How To Work With A Bullying Boss
Having to work with a tyrannical boss may seem like the height of misery, but you should view it as an opportunity. Most professionals will advise you to pursue an administrative course in dealing with the abuse. They will tell you to document the occasions you were mistreated, and then, at some opportune time, take your case to human resources for adjudication. Others will tell you to endure it until you’ve got enough time on the job to make it a bullet point on your resume. And there are still others who encourage passive behaviors such as avoiding direct contact with your boss as often as you can.
It is a bad idea to take any of these paths. The old cliché about dealing with a bully is true: you have to stand and fight.
As a Navy veteran, I have been in this situation a number of times. The thing about being on a ship out in the middle of the ocean is that there is no appeal to an outside arbitrator, you cannot leave, and you cannot simply slink away from the person you must report to every day.
Cowering to a bullying boss or showing any sign that you are weak or afraid will only encourage him to go on with the abuse. You must stand your ground, and you must do so with force and vigor. To be effective, however, you must be prepared.
Most bullying bosses have no specific source of irritation. They can be provoked by the slightest error, incident, or setback. When the yelling and cursing starts, keep your head. Take note of what he says and be prepared to rebut emotion with fact. Bullies tend to make exaggerated claims and to make everyone around them feel as though they are worthless and stupid. They do not care about solving problems, only about making scenes. They are vengeful, vindictive, megalomaniacs who are obsessed with control and power. The only way to check someone like that is to show them signs of your own strength and ability. You must demonstrate his inaccuracies and tell him why he is wrong to be angry—in a way that is assertive, serious, and tinged with just enough of an attitude to offset his own.
Another measure to take in working with a bullying boss is to round up co-workers who suffer the same daily abuse. You don’t have to get into gossip about him. It is enough to let them see that you are willing to stand up to him when necessary. This will make you a de facto leader in the eyes of your colleagues. They will start to approach you first with their problems and proposals and encourage you to act as a kind of liaison to the boss. The bullying boss himself will soon accept you in that role. And this arrangement will likely cool his temper and stop the abuse.
In my experience, most bullying bosses behave the way they do because no one has been able to act as an effective counter to them. You cannot lose your own temper in dealing with such a person. Nor will you move him if you are uninformed, muddled, or indecisive. You have to show him that you know your job and your mind, and that you can summon your talents at will to meet any challenge. Power-mad people respond cautiously to strength and aggressively to weakness. Be bold, be thoughtful, be forceful and he will back down.
Standing up to your bullying boss will toughen you mentally. It is one of those experiences that will improve your ability to deal with the other hard knocks that life will inevitably bring. Your boss may come to hate you. He may even try to screw you if he gets a chance. He will nevertheless respect you. And despite the various mind-games you may have to learn to play, working with him will, over time, become much easier.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.