The Bully Boss: What You Can Learn From The Tinder Case

The Tinder lawsuit shines a spotlight on workplace bullying and harassment by supervisors.


As the recent lawsuit by former Tinder co-founder, Whitney Wolfe, suggests, bad behavior may be rampant among white-collar elites in Silicon Valley. But it's not just well-compensated tech employees who can be exposed to this kind of harassment. As many working folks know, a boss may have great ideas and know how to launch and market a business, but that doesn't mean he or she behaves like a fully-evolved human being.


In the Tinder case, the complainant is a female executive who made the very poor choice of becoming romantically involved with her supervisor, Chief Marketing Officer Justin Mateen. The couple dated for 4 months before the relationship ended. After the breakup, according to Ms. Wolfe's hair-raising complaint documents, Mateen "repeatedly called Ms. Wolfe a 'whore'" and verbally humiliated her in front of Tinder CEO Sean Rad. The public bullying included subjecting Ms. Wolfe to "horrendously sexist, racist, and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages." Oh yeah, and he demoted her, stripping her of the co-founder status to which she was presumably entitled.


Most articles on this lawsuit focus on the romance-gone-wrong angle, which unfairly implies some culpability on the part of Ms. Wolfe. However, those of us who have experienced a Boss From Hell in our pasts have a different take—that Mr. Mateen is a twisted example of the classic office bully. This is the supervisor (male or female) who exhibits the emotional sophistication of a 2-year-old, quick to take offense or detect disloyalty in the slightest tone or gesture. Injecting sex into the mix increased the combustibility of the situation at Tinder, but could it be that the main issue here is a boss' arrested development? 

I won't continue to speculate on what, exactly, happened during office hours at Tinder. But here are 7 behaviors to watch out for, and that may indicate that your boss has bullying tendencies:

  • Verbal or physical harassment (may include harassment based on race or color, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, or gender) 
  • Bragging

  • Ignoring
 (as punishment)
  • Impulsiveness

  • Lying or Cheating
  • Self-Centeredness

  • Tantrums

Unfortunately, if your work environment has deteriorated this far, there is no proven way to "manage" a supervisor into better behavior. And if you choose to stay, the physical and psychological toll can be very large—even life-threatening. If you are experiencing any form of bullying from your boss, visit the nonprofit Workplace Bullying Insitute (WBI) website for tips, advice, and support. As the WBI states: "The fact that bullies feel threatened speaks volumes about them, not about you."