How to deal with a bully boss
According to a recent Employment Law Alliance Study, 81% of bullies in the workplace are bosses. This highlights that if you are the victim of bullying, you are not alone in your situation. There are many bully bosses out there and unfortunately they aren’t the one’s losing sleep or their jobs about it. The statistics show that even though 95% of bullying is witnessed, ultimately 82% of people being bullied are the ones to lose their job.
Why confrontation doesn’t work
It might seem logical to simply stand up for yourself and confront your boss. The problem with this, is that you’re probably going to appeal to them on an emotional level – sharing how their behaviour is affecting you. Unfortunately this will only add fuel to the fire, not put it out. Bullies like emotional weakness and if you confirm that they are getting to you, it simply gives them more ammunition against you which they will more than likely use.
Another reason why confrontation doesn’t work is that it threatens their position of authority. If they back down to your request, they may think that others will perceive it as weakness. Even taking it to HR without documented proof will seldom resolve the situation. The role of HR is to protect the business and they may see your concerns as a possible litigation issue. They’d prefer to avoid that, so they may flag you as being the problem, rather than your boss.
Don’t play by their rules
If you want to stay in your job but want to put an end to the bullying then you have one of two choices. You can try to avoid your boss as much as possible or you can take a very strategic approach to resolving the bullying issue. Avoidance might work some of the time but not all of the time.
The best way to use avoidance as part of your strategy is to avoid being alone with your boss or avoid situations that they are known to bully in. Identify other bosses or employees in your department that don’t tolerate bullying, and make a point of building relationships with them. Whenever possible try arrange meetings with your boss to include one other person whom your boss knows will raise an eyebrow if they resort to bullying.
Share as little information about yourself as possible. Keep information about yourself, friends, family, hobbies, interests and religion to yourself. The less the bully knows about you the less they have to pick on.
Another way that you can protect yourself is to escape from the situation or distract the bully. Make an excuse to leave, citing that you have a meeting or appointment. Pick up a file, message or document that needs their attention. Often when thrown off track it’ll distract them long enough to forget their bullying for the moment.
Be careful about what you say and to whom, especially regarding the bullying situation. Keep conversations with colleagues work and task specific. Keep a strong focus on your work and perform well so that you boss has less cause to pick on you. One way to achieve this despite your circumstances is to keep a positive attitude, dress well and display an air of confidence and calm. Often bullies are spurred on by seeing people fall apart, but if you act as though you aren’t bothered, they may decide to turn their attention elsewhere.
Approach as a strategic problem to solve
Take an analytical approach to the bullying rather than an emotional one. This will help you distance yourself emotionally and feel as though you can regain some level of control. Write down each and every event as they happen so that you can demonstrate a trend of bullying. If other people are present record their names too. Even small things like a sarcastic or belittling comment, an impatient look, or an inappropriate attempt at humour, matter.
Keep your notes and strategy to yourself and build up information over time. Once you can clearly demonstrate a case of bullying, use the information to present your case. The fact that you have been consistent and careful about documenting events will give HR something concrete to work with.