6 Steps to Confronting a Bullying Boss

How to stand up to your boss’ bullying behavior


Many times employees endure bullying and poor treatment from their bosses simply because they are afraid of losing their job or creating a tense situation. But letting bullying bosses get away with humiliating and demeaning you can be a bad idea too.

Not only is the bullying bad for your health, but also the bullying likely will continue if you never address it. If you are at the point where you feel like you are walking on eggshells around your boss or you are feeling anxious, sad or frightened around your boss then it may be time to stand up to the bullying.

And it may actually be good for you. Research out of The Ohio State University, published in Personnel Psychology, illustrates that confronting a hostile boss helps you hold onto your sanity. The study’s lead author, Bennett Tepper, says that employees feel better about themselves because they didn’t sit back and take the bullying.

Employees that stood up to the bullying also earned the respect of their coworkers and gained back power in the relationship with their bosses. They also were more committed to their jobs. And they believed their careers were not impacted negatively by addressing the boss’ negative behaviors.

Remember standing up to your boss is not easy. However, if you feel like he is taking advantage of you it might be worth considering. Make sure you think about the possible repercussions before you do it though. You have to be comfortable with the fact that you could be disciplined or lose your job for standing your ground.

For some people, confronting the bullying is the priority over maintaining their position in the company. Others would prefer to learn coping mechanisms while they hunt for a new job. Whatever your decision, be sure you are prepared for the possible outcome.

If confronting your boss is something you want to do, here are six steps for handing the situation in the most effective way possible.

Stand up for yourself. Remember, bullies count on you being passive about their behavior. Show your boss that he made a mistake in targeting you. Address the issue with your boss in a calm and assertive manner. The goal is that you can defend yourself without being aggressive or mean in return.

Be specific. When addressing your boss’ behavior, have specific examples ready of how he has offended you because chances are high that he will want proof. If you don’t have examples prepared and ready to go, it will look like you are overreacting. Keep in mind though, that most bullying bosses will not take responsibility for their mean behavior. In fact, he will likely shift the blame for his actions back to you or simply brush it off saying that he doesn’t even remember it happening. Recognize this for what it is and do not falsely believe that you are to blame for his choices.

Be confident. Bullying bosses are able to quickly discern whom they can control and manipulate. Avoid looking nervous, insecure or defeated.

No matter what happens during your discussion stay strong and remain professional. Keep your chin up and do not give in to the pressure.

Recognize what you can control and what you cannot. Remember, you have no control over what other people say or do. But, you do have control over your response. Keep your confrontation free of emotion and anger. If you can’t address your boss in a calm manner, then you need to postpone confronting him. You also need to be prepared for your boss to retaliate. Be sure you have a plan in place in case your boss fires you for addressing his mean behavior.

Continue to work hard. Do not allow your boss’ bullying to derail you at work. For instance, don’t spend time talking with other co-workers about what is happening. Instead, focus on continuing to produce high quality work. Also do not allow the turmoil your boss creates to cause you to fall behind on projects. And be sure to keep good documentation of all your successes.

Know when to get outside help. If your boss continues to bully you despite your efforts to address it, contact human resources or your boss’ supervisor. Keep a record of all the bullying incidents including dates, times and witnesses. You should also keep all electronic correspondence. And if you feel emotionally drained, depressed or anxious, contact a counselor. It is never a good idea to ignore the effects of workplace bullying.

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