During 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