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.