everyone, even across a room filled with cubicles. Including curses.

The trade magazine publisher who spent his days, earning $150,000 in 1996, writing freelance articles for his magazines’ competitor. The one who stood in my office, shrieking at me like a five-year-old.

The newspaper photo editor, notorious in our city for his behavior, who shouted at me: “Your simple questions are the most complicated I’ve heard in 30 years.”

No point continuing.

If you have never been bullied at work, thank your god(s.) If you have, you know what an utter hell it is.

Not everyone who is bullied will choose to kill themself. But those who live are deeply scarred by it, their self-confidence shattered. It’s not something you quickly or easily shrug off. In a recession, who will quit even the most vicious of workplaces?

We all live in a bully culture. “You’re fired!”, sneered publicly, is the tagline of a popular television show. “Wipeout” shows people slipping, sliding and falling off an obstacle course.

It has to stop. It never will.

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3 thoughts on “Bullied, Literally, To Death

  1. “It has to stop. It never will.”

    Correct you are. And, as you said above, it’s now glorified on television. We see reality shows now where judges are viewed as comical when they belittle (Simon Cowell, Gordon Ramsey, etc) others.

    Very sad…

  2. Our local schools have a “zero tolerance” policy towards bullying. However, that doesn’t mean that some teachers can bully and ridicule their students. A recent episode on the subscription tv show Solved Mysteries was aptly entitled “The Bully.” The segment was about a fifteen year old boy who knifed a much smaller boy, dismembered him and placed the remains in the sewer. The murderer was a student of my wife’s. He was constantly humiliated by another teacher who was also a football coach. The murder was discovered when the sewer backed up right down the street from where we live. A recent local newspaper article quoted the DA as saying this boy had all the characteristics of a serial killer and he should never get out of jail. How many bullies are one step away from murder? Tom Medlicott

  3. Tom, what a story. Having been very badly bullied for three years in high school, I think many would happily wreak vengeance — but are too scared of the consequences. Had I come from a different sort of social background, I may well have punched or knifed the boys who bullied me. Bullying is a sort of verbal rape and it is overlooked as a cause of anguish for everyone. The one who is bullied — always — ends up being the source of blame.

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