8 Signs Your Boss Is a Bully

How to know if your boss is bullying you

Mature businessman yelling at coworker in office
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Many adults have discovered that bullying is not limited to the teen years. In fact, more and more people are reporting bullies in the workplace. Some studies indicate that as many as 54 million Americans have been bullied at some point in their career. Workplace bullying can occur between a boss and an employee or between co-workers. But perhaps the most difficult situation to deal with is bullying by a boss – the very person responsible for your advancement within the company.

Many times people do not realize that their boss is bullying them. Instead, they believe that they have a tough boss or one that simply pushes his employees to get results. But workplace bullying can have significant consequences and can impact your health and overall wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between a tough boss and a bullying boss. Here are some signs that your boss is a bully.

Your boss is a bully if he:

Verbally abuses you. Bullying bosses are notorious for humiliating employees in front of others. For instance, he might shout, swear or yell at you on a consistent basis. He also may make offensive jokes at your expense. Verbally abusive bosses also make snide remarks or offer unfair criticism. And they have been known to ridicule and berate their employees on a regular basis.

Intimidates you. Intimidating behavior might include threatening to fire you as a way to maintain power and control.

He also might make threatening gestures or threaten to physically harm you. Other examples of intimidating behavior include towering over you, invading your space and giving intimidating looks.

Questions your adequacy and your commitment. Bosses that bully question your adequacy by belittling your opinions and ideas.

This behavior may take place in private or in front of others. They also may blame you for problems at work while boasting that their skills are responsible for good outcomes. And they may question your commitment to the job unless you work long hours and sacrifice personal time. Consequently, when you do not put in long hours, you may feel fearful that you will be fired.

Intrudes on your privacy. Sometimes bosses will spy on you or even stalk you. They also may listen in on your private conversations, open your mail and go so far as to tamper with your personal belongings or your work equipment. It is not uncommon to find a bullying boss snooping through your office when you are out. Ultimately, a bullying boss is looking for ammunition to use against you.

Undermines your work. Bullies set unrealistic deadlines that are bound to cause failure. They also change project guidelines on a regular basis causing extra work and increasing the chance for failure. They also withhold necessary information and sabotage your success by causing your projects and papers to be late or incomplete. Refusing to sign off on projects or not providing needed feedback are other tactics used to undermine work.

Impedes your success. Remember, bullies do want to see you succeed because they will lose control over you. As a result, they may punish you for mistakes that are not yours or bring up past mistakes in order to shift blame during a discussion. They also may make it impossible for you to apply for a promotion, a transfer or additional training. They may even over-control or micromanage your work or projects. Meanwhile, more manipulative bullies will promise you promotions or raises to get you to work extra, but then never deliver on those promises.

Spreads rumors about you. Bullies often go to great lengths to make others look bad.

As a result, they may gossip with others about your work, your appearance, your health or your personal life. Sometimes they even lie about you in order to damage your reputation. Their goal is to make others believe you deserve the unfair treatment you are receiving. 

Isolates you at work. Bullying bosses might exclude you socially. They leave you off party lists and do not include you in company outings, sporting events or after-hours meetings. They also may schedule meetings when they know you are on vacation or have a conflict in your schedule. They also may make important decisions while you are out of the office. And they may go so far as refusing to allow you to attend work meetings or work lunches.

If you are experiencing any of these abuses, it’s important to recognize that this is workplace bullying and it’s not a normal part of any workplace environment. Repetitive verbal abuse, exploitation, micromanagement and other activities that repeatedly demean you will eventually take a toll on you.

Learning to recognize workplace bullying will help you learn not to blame yourself for someone else’s behavior. Additionally, you will be less likely to take responsibility for something that isn’t your fault. Remember, bullying does not mean there is something wrong with you. Instead, workplace bullying is a choice that is made by the bully. Keep the situation in perspective and do not let it affect your self-esteem or health. Find outside support for what you are experiencing and look for options for your situation whether it is reporting your boss, filing a complaint, looking for a new job or getting outside counseling. With some effort, you can escape the clutches of a bullying boss. 

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