5 Ways To Deal With A Bully Boss

angry boss yelling at female employee at laptop

Guest blogger Lynne Curry, President of The Growth Company, Inc. and founder of www.workplacecoachblog.com, offers tips from; her book Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM, 2015,which offers readers twenty-eight chapters providing solutions for handling bullies.

You landed a great job. You love the work.  You like your co-workers. The one problem – your boss. He’s a bully. You learned this day one, but thought you could handle it. Since then, you’ve watched him run off coworkers you liked and respected. He makes your work life a living hell. You think about quitting, but don’t want to leave an otherwise good job.

How do you survive? More importantly, how do you successfully manage the situation?

1. Know the truth about bully bosses. Expecting a bully boss to treat you well because you’re a good person is like getting into a ring with a bull and expecting to be let alone because you’re a vegetarian. Sooner or later a bully boss bullies everyone. Bully bosses demand instant and total obedience and turn otherwise great jobs into nightmares. They whittle away employee job satisfaction with lousy treatment.

Bullies perceive niceness as an invitation to take advantage of you. Those who don’t stand up to a bully’s initial attack signal they’re easy prey. The situation can then spiral out of control, with the bully escalating how he treats you.

At the same time, going toe-to-toe with a bully, particularly a boss, never works. Bullies have years of experience fighting dirty, giving them an unfair advantage. Further, bosses hold the power to fire you or to make your life as an employee miserable.

Some employees fight back covertly. If you become passive-aggressive, however, it erodes your self-respect and how others see you. Who wants to hang around with a complainer or a back-stabber?

2. Think strategically. Bullies do, however, have benefit/risk radar.  Bullies protect their allies. Bully bosses treat well those they perceive as useful. Learn what your bully boss expects and what matters to him. If you make him look good, he’ll treat you accordingly. You also need to learn his triggers, so you don’t press them.

3. Take in the best you can from the experience. Despite their difficult nature, most bully bosses possess solid skills – or they wouldn’t have attained the positions they hold.  This means you can learn from them if you can see past their bad behavior. Even better, if you learn to hold your own, you’ll learn much about yourself, both your inner strength and your resilience.

4. Know your legal rights. While bully bosses may rule their organizations, they don’t rule the world. If your bully boss discriminates illegally against you and you’re a member of a statutorily protected group due to your age, sex, race or other category protected from discrimination, seek help from your state’s Human Rights Commission. If your bully boss lashes out at you because you’ve engaged in a protected activity, such as protecting your right to work in a safe workplace, document the situation and bring it to the attention of the relevant regulatory body.

5. Don’t let a bully boss turn you into a problem employee. Finally, don’t let a bully boss’s garbage become your garbage. Do your job to the best of your ability and see your boss for who and what he is, without letting his problem behavior become yours. If none of this works, vote with your feet. You deserve better.


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