What to do when your boss is a bully : Evewoman - The Standard

Career Tips

When your boss is a bully

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One of the most difficult situations in the workplace must be around difficult bosses. I once read not all managers or supervisors are leaders, though we often assume they should be superior to us in emotional intelligence and leadership skills. Stories of bosses who exhibit bullying behaviour abound, and even worse many are not aware that what they are doing is not leading but intimidation.

Whether this is a new supervisor or someone you have worked with over time, how do you handle being bullied at work by someone harder to stand up to?

Understand dynamics

It is essential to understand your workplace dynamics. Are you the only person who feels mistreated or is this a consensus among staff. What about other supervisors and team heads? Are they uncomfortable about this behaviour? Keep in mind that dynamics can be confusing. If, for example, you have a horrible boss but s/he delivers results every time, it will be easier for the higher ups to turn a blind eye to that kind of behaviour - unfair, but it is just what it is.

Some workplaces also have bullying as an ingrained and subconsciously encouraged culture. In this case, you only have two alternatives - stay and bear it or leave and find a new workplace.

Understand the aggressor

Bad behaviour, unless it is the constant and cannot be tied to specific incidents, usually has a trigger. Are there certain periods that seem to trigger bullying - mornings, evenings, during the end of month or quarter, or when there are organisational meetings with his/her superiors? The more you are able to understand triggers, if any, the better you can protect and prevent yourself from becoming the object of bullying.

Sometimes though, there are no specific triggers and some bosses use bad behaviour as a default, mistakenly assuming that this is how to get things done.


Understand your reactions

If your boss is a bully, there are limited options at your disposal. Telling him or her off or arguing incessantly with them will not endear you to them or get them to change their behaviour. And it is not your place to do this. But how you react determines how well you are able to cope and bounce back.

Taking the criticism or bullying personally or as if it is a reflection of who you are and what you’re capable of will only make it difficult to bounce back. The slide into not feeling worthy enough or good enough can be pervasive into other areas of your life, not just your professional life or job. Create a support system who you can talk with, and vent to, but mostly who can be your sounding board when you need to find out if there’s any validity to the criticism being levelled at you.

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