How to deal with a bully boss
What is your experience of a bully boss?
A bully boss can come in many forms. They are so pervasive, that 50% of employees report bullying in the workplace.
Some bullies have no idea how their behaviour is received and are genuinely shocked and remorseful when confronted. Some are domineering, critical and manipulative and control through fear. Others are simply controlling tyrants, disturbed and psychologically abusive.
Many people think that bullies are weeded out before they get to the top. But in male dominated corporate cultures, what is perceived as tough management by some, is bullying by another name. Very often the individual is a key performer and their behaviour is tolerated and "work around" solutions are created, because to change the status quo could hit the bottom line.
Harvey Hornstein in his book Brutal Bosses and Their Prey (Penguin Putnam), defines two species of tyrannical bosses: "The Conqueror" and "The Manipulator".
Conqueror bosses prey on employees' weaknesses. They find great thrills in treating the workplace like a battlefield. Once they sense an employee's soft spot, they pounce on it. The unsuspecting victim doesn't stand a chance.
Manipulator bosses are the smoothest of bullies. They fear becoming less valued if their underlings get any recognition for exemplary work. Manipulator bosses are backstabbers who'll go to frightening lengths to look good to their superiors.
A bully boss comes into a number of categories:
1. The rampager
The rampager shouts and yells, slams doors or throws things. He (this type is usually male) uses his power and authority as well as physicality, to intimidate and create an atmosphere of fear. He might criticise publically and humiliate with threats about poor performance reviews, loss of bonus, or even job loss, using power, authority and rank to intimidate.
2. The closet bully
Concealed behind a smile and making nice, the closet bully is manipulative. He or she will mask their power playing with apologies and a smile at an incident they have caused. This style is very female. They will call from a different time zone in the middle of your night and set impossible deadlines knowing you have plans. They will say things like:
"I was only joking.... you didn't think I meant it? Oh you did. I'm so sorry. I didn't realise you were so sensitive."
3. The emotional/psychological bully
This is almost the worst kind of bully. They are difficult to pin down. They cut you out of the communication loop whether meetings or emails. They withhold key information to allow you to perform optimally. They interrupt and put you down in public. They will ask for your opinion and then tear it apart. They take credit for your ideas. Their body language is demeaning. They query your appearance, accent, eye-sight and body. They will hound a target relentlessly until they can take it no longer.
They can leave an individual sick to their stomachs at the thought of coming to work. That is exactly what happens. Many people take sick leave.
4. The mob leader
This person doesn't stoop to get his or her hands dirty. Oh no. That would be beneath them. What they do is orchestrate a subtle mobbing campaign and make sure others, quite often reports, are the foot soldiers.
Read: Mobbing in the workplace
5. The enabler
They never lead any bullying themselves, but either fail to step in, or follow suit, as part of a general mobbing campaign. They support the mob leader indirectly by allowing the bullying to happen or participating in a low-key way. They exhibit what is known as "Bystander Syndrome"
If you need help advancing your career, contact us at 3Plus.
Top tips to deal with a bully boss
Dorothy Dalton in her post The Lipstick Jungle Get me Out of here suggests the following strategy:
- Early action: Don't wait until you are sick and unable to perform before seeking support. Get help as soon as you feel something is wrong.
- Creating an early, time bound, goal-related action plan is key and the earlier the better. If there is a gut feeling over a reasonable period of time that something isn’t right – then it probably isn’t…. somewhere. So investigate.
- Defining the context is necessary now. Facts talk. Finding out the guidelines for bullying behaviour in your geographic region, sector or company is a must. Do these companies have a grievance process or a written policy on respectful workplace practises? These are your benchmarks, so establishing what they are and being familiar with the content is important. Knowing your rights and precisely when they are being transgressed is also more empowering than “feeling” bullied. It also will tell you if the line has been crossed into harassment which is legally defined. If this is the case, seek legal and psychological support immediately.
- Evaluation of personal performance is next and being clear that all aspects of performance and presence in the workplace are up to scratch.
- Evaluation of where this treatment lies on this benchmark spectrum is now important. Be realistic and neutrally objective."
- Keeping a log of the incidents is one of the most significant things that can be done at this point. What is being established is a pattern of inappropriate or unreasonable behaviour. Most companies have formal channels for communicating performance or job related issues. This is another benchmark. Is the communication stepping outside these channels? If it is, times and dates should be noted. In addition to putting things into context for the target, an audit trail and timeline for any future grievance or legal process and constructive dismissal is also being established. Keep copies off site.
- Asking for detailed qualification is one sure way of deflecting verbal abuse and criticism in a calm and business neutral way. "Help me understand...." is a good way to start off dialogue.
- Paraphrasing is another great technique for reaching an understanding ” Have I understood correctly…” Confirming that in writing is essential.
- Speak privately: There is no point engaging with a bully head on. This is what they love, to bait a victim until they lash out inappropriately or get upset, especially if they have an audience. Use constructive communication techniques. Read: How to master effective communication once and for all by Megan Ritter
- Strategic Action If any employee comes with a dossier of documented instances of abusive or inappropriate behaviour, any HR professional will know they are obligated to investigate it. They also know there is a potential law suit waiting in the wings. The victim’s fear is of course is that any action will make things worse. If it does, note any further instances of inappropriate behaviour, because this now is really crossing the line into harassment.
Decision makers will not only be forced to take note, but to act, before it’s too late for all parties. You need to deal with the bully boss today!
If your organisation needs to identify and attract female talent - contact 3Plus NOW
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
September 17th Latham Watkins Brussels 1200
In-house corporate event
Inclusive Leadership Workshop
September 20th EIGE Vilnius 0900
How to combat sexism in the workplace
Peer review of EU booklet authored by Dorothy Dalton
September 30th BD Foundation Webinar with Dorothy Dalton (online)
Topic: Leading with Emotional Intelligence
October 3rd JUMP Hub Brussels
Gender equality: how to build an attractive employer brand without falling into the trap of “gender washing”
Infrabel, rue de France, 9, 1070 Brusells
Open registration : http://jump.eu.com/hub-sessions/gender-equality-build-attractive-employer-brand-without-falling-trap-gender-washing/
October 15th NEHRA Event at AXA Brussels
Best Diversity and Inclusion Practices
October 22nd and 23rd Unleash Conference Paris
Open registration: https://unleashgroup.io
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
Stay interviews are an excellent way to engage with current employees, while also finding ways to encourage retention of top talent.read more
Creating a caregiver-friendly environment can improve the workplace for everyone, which is always likely to improve performance too.read more
‘Be more confident’ is not a simple task. It doesn’t work like that. But there are little tips that you can use to help you on your path to confidence.read more