6 Ways to Differentiate Between a Tough Boss and a Bullying Boss

Learn how to tell if your boss is a bully or not


Workplace bullying is a growing problem that countless people face every day. But sometimes employees often assume that a tough boss is a bully. There are some important differences between bosses who bully and bosses who are tough. Here are six ways to tell the difference between a tough boss and a bullying boss.

A tough boss sets high goals while a bullying boss sets unattainable goals. A tough boss holds his employees accountable with strict guidelines and high demands; but he also gives his employees all the tools they need to succeed.

Meanwhile, a bullying boss might set unrealistic deadlines that are sure to cause failure. He also might change the guidelines causing extra work or withhold necessary information.

A tough boss holds everyone to a high standard while a bullying boss singles out one person and makes unreasonable demands. A tough boss is tough on everyone. He does not single out one person, but instead is consistent in his treatment of others. But bullies often question the adequacy of one employee by belittling his opinions and ideas. They also may question one employee’s commitment to the job and offer unfair criticism and blame.

A tough boss is tough but fair while a bullying boss is unfair and irrational. A tough boss does not coddle people or tolerate excuses, but he also is willing to roll up his sleeves and help get the job done. Additionally, a tough boss protects his team from adversity within the company and supports them when needed.

Meanwhile, a bullying boss is unfair and will sell his employees out to protect his own skin. He also might blame others for failures while assuming complete responsibility for all successes. He also shows favoritism among employees and is very clear about who he has disdain for. He may yell, swear and even engage in name-calling.

A tough boss works for the good of the company while a bullying boss thrives on power. A tough boss cultivates teamwork and works toward bettering the company. He is willing to work just as hard and sometimes even harder than his employees to get the job done. But a bullying boss is more interested in being in control and having power over other people. He is a power-hungry leader that thrives on having control over others. He also takes credit for things that he did not do and rarely acknowledges the successes of his employees.

A tough boss is inclusive while a bullying boss isolates workers. A tough boss holds all his employees to the same high standard but is inclusive in the process. As a result, no one feels less valued than another and everyone knows they have to work hard to succeed. Meanwhile, a bullying boss often singles out one or two workers and humiliates and berates them in front of others. He also might ostracize them by excluding them from meetings and social gatherings.

This type of behavior undermines the entire atmosphere of the office and makes teamwork nearly impossible. Instead, employees focus on staying in the good graces of the bullying boss rather than focusing on the job at hand.

A tough boss is honest and trustworthy while a bullying boss spreads rumors and gossips. A tough boss tells his employees like it is. He does not mince words, but he is respectful in the process. Additionally, employees know that they can count on him to be honest in all situations. Meanwhile, a bullying boss is manipulative. He will control situations by spreading rumors or gossiping about others. He often pits one employee against another and encourages unhealthy competition.

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