I  've had a long career -- going on 45 years -- and it's going to get longer before it gets shorter, if you get my drift. Thanks to the economy and bad luck in the state lottery, I'll probably be hooked to the plow a lot longer than I would have liked.

The same goes for lots of folks, I'm sure.

But my longevity is only pertinent to make this point: I've worked for a lot of bosses over the years. Some very good ones, and some good ones. And a couple I'm less than thrilled about.

And one of the things that's always separated the good ones from the not so good ones is the respect they've shown me and my co-workers.

Show me a boss who screams across the room at an employee, and I'll show you a boss who is totally unprofessional.

Show me a boss who can't control his/her temper, and I'll show you someone who should not be a boss.

Show me a boss who disrespects an employee in front of his/her co-workers and then later apologizes to that employee behind closed doors, and I'll show you a boss who is a coward and unprofessional to boot.

Show me a boss who thinks it's OK to reduce an employee to tears to make a point, and I'll show you a boss who is a bully, one who has lousy communication skills and worse human relations skills and one who probably would be better off working at another job -- say by himself/herself out in the wilderness somewhere.

Over the years, I've worked for one or more bosses who did all of those things listed above. Not to me, so much, but to co-workers.

And because I have a low tolerance for such things, I always made it a point to take the boss aside, behind closed doors, and told them I believed their words or actions were abusive.

That almost always did the trick.

So I'm a little surprised to hear from York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister that there's a problem in county government with employee abuse -- it seems clear he's talking about elected and/or appointed department heads or managers.

Not all of them, but some of them.

That it's happening at all, however, is alarming.

How widespread is the problem? Well, I don't know. And Chronister isn't naming names or revealing circumstances.

Perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised. The county government is, after all, just one more workplace -- one of the largest to be sure -- in York County.

So if abuse of employees is tolerated in private working environments -- and it too often is -- then it's probably reasonable to assume it might be present in public working environments, too.

But it shouldn't be happening in either.

Chronister, of course, finds himself in a tough spot on this issue because he's not truly the boss of elected officials. They -- the 10 row officers, especially -- run their own offices and their own employees without a lot of intrusion by county commissioners.

So it's become a matter of principle for Chronister. He apparently has seen with his own eyes examples of employee abuse that have made him uncomfortable. He considers it unacceptable.

I consider it unprofessional as all get out.

Therefore, Chronister has proposed the county's first code of conduct for elected and appointed officials. It's eight pages long, and it covers a lot of territory including public meeting conduct, conflicts of interest, misuse of authority, use/misuse of public resources, avoiding personal comments that could be considered offensive, fidelity in office and conduct in the work environment.

It's common sense, he said. And it's necessary. Why? Well, because there's just no way shouting at or physically threatening an employee can be tolerated in a professional work environment.

And county government aspires to be a professional work environment.

The new rules would, for example, forbid "abusive conduct, bullying or verbal attacks." That's a good place to start. But the rules are fairly all-encompassing.

The goal, Chronister said, is to minimize those occurrences when managers/officials might be tempted to manage by intimidation.

"We just want our employees to know they're protected," Chronister said. "If they're harassed or intimidated, there are steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."

The code does not detail specific penalties, but it does establish a tone from the top. Get your act together. Treat people well. Or get out.

I like the idea that county government is setting the standard for every private employer in York County to follow as to how employees should be treated.

If there are bullies in our midst, especially those being paid with tax dollars, let's weed them out as quickly as possible.

It's the least we should expect from county government and those running it.

Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: lhicks@yorkdispatch.com.