One of the last people I had to deal with before I left the US was a bullying boss. Her favorite line was “Who’s your boss?” She was not only a bad boss, she was belittling, incompetent, a skilled liar, and the name most referenced on employee exit interviews. She was not liked by many in the office but yet she was still there. I didn’t understand it.
While she was not the first bully boss I had ever dealt with, she was the one who rattled me. Yes, she rattled me in a way I was not prepared for but needed because at the end of the day, I took control and said “no more.” My choice was a bit extreme for some as I was in a different phase in my life but I think the journey to that decision is what a lot of people will identify with.
- Name it - I remember feeling so stressed. I could barely sleep, I had such a sense of dread about going into the office. I knew what (or who) was wrong but I hadn’t really admitted it. That’s part of the power of that kind of abuse. So first and foremost, admit that you are being bullied by your boss.
- Take a stand for yourself (in public) – Naming it is the most
important first step because it takes the power from the bully and puts it with you. One thing my bully boss did was that she would publicly speak to me in a derogatory manner. So what I did was that I told her, in a slightly elevated voice, that I did not appreciate the unprofessional way she was speaking to me. I also told her that she had no right to be verbally abusive towards me. Using the words “unprofessional” and “verbally abusive” puts the bully’s behavior in context and lets those listening know that there is an issue with how you are being treated. Is it a power play? Absolutely.
- Pay Attention and Document – After any altercation, there is that “honeymoon” period where things are copacetic. Don’t fall for it. Document the altercation almost immediately in as much details as possible. Make sure you have a copy on your machine and a personal flash with copies just in case. Pay attention to how your bully boss speaks, the morale of the office when s/he is present or absent, and how s/he treats others. Document those instances as well. This step is extremely important because in a case of s/he said-s/he said, you will have detailed documents on your side. Make the time to do this and be disciplined about this.
- Get some upper level allies- Each company’s Human Resources department is different; some are useful while others are less than. Find upper level allies in your company both outside of the HR department. Why? Human Resources staff may discuss your situation before you’re ready. The last thing you want to do is to tip your hand. You need someone who is outside of your department, outside of HR and not allied with your boss to help you figure things out.
Beware: When you find a friendly ear, it’s tempting to bend it. Resist the temptation and stick to the facts. Do not share all of your material with them if any at all. Discuss the situation hypothetically and get their advice (which senior managers love to impart). Document that as well.
- Get some professional help – Dealing with a bullying boss and the stressful situations that come with it can wear on you. It may be a good idea to contact a professional who deals with workplace issues who can provide you with some techniques on how to relieve the stress. Another professional you could opt for is a lawyer. A good lawyer can provide you with the legal perspective you need regarding your rights as an employee and the employer’s obligation.
- Take some time away and weigh your options – If you have a day off coming, take it. In my case, I was able to reduce my schedule there to a few days a week. It reduced my income but I was able to get out of a toxic environment. Getting away from the situation helps you to not only breathe a little easier but to see opportunities come up. Realizing that you have options will help you to feel more powerful.
- Make a plan – Now that you know you have options, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to do. In my case, I was preparing to make a major life change so my decision was “How long should I stay?” vs “Where am I going to go?” One option would be to hand in a resignation and find a better position. You may also have the opportunity to move to another department. I know that I my health was a major point for me. I knew what I was going to do and decided that life was too short to lose sleep. My health was being negatively affected and she was not worth that.
- Take a stand – It’s time. Once you’ve weighed your options, made your plans and decided the direction that’ best for you, it’s time to take a stand. You have been documenting a lot, you have consulted other professionals and now, you are ready to free yourself one way or another. It’s time to make your move. This is not easy because for some, that paycheck means more. But at the end of the day you have to decide if the abuse, the sleeplessness, the anxiety is worth your paycheck. Once you’ve decided, then it’s time to share the information you’ve gathered.
Dealing with a bullying boss is not easy but if you take the time to execute these steps, you’ll slowly take back your power and get back your dignity. One book that really helped me throughout this process is The Bully at Work. It was written by a couple of clinical psychologists who specialize in this issue. They founded The Workplace Bullying Institute to help employees educate themselves about workplace bullying.
Have you been dealing with a bullying boss?
Have you effectively dealt with a bullying boss?
Would love to hear your stories on how you dealt with the situation.
Dianne Dixon, CAPM, Entrepreneur, Farmer, Blogger and Author of the Jamaican Foods Min-E-Book. She writes on a variety of subjects including Health & Wellness, Personal Development, Career & more! Follow her on Twitter: @Transitionyte