Are You Being Bullied By Your Boss? Bully Back!

02-bullying420-420x0During our careers we all come across them; bosses that are difficult to deal with or worse, bosses that are simple bullies. They push you into a corner, don’t listen, don’t give you an opportunity and are only driving their own agenda. I don’t have to explain the impact that these bosses have on the workplace. Disastrous!

All our defense mechanisms go up to ‘survive’ a bullying boss and all the conversations between employees center around ‘did you see what he / she did today?!’. Not particularly the signs of a healthy and high performing workplace.

I had my fair share of bullying bosses and overtime I have become more adept in dealing with such people. The turnaround came, when after months of being bullied by the boss of my boss, I was against the ropes and had basically given up. I was unable to do my job and didn’t want to be part of the organization any more as it had such a negative effect on my happiness and performance. That is when I decided to move on and move past his behavior.

A funny thing happens when you make such a decision, your attitude completely changes and what first impacted you negatively suddenly is not important anymore. The same happened with me, I simply didn’t care what his problem was and whenever my bully boss started to deploy his abrasive techniques, they no longer had the intended impact. You know what happened… the bullying boss stopped bullying me. He had realized that his technique didn’t work anymore and I didn’t have to quit the job that I loved.

I had gained a valuable lesson, the best way to deal with a bullying boss is to bully back with maturity. Two things happen: by having a mindset that you will not be affected by actions of others, the impact of their actions will disappear. Secondly, the one thing that a bullying boss respects is a person that stands their ground.

Of course you have to stand your ground and push back in the right way, you don’t want to stoop as low as your bullying boss. Psychology Today published a number of strategies on how to deal with a difficult or bullying boss:

1. Be Pro-active: Anticipate how your boss might react to a certain proposal and have an action plan if he behaves the way you anticipate.

2. Be Prepared: Prepare your different responses beforehand, think about how he might come back and prepare yourself for those as well

3. Be Professional: Never lower yourself to the level of the bullying boss. Keep the moral high ground, follow proper procedures

4. Be Persistent: Keep in it for the long run, your boss and his behavior are not going to change overnight, don’t let your guard down and continue to be prepared at any turn.

If you have tried everything and you continue to be at the receiving end of a bullying boss you do have the opportunity to follow a formal complaint procedure within the organization. A good friend of mine, who after trying different techniques to stop his bullying boss (and having seen two of his colleagues quit), decided to take his problem to the companies ethics committee. He was courageous enough to go through the procedure despite significant pressure from his peers and other line managers to let it go. At the end, the company decided that the bullying boss was not acting in line with the company values and decided to let him go. My friend is still working at the organization and is doing a wonderful job. The bully has moved on, hopefully he has learned from this experience and has changed his approach. Maybe, but not likely though…

Bullies often remain bullies and the best way to deal with them is to have the courage to stand up against them. Do so, without turning into the thing you hate, and watch your workplace experience drastically change.

How many of you have encountered such issues in your organizations?

– Paul Keijzer


15 thoughts on “Are You Being Bullied By Your Boss? Bully Back!

  1. Well I am presently facing this situation, my boss is well connected and well placed so any complaint against him is turned down. Infact the employee who lodged complaint has to quit job as all the blame is put on him/her.
    My boss blatantly asking me to quit job, I am resisting my level best too keep going with the job.
    Every organization has got such rogue elements, it’s our sheer bad luck that we are made to work under them!

  2. I almost didn’t read the article because of the title. To even imply that bullying back is the right answer is wrong on so many levels (that kid punched you? punch him back!). However, the content is good – and is NOT bullying back! Rename the article and you would probably get some traction with it.

  3. I would humbly disagree Paul, from my personal experience its not possible to bully back because Pakistani bosses have very big egos and any challenge to their absolute authority results in a power struggle that inevitably results in the subordinate leaving the company.

    • Understand where you are coming from Adnan. I choose the title deliberately to create a bit of controversy.

      As you read the blog you see that it is more about persistently and professionally holding your ground. If that doesn’t work and you decide not to follow a complaint procedure but to leave the company then at least you can leave with your head held high.

  4. I partially agree with Paul and Partially with Adnan , If you are working for an MNC , you can address the bulliness of Boss but If you are working for a small or mid size firm ,where your boss is the only decision maker , you are left with no chioce then leaving the company !

  5. This may happens in any organization, but if one thinks positively these challenges / possibilities can increase the mental and physical abilities of the person facing

  6. I have gone through all the comments and have gone through the article once again. I found it very relevant and useful. In our careers, we encounter such situation, once in a while. Yes, organization processes and culture make the difference. There may be slightly higher risk associated in bullying back in local companies.Further one has to be very objective in analyzing the situation whether the boss is really bullying or there is some other situations. Once it is established, the process laid down in the article would work exactly. Regarding Bakht’s comments of increasing physical and mental abilities in such tiring situations, yes, there may be, but at times cost would over-weigh advantage in such situation. However, one lesson, one would exactly learn how to bully back professionally. Thanks Paul for this wonderful article.

  7. Good Day All,

    Me too facing this problem now-a-days, and its i guess its more common in Pakistani Scoiety (most particuarly with females). Anyhow i employed the Paul exlpained technique few weeks ago(before i read that article) and i really worked as he started thinking that i am ignoring him. This article of Paul gave me much confidence to be persistent (if am good at work but not good at pleasing the boss). Meanwhile Mr. Matraf Rasul’s comment was also very much enlightening for me.

  8. Pingback: Be your own Boss | e-Marketing Resources

  9. I totally agree with you, Rhonda. The title seems to imply that bullying in return is an appropriate response. Even calling it, “… bullying back with maturity …” is a misnomer. Standing up to a bully or responding assertively is still not bullying back. As the author implies later i the article, simply not taking the bully on and not letting him/her get to you might stop the bullying but it will likely get worse before it gets better. I would suggest that the bullied employee report him/her to higher management ASAP. Shine the spotlight on the bully and do not be complicit in his/her attempts to keep his/her behaviour hidden.

    • You or people close to you clearly had bad boss experiences Gina. Can you share how you dealt with it. Thank you

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