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What to do with a Bullying Boss at Work - 7 Tips How to Stop Your Boss

Updated on January 3, 2015
KoraleeP profile image

Koralee is an Author, who studies human behavior. She's passionate about overcoming obstacles, bullying and self love. In life and at work.

What to do With a Bullying Boss at Work - 7 Tips

You have a bullying boss at work, and you don't know what to do. You keep trying to please him or her and every Monday you're hopeful that things will be different.

However, things stay the same. You're always getting blamed for things you didn't do. Sometimes your boss won't speak to you, provide you with updates on the big project you're working on, or give you any feed back. Other times, he or she won't shut up with their yelling and constant criticism.

What to do, what to do? Well basically, you have four choices:

  1. Try to find ways to mend the situation
  2. Take your issues with your bullying boss to HR or the higher ups
  3. Let it continue.
  4. Get a new job

Just doing nothing won't change anything. Read through the following 7 ideas to get some options that will help you decide what decision is right for you.

7 Ways to Deal With an Abuse Boss

7 Solutions to deal with an abusive boss.
7 Solutions to deal with an abusive boss. | Source

Is Your Boss Narcissistic?

On the High Conflict Institute website, they have an article titled Managing Your Narcissistic Boss.

In the article they talk about 7 ways to deal with and understand their behavior, such as:

"Understand their predictable patterns of behavior. Narcissists are self-absorbed. They lack empathy for others, are arrogant, feel entitled, and manipulate relationships to serve their own interests. At the conscious level they truly believe they are superior to those around them, but at an unconscious level they are very insecure. They demand attention and admiration from those around them. If you directly confront a narcissistic boss, he or she will do everything possible to “put you down,” to recover from the “narcissistic injury” you have caused them by temporarily destroying their fantasy of superiority."

1. What to do with a Bullying Boss at Work - Know What sets off Your Boss

We all have things that trigger bad behaviors in us. This is true for bosses. When you know what triggers your bully boss, find ways to get around them.

For Example: A few years ago, my daughter got hired at a golf course in Vancouver. When she started she was told that the boss (an older gentleman) was a tyrant who would go off about certain things. One of his tirades involved how he was given his mail. For whatever reason, he wanted it handed to him in a certain order.

My Advice: I told her to give it to him the way he liked it; and not care if it was odd, it was his mail. It didn't really interfere with her life in any way; it was just irritating.

Outcome: She took that advice for all of his quirks, and not only did he end up being quite good to her; he never yelled at her once.

Moral of the story: He was a situational bully. That is not a technical term, as far as I know. I call him this because he would raise his voice and say mean things if some things weren't done a certain way. If that situation didn't exist, he was not a bully at all.

Knowing what set her boss off made it possible for my daughter to be in control of his behavior towards her. Maybe you can do the same for your bullying boss.

2. Take Care of Yourself and Control Your Stress

Added stress as a result of a bullying boss can harm your health, and affect your work performance. You don't want to get sick, and you also don't want to give the bully anything to use against you.

To counteract the stress of dealing with your boss, try to get lots of sleep, eat healthy, and exercise.

If you lack self-confidence, you can use these tips to build up your emotional strength.

Taking control of your stress will help you deal with your abusive boss, and possibly give you the strength you need to change the situation.

The following video has 7 ways you can reduce your stress.

7 Simple Stress Reducers

Direct Communication Approach To Conflict Resolution

Sometimes confronting and talking to your boss is the only way to stop the bullying.
Sometimes confronting and talking to your boss is the only way to stop the bullying. | Source

Extra Tips for Talking Directly to Your Boss

On the Bully Free at Work website, they have some tips to talking to your boss:

"Keys for a Classy Crucial Conversation:

  1. In order to have more control, the target should decide when the conversation will take place. Do not react to when the Bully attacks you; decide when you are ready to converse in order to get the best outcome.
  2. As a target, the Bully is hoping you do not have the strength to stand up for yourself. They feel better when you are down.
  3. By having a classy crucial conversation you will be starting to set stronger boundaries, which will protect you and help to avoid future conflicts.

How to Proceed:

  1. Define clearly what the situation is – something you wished was different e.g. a behavior, or a circumstance.
  2. What would you like to see happen instead of the stated situation above?
  3. Use the Classy Crucial Conversation Planner to assist you."

3. Talk To Your Bullying Boss?

Sometimes direct communication is the best way to deal with a bullying boss. But be careful, if you choose to confront your boss about his or her bad behavior.

Stay calm, and be diplomatic. Remember that it is the bad behavior you don't like.

How To Talk to an Abusive Boss

Make sure you are polite and plan what you want to say before hand - Complete the step-by-step checklist for difficult conversations.

Wording is everything: Remember that how you word things, will make all the difference. The last thing you want to do is be confrontational --Try killing them with kindness.

"Kill them with kindness, and bury them with success" Author Unknown

Wrong thing to say: "Why are you such a x)$@)(&*?" or "What's you fricken problem?"

Right thing to say: "You seem to have a problem with my work, and I don't understand why. Perhaps you could give me some insight, so I can make the necessary changes, to be more productive."

People, especially bosses, like it when you're trying to make life easier for them.

Don't worry that this way of communicating will be humiliating for you, it's not. In your head, you are patronizing them, but verbally you're just being nice and trying to be a better employee; taking the high road -- Which you should always do anyway when dealing with conflicts.

Avoidance - Ignoring Your Boss?

Do you try to avoid your boss at all costs, as a means to cope with the stress?

If you do, you need to stop. A recent study performed by professors at the University of Haifa's Social Welfare, and Health Sciences found that avoiding the person bullying you in the workplace, can make things worse for you.

In fact, they found that this increases your stress because it is tied with a sense of weakness and increases your fear of your boss, or supervisor.

Direct Communication With Your Bullying Boss

What happened when you have tried to use direct communication to deal with a bullying boss?

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4. Document Everything

What to do with a bullying boss at work, if trying to work things out doesn't change things.

Start documenting everything about your boss' bullying. Write down every inappropriate comment, unfounded complaint, cruel joke, etc. Get a binder to keep track of everything. This way, you can also keep copies of the work you have done.

You can use what you've documented as a safeguard in case your boss comes back on you saying you didn't do something, or your work was poor.

Alternatively, start a file on a computer. If you take this route, make sure that no one else can find it. Keep it on a computer at home, or disguise it somehow with the file name and password protect it.

You will want to keep this handy in case:

  1. You need to take legal action at some point.
  2. You want to take your case to higher-up management or Human Resources.

Make Sure you get Your Work Completed

If your job is done, your bullying boss can't cause problems!
If your job is done, your bullying boss can't cause problems! | Source

5. Cover Your Butt:

Make sure that all of your work is done correctly. Report to whoever you have to and make sure others are aware of your hard work. You don't have to make a big deal about it, just mention it to a few people in your workplace.

Type up memos to let your boss, and others know what you've done.

6. Talk to HR or Higher Up Management

In a Forbes Article titled How to Deal With an Abusive Boss, the writer suggests going to HR:

"Speak to your Human Resources department. When all else fails, speak to your HR department, Teach says. “Keep in mind that while they will listen to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will take action or will be on your side. If your boss gets results, HR may overlook their bullying tactics. I’ve personally seen an example of several people leaving a department over time because of a bullying supervisor until that supervisor was finally fired. Where was HR during this mass exodus? I do believe that HR departments need to be much more proactive in preventing workplace bullying.”

However, as you can see, they may not listen to you or take action on your behalf, but at least YOU ARE taking action, so you feel that you're accomplishing something.

7. Don't be Afraid of Change Look for Another Job

Sometimes, as humans we are afraid of change. Perhaps you've had your job for a long time, or you loved your job before but now you have a new boss.

Maybe you feel more comfortable sticking with what you know.

But, you shouldn't accept the bullying because of the fear of the unknown. Chances are you will find a better job where you are treated well by your boss and co-workers.

Don't stay trapped being miserable. You deserve more than that.

Have a "Plan B" in case you want, or need to leave quickly. Use someone in your office that you can trust for a reference. If you don't have one, try to avoid using your current job in your search. You don't want to have to go into details about your bullying boss in an interview.

Empathy - A Classy Way to Deal With a Bullying Boss

Seeing life through your bullying boss' eyes, is sometimes the best way to deal with them.

You may think your boss has it all, but perhaps they don't. They may have incredible pressure from their boss, or problems at home that you're not aware of. They could also suffer from:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Abuse as a child
  • Spousal abuse
  • Psychological problems, such as depression
  • Perfectionism, etc.

Although you may not feel like trying to understand them because they make your life miserable, trying to understand how they feel works for your benefit.

The true-life example below (although it does not involve an abusive boss), demonstrates how people's situations often delegates how they act. Sometimes all it takes is to be able to relate to them on a different level - by seeing life through their eyes.

People's Lives Aren't Always as They Appear

A few years ago, a friend of mine and her boyfriend, we'll call them Brad and Angelina, were friends with another couple. We'll call them Tom and Katie. Angelina was intimidated by Katie because she was always dressed to the nine's, no matter where she went. As well, Tom was quite well off, so they lived in an extravagant home. Angelina, on the other hand, was very attractive, but was a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, and did not wear dresses. Brad was not as wealthy, so their home was well decorated, but half the size.

How Things Looked

  • Whenever there was a function, such as a Bar-B-Que, Katie would show up in a $400.00 dress, while everyone else was in jeans. (Coming off as vain and trying to look as though she was better than everyone else).
  • When Brad and Angelina would go to Tom's house, they would hang out in the garage, because they were car buffs. Katie would never come outside; she even used an intercom connected to the house and the garage, if she needed to speak to Tom. (Appearing to be a total snob, and lazy to boot).
  • She didn't work outside of the home, while Angelina worked full-time. (Appearing to be a princess with a life of luxury).

What The Real Situation Was

Eventually, Tom and Katie's relationship ended so she turned to Angelina for moral support. She chose her because they had a lot in common, and she was actually envious of her.

  • It turned out Tom was a control freak from hell.
  • She wore the dresses, because he made her. Due to his standing in the community, he felt she had to keep up to a certain standard.
  • She was not allowed to join them in the garage (probably so her real personality wouldn't shine through).
  • She had to clean the house constantly because she wasn't allowed to work, so that was her "job."
  • She too was more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt.

Needless to say the two women became friends.

What do you think?

Will you try any of these tips to deal with your work place bullying situation?

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Summary - What to do With a Bullying Boss at Work

If you have a bullying boss, and want to know what to do, try the following:

Work out the situation by:

  • Figuring out what sets your boss off, so you can come up with a plan to avoid his or her bad behavior.
  • Control your stress so your health doesn't suffer.
  • Confront your boss to try to get to the bottom of why they act the way they do.

If that doesn't work:

  • Document all of your boss' bullying behavior and actions
  • Cover your butt - To prove to your boss and upper-management that you are doing your job.

If documenting and covering your butt doesn't work:

  • Consider facing change, and
  • Look for another job

What have you done to survive a bullying boss?


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    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I honestly enjoyed all your tips here. They are simple and straightforward. I'd like to add "don't kill your boss" :). I know of a few bad bosses who were given death threats. They're still alive.

      I always make it a point to consider my locus of control. I don't dwell too much on things that I have no control. Instead, I focus on the things I have power to change. In the end, it's our attitude that will determine whether we did a good job or not.

      I'll definitely share this in the office. :)

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 4 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      Thank you jpcmc!. I like your addition :).

      That's great advice to essentially follow the serenity prayer.

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