Dealing with a Bully Boss

I quit

Bullying doesn't only happen on the playground or online. Lots of adults are bullied on a regular basis thanks to bully bosses.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27% of employees have experienced some form of bullying in the office while 72% know bullying in the office is happening.

"Bully bosses are people who intentionally mistreat employees," says Tasha Eurich, author of  Bankable Leadership. "The consequences of working for a bully boss can be pretty dire."

Bully bosses come in many flavors from the angry boss who spends his or her day yelling and aggressively confronting employees to the passive aggressive one who is manipulating the situation behind the scenes. But they all share one trait: they only care about themselves and their career.

With bully bosses “you must understand that they are primarily concerned about themselves – their career, their success, their image,” says Paul White, author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace.  “As a result, you need to take appropriate actions to protect yourself, because if a situation comes up where they have to make a decision between defending themselves and defending you, you will take the fall.”

Left unchecked bullying by a boss can create long-term physical and mental problems for the employee who has to suffer through it. In cases where it’s affecting your health or you feel you are in an unsafe environment and human resources won’t help you are better off leaving. But in many instances a bully boss can actually be managed.

According to career experts, one way to stop a bully boss is to figure out what makes him or her tick. For instance does the boss get angry when there is a deadline or is he or she more of a bully early in the work day?  If you can pinpoint the triggers you can deflate them before anything sets your boss off.

It also behooves you to keep the bullying in perspective. “Your career is going to last longer than your time with this one person,” says Eurich. “You don’t have to become their friend. All you have to do is get through the day.” Eurich says you can’t take it personally. After all, it’s more reflective of the manager’s ineffectiveness than anything else.

Since a bully boss doesn’t have your best interest in mind, a smart way to protect yourself is to document all of your communications with your boss, says White. He says to follow up any meetings with an email that confirms the conversation. You can also have an objective third person in the room for any important conversations and/or meetings to prevent your boss from eventually throwing you under the bus. White also says to do the work to the best of your ability and don’t let your boss’ negativity get into your head. “They are experts at cutting people down and making others feel like failures,” says White.  “You will need ongoing support, so it is important to find and develop supportive friendships to help you weather the berating you will take.”

If the bullying is getting out of hand or making you uncomfortable to the point where you are experiencing adverse health effects, then Aravinda Rao Souza, senior marketing manager at Bullhorn, a recruitment software company, says you should get the human resources department involved. You can’just go to them and say so and so hurt my feelings. You need evidence of the bullying whether its emails, text messages or real examples of the bad behavior, she says. “Only go to HR if you have a very serious complaint,” says Souza. ”If you feel unsafe or threatened, or feel that your future at the company is in jeopardy for unfair reasons, do not hesitate to contact HR.”

There’s more to life than just one job and if you have tried everything and are still getting nowhere with your boss it may be time to leave. But you don’t want to wake up one day and say I’m done and up and quit. Experts say you want to leave in a position of strength which means you have another job lined up or multiple opportunities at the ready.  “A lot of people do hasty things when working for a bully,” says Eurich. “If you quit with no job or no plan in some ways you are giving the boss a lot of satisfaction.”