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10 Tips for Dealing with a Bully Boss

Do you have a bad manager? Someone who makes your life miserable all week by criticizing your every move?

Is your boss a tyrant of Machiavellian proportions? If it makes you feel better, you're not alone. According to a study by the Employment Law Alliance, almost half of all employees have been targeted by a bully boss.

Do you have a boss who is off the wall - we're talking certifiably nuts? If it's any consolation, take comfort in knowing that you have more company than you can imagine. The simple truth is that bully or tyrant bosses can be found in abundance. Unfortunately, the majority can't legally be institutionalized. Many should not be bosses.

Also: How to recognise and deal with a workplace sociopath.

Tyrannical behaviour comes in all forms. There are bosses who are mind-controlling abusers, manic-depressive and psychotic. There are obnoxious bully bosses who rule by intimidation, insist on getting their way and fly off the handle easily. They treat subordinates like children and seldom ask for anyone's input. There are also predator bosses, a term that is explained in management consultant Harvey Hornstein's book, Brutal Bosses and Their Prey (Penguin Putnam), in which he 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.

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22 Comments

Kate

1

I am so disillusioned. My female boss is a typical bully - very manipulative, her mood changes very quickly from nice to toxic. If you don't play the game you are on the outer and ostracised. I work in a well known much loved Australian institution and I feel morally compromised every time I walk into the office. I work in HR and find it laughable that all the policies say that if you don't get any help - go and see HR. All the bullying articles say this as well on the web - what do you do if the bully IS the Head of HR? I am a mental wreck and trying to work up the courage to leave. I know that the period I would have to give notice would be excruciating and it fills me with fear and so then I am stuck in limbo.

anonymous

2

I totally agree with you Kate! I work at a small marketing firm and the boss likes to put me down. We don't even have an hr he IS the hr. He always takes cheap shots at me both to my face and back. He also lies and cheats others outta money too.

bullyingsux

3

Honestly, my advice to both of you is to walk away as quickly as possible. Unless you have a very strong backbone, this is going to be a losing job for both of you. There are MANY good bosses producing winning results, and these tyrants will eventually be found out, by either high employee turnover, or some situation that will expose them. And no company requires notice, it's orofessional courtesy - perhaps it may not be worth it... :(

Sue

4

I left my job 5 months ago because I coudln't stand being treated the was I was. My boss treated me badly for about two year, I had become very afraid to come to work each day. He would yell and scream at me infront of customers and staff on a regular basis. I would be in tears at my desk and when serving customers. Other staff members would constantly say to me they didn't know how I didn't walk out on many occasions. I still wonder if there is any way I can take things further. Sometimes I still get teary about things but am now getting mad as I do not think it is fair that I felt I had no other option but to leave. HE WON in one respect and I was week to let him win., If there is someone out there that can give me some legal advice please please do so. Thanks Sue

phoenix

5

I am so glad I found this site. I have had the worst time with my boss and it got worse when I went to H R. My boss actually sabotages my work. I am a trainee in workers comp, and she gives me the wrong information to send me on a wild goose chase. When I complete task which sometimes takes days, she asks me why I did it that way and criticises me in front of my team, then I get told the right way to do it. When I look like finishing on time she gives me more work and when I miss the deadline she emails her boss complaining about me and cc's me in on the email. I tried to defend myself once and was basically called a liar. I've been put on a "plan to help improve my performance" but its just a means of control I have spoken to the union about it but they were no hope and only made things worse. So I'm left to look for another job and hope that the next boss is better. I have had a shocking run of them.

Anonymous

6

Do what I did. Say your will call in the union, your lawyer and the fair wrok ombudsman if they don't leave you alone. Tell them you will also go to the media if they dont leave you alone. Ask them if they know that harrassment is illegal. Say to your bully boss "You do know that harrassment is illegal don't you? Then say "I just wanted to check that you do know that harrassment is illegal, because I want to give you a chance to stop it before I report you to the authorities"

Judi

7

I work for a regional council in the HR Dept for WHS but the Team Leader I believe is a Toxic Boss - she makes out how nice she is but really isnt - my supervisor takes notes on any and every mistake I make - they are both so clicky with the young ones in the office - neither have really good reputations around the council. I am a temp and only been there since March but after about 3 months it is harder and harder to want to drive to work - I am always late - I dont want to go in - my health is suffering so have had heaps of time off sick - now I am due to get disciplinary action tomorrow when all they have caused is an unhappy place to work through their counter productive attitudes etc. I so hope I get another job soon. I cant leave until I do. Thanks for this site. It will help me tomorrow.

Karen

8

Wow, it's just like reading all about my workplace situation....

I thought I was the only one but it seems this is a typical thing that occurs :(.
I started my job about 6 years ago, I was 19y.o. just in my last few months of Business Administration Cert III at TAFE when I heard someone was asking for the most recommended student (which was me) to work for them and I accepted it. I started and really enjoyed my job....just not the boss...she is ABSOLUTELY crazy split personalities is an understatement. I even had an occasion where I went for a job (about a year after I started working there) and she found out because she was friends with the person I was interviewed by. I was given the most mundane tasks and losing my good skills I had learnt and my Mum actually had to have a word with her because I was so timid and afraid of her. After that things seemed to get better, I moved up starting to do more interesting things like typing up classified ads and typing for the pages but then the deadlines got too much for me (I work for a newspaper company) because I also pay the accounts and do reception duties and I was falling behind and I tried to tell her I couldn't do it all but she didn't listen...when she DID finally listen and I was back to just doing my original office duties, she started to ride my back again telling me I wasn't doing enough so recently I started documenting what I do daily just for my interest sake and peace of mind that I'm NOT wasting time at work. The last straw was today when she asked for a phone number for a customer that I had and gave to her then completely FLEW OFF THE HANDLE because I didn't have a contact name for the accounts department of them so I replied that I didn't have a need to have a contact name and I didn't have one she said 'That's not good enough" in gritted teeth.... Made me feel this big * and then I got told I will be dismissed if I continue back answering when I was only giving an answer to her question. I don't know what is considered bullying but I SWEAR my health is deteriorating because of her, I have Crohn's Disease which doesn't do so well under stress and I'm even getting acupuncture now it's so bad. Every day I worry what will happen next it's so demeaning and making me feel incompetent when I know that I try my best and I can't do EVERYTHING and know exactly what she wants....I think the time has come where there is no reason to stay there as much as I know and love my job, I can't handle wondering what day will be my last :(. Trouble is...there are no jobs being advertised so I guess I just have to wait and pray I don't get sacked in the mean time.

Linda

9

There is no way to win with a control freak boss. What really amazes me is how the other team members don't say anything about the behaviour. In fact they perpetuate it also. It is downright psychologically dysfunctional and in fact quite scary what goes on and what is condoned by management.

Anita

10

I needed to read this article. I am sitting at my desk trying not to be sick or cry, my boss has been on my back since he started here. Nothing I do is correct and I am isolated away from the rest of the staff everyday. I havent slept a full night in the last 3 months because of him and now its 5 days before christmas and Im scared I wont have a job to come back too.

TJ

11

I have a toxic boss who's using subtle terrorism to push me to esign. The company I work for simply acks people, pays them out & then pays more if thy get taken to Fair Work for Unfair Dismissal. I've seen them do it to several co-workers & given the fact that I am a lone female working with 6 cliquey males, I think it's only a matter of time before I get railworaded too.

I won't just sit back though. I've spoken to the Fair Work Ombudsman & have sent an email to Fair Work Australia to clarify whether I have a case for harassment. I'm searching for a new job but meantime have gathered evidence of my work performance & the harassment so I'm ready for any more crap he wants to throw my way.

Better to be part of the solution than perpetuate the problem.

yimel

12

My boss is a young lady in her mid 30s when into my computer and erased all my pictures. She said the owner had sent an email saying we should all erase all our personal stuff and use the computer for work related purpose only, which I agree with, but I found out through HR that she only did this to me, no one else got any email saying that. She also tells me, "The owner said" and it makes me feel like she is trying to intimidate me. When I asked HR they said the owner don't even know whats going on. I need help on what to do please...HELP!!!

courage2stand

13

Thanks for the article, very detailed. It's just disheartening that all advice I read seems to say that there's little to no point trying to take on a bad boss, that it will just backfire. Maybe that's true and real life, but I wish we could hear more success stories and ways to turn the negative into a tolerable outcome. Am going through this at the moment and trying to decide whether to make a stand against my boss. Any advice, please let me know http://beatingthebullyboss.wordpress.com/

Peter

14

Taking on any form of bully requires a certain amount of courage and conviction. Just remember that all bullies are ultimately cowards and that is the weakness that can keep you positive.

If you want to take on a bully it will get ugly. Yes, HR departments don't work for you they work for the company but you can make them do their jobs. Even if HR want to do their job, they need your help with the all important EVIDENCE.

My advice is first to make sure that you really are dealing with a bully - not just someone with poor people skills who will listen if you approach them properly. The reason is that once you start confronting a bully it is likely to go the full 18 rounds and end up in arbitration unless one of you wins by knock out.

That is why they get away with it for so long, everyone knows it is easier to walk away so the bully ends up surrrounded by sychophants and those with no choice.

The advice to document, document, document is good advice. Write a journal but write it the day the events happen. It is best to leave the journal at home. Document not only what happens to you but what happens to other victims. It will be very important in establishing the pattern.

When you decide to act, get legal advice. Make sure it is from a professional and not a 'bush lawyer'. Well meaning friends are great support but you weant to make sure you have a case. Fair Work Australia or similar is a good start.

When you are ready. Make sure you follow the HR escalation proceses. Usually this means talking to your boss - which will start the really nasty behaviour if they really are a bully. Document it. Once you are on the path you must complete it. Even if that means litigation. In truth, if you are well prepared you can avoid it but if you start down the path and then give up, you will be worse off than just leaving and will have reinforced the behaviour of the bully in their mind.

The best way to deal with a bully is to take them on. However it might get ugly. Make sure you keep your cool and remember that everything YOU say and do will end up being examined too.

The good news is that once a bully is shown to be just that, their power is broken. That is why they will not quit - they can't allow anyone to win.

The good news is that once you start the process of managing the situation there will be surprising support from other victims.

Linda

15

I have a bully boss who even has a tshirt that says that he is always right. Im sure he was a loser and teased growing up so he figures he can use his power as a business owner to now prove he is in charge.
He is the type of guy who belittles his wife and children and of course staff too. He's also a yeller and uses intimidation to get his way because his way is the only way.
I finally had enough and told the "manipulating" female manager not to even bother put me on the next schedule as I was sick ofthe abuse. I also told her I was speaking to her as there was no point arguing with the bully. I also reminded her of the good work I did, how I had top sales and that the clients loved me. It would be their loss because I will just head down the road to the competion and make them money.
She asked me not to quit and tried to convince me that he really is a good guy. Please! Give me a break.
The funny thing was he actually started treating me better. I asked her if she spoke to him and she stateded she hadn't but I'm sure that isn't true. So far things have been good but I've made it clear that next time somethi.g happens I won't work out the rest of the schedule much less my shift. I'm too good to let some prick get the better of me! So are you!

cjp

16

i have a boss who carnt understand when u are sick and have docter certifcate even if there something going around i will catch it they say nothing but u can tell they are talking about u

Enough is enough

17

My boss told me today he would slap me like a dog. I'm the General Manager ~ The "Bully" owns the organization. I love my job, but I can't work here anymore.

PTSD

18

My boss is a wicked piece of work. At least 4 people who report directly to her have ended up at the employee mental health help dept due to stress. The company I work for has paid to have her sent for management skills, organizational development has witnessed her abuse. The company continues to fire and pay out anyone that bucks her. She lacks all compassion, believes in work before family and expects everyone to have that same attitude. She works until 9 PM and puts you down if you don't.
I feel the company knowingly enables her behavior due to the fact she is NEVER at fault in their eyes.
HR became involved without me even reporting her. I was questioned and was honest. Now I'm told I will find out Monday if I will still have a job.
I feel like I have post traumatic stress due to her. My confidence is gone and I feel paranoid everyday. Now I may be unemployed.
Why is there nothing I can do? Hopeless :o(

KC

19

Wow! I cannot believe there are so many others that are experiencing the sames things as me, it has made me feel better to go to work knowing all of you are feeling the sames things as me. My bosses are two ladies just turned 30 and they are so awful to work for. I sweat and shake on the way to work because I never know what to expect or what moods they are going to be in. I've been at my job for 7 months and have had lots of experience in the industry that i am in, yet they make me feel as if i cannot do anything right. I am so upset every night i come home and it is making my personal life hell. I just want to wuit, I don't know where people get off treating their employees like this!?! :(

Daria Yeats

20

Bullying in the corporate environment is about simple economics. If the bully is perceived by top management as bringing more to the bottom line than you do then you need to leave your job as soon as possible. Please ignore terribly silly and unrealistic advice such as keeping notes and records of the bullying incidents, complaining to HR or confronting the bully, cue hysterical laughter. Leave NOW and don't worry, you will be fine. The poor bully is stuck in her miserable life, constantly dogged by her insecurity and threatened by those she perceives as rivals. You, on the other hand can move on and have a happy life. Don't dwell on the bully or what she put you through. Just get on with your life!

PD22

21

What to do and I am torn to pieces. I love my job, I love my career, and I am working my way to the top. Along the way I have been moved around to help the company by willing to relocate. Now, I am at a new level of HELL. My boss is a Nightmare, a BULLY, and a Bitch, She puts everyone on edge, she plays mental mind games on everyone, and there is nothing that makes me SMILE only when she is out of the building.
I am a mother, and have a solid career. I just don't know where to turn WHEN she threatens me THAT I can't reach out to anyone but HER....
i have no clue what I can do and I am scared to reach out to my DM. HELP ME!!

sdf

22

I found a very helpful web site called bullyonline.org. It is from the UK, but I found it full of useful stuff. I recommend it to anyone suffering from a bully boss.

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