Organizational Leadership Development Florida – EI Leadership
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Learn the signs your boss may be a bully plus 5 ways to handle the situation.

5 Ways to Handle the Bully Boss

Do you ever wonder how your boss got into their position? Unfortunately, there are many managers and bosses who definitely should not have their current position in the workplace hierarchy. Some bully bosses have managed to climb their way up the ladder, without being detected.

Signs your boss may be a bully:

  • micromanages
  • criticizes anything and everything you do
  • belittles you in front of others
  • intimidate or threaten unfavorable results if you cross them

There are even bosses who figure out their employee’s weaknesses and use them to further embarrass the employee. Here is an example from one of our members.

Jess (name changed) is a mother of three and on occasion is late because of daycare. This doesn’t happen often. In fact, she can usually let the team know when she might be late. It is on the work calendar. Her boss would schedule meetings knowing Jess would be late, and then she would be called out for it.  

Bully bosses thrive on making one person (or several people) miserable while making themselves look or feel powerful.

Here are 5 ways to handle the boss bully situation:

  1. Avoid them as much as possible. Stay out of their way and under the radar. Do the best you can at your job and don’t give them a reason to say you aren’t. By reducing your interaction with them, you’re giving them less power.
  2. Document interactions to establish a pattern, no matter how small or insignificant it seems, so when you report the bullying behavior, you have the facts. Keep the emotional impact out of this report.  
  3. Do not play victim. Don’t cower from your bully boss, don’t avoid eye contact, and don’t let them get the better of you. This proves to them that they hold power over you, and that’s not what you want. Intimidation is the strategy behind bullying. Recognize you always have choices, even if it is the choice of finding a new position elsewhere.
  4. Don’t let the bully boss alienate you. Build your allies carefully and regularly by having conversations with all of your co-workers. Remain professional. Do not gossip about the boss or their bullying behavior. Bullies want to isolate you from everyone else, it reinforces their power.
  5. Don’t give anything away if you are building a case against them. The less you talk to people about the situation, the better. Not only does this reflect on your professionalism, it allows you time to plan your strategy. Once your bully boss gets wind of the situation, their tactics can change, forcing you into a he/ she said situation, and it becomes a credibility issue.

If none of these tactics work, it may be time to consider how important the job is to you, and if your mental and physical health is worth it.  Yes, this is a tough decision to make, however, the damage done to self confidence and momentum cannot be overstated.  If you feel there isn’t a way to work with your boss, it might be time for a change of scenery.

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5 Ways to Handle the Bully Boss

About the Author Cynthia Howard RN, CNC, PhD

Performance Consultant. Unleashing potential in leaders and organizations through innovative performance development.