If you dread going to work because your boss is a bully, resolve to do something about it.
Approximately 60 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying, and bosses comprise about two-thirds of the abusers. Nearly 40% of people who say they’ve been victims of bullying experience health problems such as serious anxiety, panic attacks, and clinical depression. It clearly is essential for organizations to take bullying seriously. However, if you are a target and suffer from abuse, it may take some work on your part to get the ball rolling.
- Understand the bully mentality. Don’t expect to be able to reason with a bully. By nature, these people are insecure, selfish, and manipulative. They aren’t likely to respond positively to reasoned, common-sense arguments. The best way to “fight back” is to take detailed notes of your conversations that include dates, times, and key points. This helps you stay on task and grounded in the facts. It also gives you evidence if the boss makes unfair accusations or criticizes your performance later on.
- Use body language for protection. This is a more powerful way to deal with a bully than you may think. Start by turning your body away from your boss at every opportunity. When you must be face-to-face, straighten your spine and lift your chin. This communicates that you are willing to interact but that you’re not intimidated or cowed. This gives you the upper hand and helps you feel more in control.
- Set a verbal tone. If you approach interactions with solid information, you are likely to accomplish more with your boss. By sticking to the facts, you can help keep the emotion out of conversations. Let your boss know that you won’t tolerate lies or twisted logic. If your manager still insists on escalating the conversation, end the discussion. Calmly tell your boss that you will only engage in a rational, respectful interaction.
- Forge a support network. Establish and maintain relationships with others who are bullied by the same manager. Encourage them to document dates, times, and details of conversations they have with the boss. This will help you feel less isolated and build a stronger case you can take to the powers that be for possible help or intervention.
- Seek help. Don’t be afraid to talk with upper management if you have done everything possible to deal with your boss’s abusive behavior. Bring all of your documentation, including reports from your colleagues about their experiences. Detail the impact the bad behavior has had on your work performance, as well as on your physical, emotional, and mental health. Discuss the possibility of a transfer or change of position. If this isn’t possible, discuss what to do if your boss seeks retaliation or if the bullying intensifies.
- Focus on your work, not your boss. Whatever happens, you can’t expect bullies to change their behavior; but you can change yours. Focus on your role and your performance. Seek input and support from positive people. Make sure others know about your accomplishments, and take opportunities outside of your boss’s control to make positive contributions and demonstrate your value to the organization.
Bullies tend to target people they see as weak and vulnerable. The more power you give your boss, the more you are likely to be attacked. Focus on your job and your commitment to the organization, and avoid emitting a vibe of fear and anxiety. Take time everyday to take care of yourself, and don’t give the bully control over your emotions or self-esteem.